Mar 26, 2013

25 sources for vintage home decor,
part one.

now that i've shared my general tips on thrifting, let me tell you where to find some goodies for your home...

i included notes and observations from my experiences under each source. since i don't have experience with all of them (...yet!), i provided links to helpful articles for sources i'm not familiar with.

today, we'll start with...
The Obvious Sources

1. goodwill / salvation army

a) stock is received through donation.

b) grab a shopping cart, even if you think you won't need one. you may end up wanting more than you can carry or you might find a large, cumbersome item -- and what if your treasures disappear in the time it takes you to run to the front of the store to grab a cart??
     p.s. all the carts are wonky-wheeled.

c) once you have your wonky cart, use it. hold onto anything you might want to buy because if you put it back on the shelf while you're thinking about it, there's a chance it won't be there when you come looking for it.

d) of the places i've been to, goodwill and salvation army offer the lowest prices.

e) for even better deals, look for:
- discount days -- in my experience, senior citizens only
- colored-tag discounts -- items with specific-colored tags are a certain percentage off. these last a week before changing to a different color.
- membership discount cards -- i.e. club goodwill

the sign in my store says discount applies to general clothing items, but it really applies to everything.

f) employees set out items throughout the day so stock is always rotating. check here often, guard your items (but not in a creepy way), and flock to workers that are wheeling out new carts of goods (but again, not in a creepy way) -- i've found my best deals this way.

g) dig! look behind items. unstack stacks. bend down and look way back on the bottom shelf. sometimes good stuff gets pushed aside and hidden in someone else's quest for an item.

h) look UP for art. at both of the stores i frequent, art and large mirrors are displayed along the wall, over the racks of clothing. they're easy to miss.

i didn't realize until just now that they sell used men's boxers......huh.

i) i haven't had much success with larger-ticket items like furniture (mostly saggy-cushioned sofas and particleboard bookcases), but i have found a lot of decor. i think goodwill and salvation army are especially great for glassware (jars, bottles, vases, etc) and picture frames.

j) if you find a piece of furniture you're interested in, take the lower half of the tear-off ticket with you...and pay attention to the overhead speaker. if someone else is interested in the piece after you've grabbed the ticket, but before you've checked out, they may ask an employee if they can buy the item. in this case, the worker makes an announcement asking the person who grabbed the ticket (YOU) to come to the register. after a certain amount of time (five minutes? ten minutes?) of no-show, they sell it to other person.

k) don't forget to check stores in more well-to-do neighborhoods. in my experience, the prices will be slightly higher, but there will be better grade stock.

l) ...but if you're looking specifically for authentic vintage furniture, shop the stores near neighborhoods with older residents (read: senior citizens), whether it's a well-to-do area or not.

m) if the price tag is missing, a store may refuse to sell the item to you until it has been reappraised. you can wait, but let them know you're waiting so they'll bring it to the back right away.

...and here's some more goodwill tips...from an insider!

2. consignment shops

a) owners of items make arrangements with a consignment shop to sell their possessions at a certain price within an agreed upon amount of time. the shop gets a portion of the selling price.

b) read the price tag carefully: my favorite shop has a system in which the initial price is good just for the first 30 days. if the item remains unsold, the price decreases for the next 30 days. then, there's another price reduction for the third month, before it's returned to the owner as unsold.

in this example, if you visit at the end of march and just glance at the tag, you may think this painting is $350 -- when really, it's only $252!

this also means you should wait for the price decreases if you don't think an item will be popular. there's a lot of money to be saved by waiting. there's a kind of ugly vase i'm pining for at the moment, but i'm waiting another week for the price to go down. urrg....

c) there is no negotiating unless a defect was missed during appraisal.

d) while good deals are still to be found, they tend to be more expensive than other sources. shop owners research the items and they should be priced fairly.

e) check the purchasing hours. many shops are open only a few days a week and one of the days may be devoted solely to customers wishing to sell their items (...and usually by appointment only).

f) the selection is much nicer than goodwill, but not nearly as vast. i try to visit each shop at least once every two weeks.

g) be on the lookout: i've found a surprising number in strip malls. i passed by them every day with no notice until i became interested in thrifting.

h) check for an online presence: some shops will list inventory online so you can get an idea of what they have before you go.

i) i find the consignment shops i frequent to have good selections of furniture, lighting, art, decor (figurines, crystal, etc), and dinnerware. yours may vary.

i also bought the wooden floor grate for my washi tape storage at a consignment shop!

3. thrift stores / resale shops

a) owners sell or donate their items to the store, who in turn list them at a higher price.

b) there is usually low-to-middle of the range goods: better quality than goodwill, not as good as consignment shops. the prices usually correlate with this: slightly more expensive than goodwill (not by much though), but cheaper than consignment thrifting.

c) the best shops (in my opinion) are the musty old store with goodies crammed on every available surface -- i could spend hours browsing!

d) some stores will negotiate, others will not. just ask!

e) some take credit cards. others are cash or check only. know before you go or carry cash just in case.

f) keep some small hand towels or old baby blankets stashed in your car: a couple of the shops i go to don't keep tissue or newspaper on hand to protect breakables.

g) this is another one to look out for: a large number of thrift shops are in nondescript strip malls.

h) i find a lot of home decor and toys at the resale shops in my area.

4. antique shops

a) the few i've been into have beautiful items, all scrubbed up clean and ready for use or display. unlike goodwill or salvation army, where you sometimes have to look past the grime to see the potential.

b) i think of antique shops as a great source for art and information, but too expensive for my budget. i thrift on the cheap so i don't frequent them often.

c) since i have very limited experience with antique shops, i'm linking to a great list of tips at {black tag diaries}.

5. flea markets

i haven't been to one yet. sad face. i have big plans this summer though...and i'll be reading these tips offered by emily henderson before i go!

these are just my thoughts based on my experiences. i'm in no way a thrifting expert, but i do know way, way, way more than i did a year ago.

got any tips to add?
let me know in the comments!

interested in my thrifting series?
      - 25 sources for vintage home decor: part onepart twopart three
      - keep up with my thrifting buys on instagram @meandering_mari!

* mari


  1. Okay, I just almost spit my milk out on those used boxers. I don't think I have EVER noticed that at my local Goodwills! Another good way to get a discount at Goodwill is to donate. They always give you a 20% off coupon along with your tax donation receipt. Of course I always feel like it's defeating the purpose of cleaning out your home only to turn around and buy more stuff but meh...it's for BETTER stuff! It's also on my list of goals this summer to get out to a flea market down here that the neighbors are always talking about that is held the first Saturday of every month over the summer.

    1. i never noticed the boxers either!! and there's so MANY.

      thanks for the tip -- i never knew about the coupon! all those opportunities...i never get a receipt for taxes, but i guess i'll start now. :D


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