How to Shop for Thrift Store Home Décor Items

This post contains affiliate links. Read the full disclosure here.

Never wonder how to shop for home décor at thrift stores again! With my simple thrift store home décor shopping tips, you’ll know what aisles to go down, what to look for and what to get!

This post was originally published on February 5, 2018 and has since been updated.

Shelf of baskets at a thrift store with text overlay "the best home decor to shop for at thrift stores"

I absolutely love to thrift home décor!

So often people purge their homes and donate things that are in great condition and thrift stores sell them at a fraction of the cost.

This, my friends, makes thrift store decorating one of the cheapest ways to get a stylish home!

I know for a lot of people walking into a thrift store can be overwhelming…

There’s stuff everywhere, the shelves are packed, and if you don’t have a game plan, it can seem like too much.

That’s why I am sharing with you what aisles I focus in on and what items I always search for.

That way, next time you’re doing your thrift store home décor shopping, you’ll know just where to go and just what to look for at thrift stores!

Thrift Store Shopping FAQ

Why shop for home décor at thrift stores?

  • Buying second hand SAVES MONEY.
  • Used décor can easily be modified to MATCH YOUR STYLE.
  • Thrift stores often have vintage or UNIQUE ITEMS.

Yes, it’s true, I’m one of those thrift store decorating blogs.

I’ll always be sharing with you fun ways to decorate your home with designer style on a thrifter’s budget and thrifting home décor is a great way to do that! 😉

What is the best day to shop at thrift stores?

While there’s no perfect formula for when the thrift store will have the best items, there are a few things to consider when you’re planning your timing to shop there.

Visiting on a Monday or Tuesday (especially after a holiday weekend) will likely give you more inventory to look through as people tend to donate on the weekends.

You could also consider shopping around the time when people are completing their annual “spring cleaning” – depending on where you live, this will probably be sometime between February-April.

Lastly, watch for special sales days. The staff will typically over-stock the aisles to get rid of more inventory on those days!

What should you not buy at thrift stores?

When it comes to decorations, consider passing on the following items:

  • Furniture with Strong Smelling Fabric
  • Furniture with OLD paint (that could contain lead)
  • Nursery Furniture
  • Upholstered Headboards
  • Used Bed Linens
  • Vintage Dishes (to actually use, not just display)
  • Used Pillows
  • Used Rugs

For more, non-home décor things to pass on, check out this more extensive list of things you should never buy at thrift stores.

8 Best Thrift Store Home Décor Items

1. Baskets

The basket selection at thrift stores is HUGE.

Be picky about the ones you get.

Only get ones that have a purpose in your home – whether that’s simply as décor or as an organizational tool.

My preference is to find ones that have a larger weave and are made of sea grass, but there are definitely some wood ones that catch my eye too!

Also, as a general rule, shy away from things with color or patterns. Natural colors are much more versatile!

Thrift store shelf filled with baskets.

GET IT!

  • Flat, tray-like baskets that can be used as a tray, propped up on a shelf, or hung in a wall gallery
  • Round, two-handled baskets that can be placed on the floor or shelf to corral groups of things like shoes, towels, or books

LEAVE IT…

  • Baskets with a single large handle (unless you’re making Easter-baskets!)
  • Colored baskets
Close up of baskets on a thrift store shelf with red circles around the items recommended to get.

2. Lamps

There are always tons of lamps available, but be sure the ones you get are in good condition.

Damages to watch for are scratches on the base, missing parts around the bulb insert, and dents or tears in the shade.

Thrift store aisle of lamps.

GET IT!

  • Stylish full lamps
  • Fun bases
  • Individual lamp shades in the size you need

LEAVE IT…

  • Lamps that are broken or missing pieces
  • Lamps that are the wrong style or size for your space
Close up of lamps on a thrift store shelf with red circles around the recommended purchases.

3. Dishware

I always peruse the dishes aisle, but the place I typically find what I want is on the end caps.

The thrift store staff sets up the end caps to display their “nicest” stock, so be sure to scour each of them.

Even if they’re grouped by color, you may be surprised to find a great piece of white décor on the purple themed end cap!

End-cap of thrift store aisle with colorful glassware and figurines.

GET IT!

  • Small plates that can be used as trays or propped on shelves as décor
  • Groups of small colored dishes that can be displayed on an open shelf or in a hutch
  • Unique dish items that match your current dishes’ style

LEAVE IT…

  • Generic dish sets
  • Mugs
End cap of thrift store aisle with red circles around items worth buying.

4. Greenery/Florals

Be sure the greenery you purchase looks realistic.

You don’t want to fill your home with greenery that’s obviously fake, rather invest in quality faux items.

Also, thrift stores tend to place large greenery items (like faux trees) with the large furniture, so don’t forget to look there too!

Thrift store aisle with shelves of artificial plants, greenery and pots.

GET IT!

  • Realistic looking floral stems
  • Stylish faux potted plants
  • Twig or stick arrangements

LEAVE IT…

  • Unrealistic looking stems
  • Gaudy floral arrangements
Close up of artificial plants on a thrift store shelf with red circles around items worth getting,.

