Thrift Store...the phrase makes me nearly as happy as the phrase Junk Store! (as in the antique store in which you can spend hours digging through dusty boxes, and most things are not overpriced)
As we've de-cluttered, I've been loathe to fill up the cleared spaces with more stuff. However, I do have a pretty scaled-down mental wish list of a few items I look for in thrift stores.
I've hit the mother lode a few times at a local thrift store that really moves their stock quickly and keeps prices low. Since I don't even have an "extras" budget, affordable to me means it truly needs to be necessary AND affordable.
Here are some thrift store things over the course of time I've unexpectedly found useful in our home:
1. Flatware. Go ahead, laugh! but I so DO buy it at the thrift store. I HATE running out of spoons or forks. Whatever my original set used to be, it's not a matched set any more. But that's okay since I'm not always a matched set kind of girl. Over the years, spoons have been taken in lunches and ended up who-knows-where, knives were used here and there and in the garden, and...well, voila! When I found a box full of unmatched forks, knives, and spoons and saw the price, it said Buy Me. At 93 cents for a drawer full, thrifting ROCKS :-D
2. Bedside table. (For my reading lamp, medical stuff, basket of books, and to set mugs of tea.) Actually, the "table" I found was an all-wood, perfect condition piano bench. Lift the lid? Vintage sheet music, to the top! Half price, it was mine for $12.00. Actually, for me that's at the top of what I'll ever pay, but this was something we'd been looking for. I can't beat the $12.00 at any bargain store.
3. Bed linens. We have a queen sized bed and we use our linens the European way, with a comforter inside a duvet cover as the top cover, and a bottom sheet beneath. This makes for a really easy mix-and-match. Any used comforter in good condition (and washed well a couple of times in hot water if straight from the thrift store) can be the filler for the duvet, which fits like a pillow case over it. I'm allergic to synthetics for the most part, so it's easy to find all-cotton duvets occasionally, and odd or matched pillowcases. I've found some beautifully embroidered ones as well. The pillowcases run 50 cents or less, and the duvets perhaps $3.00. I like very light colored linens on our own bed, so I just buy with that in mind. Dust ruffles are also a couple of dollars or less, so with a solid color duvet and mix-and-match pillowcases and dust ruffles, it doesn't matter which things go to the wash, there's always a way to put fresh ones on and still have some variety. I've outfitted the guest bed in the same way. I wish I'd thought of this system years ago! P.S. Yesterday I found a queen sized comforter in a beautiful pattern, Ralph Lauren brand (even though I couldn't care less about brands...just mentioning because it indicates its original cost). Five dollars, hooray!
4. Older kitchen items. Casseroles, utensils, baking dishes. It seems like the older ones are a better fit in my kitchen, and the price is right.
5. Curtains and table linens. I've bought these only when I see something that's a perfect fit for my preferences and if they're the right price. In the bedroom I have understated lace panels at the windows. I could never have afforded them from the retail store. Total cost of these? Four panels, 4 dollars. I also pick up some really beautiful placemats and tablecloths this way. Since there are just 2 of us, a couple placemats at a dime apiece is just fine, and it doesn't take much effort to add that small touch to make mealtime together even nicer.
6. Dishes, cups, dinner plates. We have an odd assortment, but they're ones I like. I leave the expensive ones on the shelves but buy the "grandma-ish" loners and other mismatch china for pennies. I also use a couple of older china dishes on my dresser to corral the girly stuff like lotion, etc.
7. Canning and storage jars. I love finding these, but usually someone's beat me to the punch. Even so, I'll find the odd canning or storage jar in the older shapes and brands now and then, for a little loose change.
Sometimes we've learned the hard way that just because something's a deal, it's not ALWAYS such a deal. Beware of stinky sofas. A friend and I went in together on one for a young family setting up a new apartment. What had looked great in the store was ...aromatic...in the worst sense of the word. Not just stinky, but stanky. I have one chair I just love from the thrift store, but most times we steer clear of upholstered things since it's hard to get them really clean if they're in bad condition. And there are some really stinky sofas out there!
Maybe it sounds like I shop thrift stores all the time? I don't. And I don't go to any other type store without a list, because for the past few years we've needed to budget carefully (and I know myself and my tendency towards buyer's remorse.) Those extras coins add up, so we keep a jar and collect it. But it's nice to have the option of some quality items as real deals when we do want to carefully aquire something.
Two of my favorite finds were a 6 foot all wood buffet with drawers (in need of stripping and refinishing because someone had gone crazy with stain and polyurethane, ha) half-price at $25.00, and a circa 1970s Singer sewing machine/table with electric treadle, half-price at $12.00.
I know a lot of you guys are bargain-a-holics, so I'm among experts, ha!
What are some of your tips for thrift stores, and what have some of your best finds been?