5. Linens

A lot of times stores will donate their stock that doesn’t sell to local thrift stores.

Our Goodwill actually gets old stock from Target, so there are frequently new and unopened curtains, throw blankets, sheet sets and pillows for sale at thrift store prices.

As with all things, check for damage, and don’t forget to make sure the curtains are the right length for your windows or the sheets are the right size for your bed!

GET IT!

  • Unopened sheet sets
  • Unopened throw blankets
  • New throw pillows with original store tags
  • Unopened table cloths or cloth napkins

LEAVE IT…

  • Used or damaged linens
  • Anything with an unpleasant odor
Thrift store shelf filled with linens, with items worth purchasing circled in red.

6. Frames/Art

The frame aisle generally contains a lot more than just basic pictures frames.

You can find excellent art (both framed and even on canvas) and mirrors (that can easily be spruced up with a coat of paint if they’re the wrong color!) mixed in with the frames.

At our local Goodwill, there’s actually two different frame aisles, so be sure to check if there is more than one place these items could be found.

GET IT!

  • Picture frames
  • Mirrors
  • Wall art

LEAVE IT…

  • Cheap or damaged items
  • Frames or art that don’t match the style of your space
Wide angle of thrift store shelf filled with frames, art and mirrors with items worth looking at circled in red.

7. Wood Décor

While there are lots of aisles filled with all sorts of décor at thrift stores, I definitely take my time searching through the section of wood décor.

I typically get 1-2 items from this aisle every time I shop at a thrift store! There’s always great stuff, especially if you’re looking for thrift store room décor!

You’ll also find that other types of décor might be placed here – so still be on the lookout for greenery, baskets and other items while you’re looking through the wood décor too.

Thrift store aisle with shelves full of wooden bowls, decor and signs.

GET IT!

  • Décor signs
  • Wood bowls or trays

LEAVE IT…

  • Décor that doesn’t match the style of your space
  • Items you don’t have a place for in your home
Close up of wooden items on thrift store shelves with sign, bowls and baskets worth purchasing circled in red.

8. Craft Supplies

The crafting aisle is definitely one that can seem overwhelming.

There is a TON of stuff packed into those shelves.

Don’t be intimidated by that, but rather go to this aisle with a purpose.

Know what kind of crafting supplies you use and are planning projects for and focus in on those things.

Close up of thrift store shelf filled with crafting items.

GET IT!

  • Yarn supplies
  • Stamp supplies
  • Paper crafting supplies
  • Thank you cards
  • Embroidery wreaths (for DIY wall art!)

LEAVE IT…

  • Party supplies (get those at Dollar Tree!)
  • Unneeded craft supplies
  • Open or broken items
Thrift store shelf of crafting supplies with items to consider buying circled in red.

Ok friends, let’s review!

8 Must-Have Thrift Shop Home Décor Items

  1. Baskets
  2. Lamps
  3. Dishware
  4. Greenery/Florals
  5. Linens
  6. Frames/Art
  7. Wood Décor
  8. Craft supplies

I really hope this post filled with thrift store decorating ideas helps you feel more confident in what to look for so you can do some great decorating with thrifted home décor!

I mean seriously, after all of that information, how can tell me you don’t feel like you could walk into a thrift store with purpose now?? 😉

Be sure to check out my live Goodwill shopping video and my tutorial for decorating using thrift store finds.

Many of the most common (and frequently most expensive) home décor items are just waiting to be discovered at your local thrift store for a fraction of the cost – so go get ’em!

You could also shop at an online thrift store if that’s what you prefer too.

Let me know if you have any questions.

RELATED POSTS

DON’T FORGET TO FOLLOW ALONG!

INSTAGRAM | PINTEREST | FACEBOOK

 
Thrift store shelf of baskets with text overlay "the best home decor to look for at thrift stores - what aisles to go down and exactly what to look for!"
Baskets on a thrift store shelf with text overlay of "7 decor items you should always look for at thrift stores before shopping retail"

42 thoughts on “How to Shop for Thrift Store Home Décor Items”

  1. Couple things I would like to share… lamp shades are so expensive to buy new so if I see a lamp that has a nice clean shade, I will buy the lamp just for the shade and donate the lamp back to the store. I have also paid a small amount for a soiled shade and taken it home and first dust it by rolling sticky paper lint roller over and over it changing the paper until nothing is picked up then I wash the shade in the sink or take it in the shower just for a quick light washing. If it falls apart I’m not out much. Also you never want to wash it without getting as much dust off as possible, you will make mud. There is only one retail store that I have found that sells lamp shades at a good price but they don’t have them all the time. It is a bargain outlet store. Shoe polish(either the little cans or the sponge tipped liquid bottles) is a great way to stain natural baskets and embroidery hoops but I spray a satin sheen sealer on those items when finished so the shoe polish doesn’t come off on anything. I have found shoe polish at the thrift store several times for almost nothing. I wash all baskets in a sink of hot soapy water, rinse well and dry over heat register or on the driveway in the hot sun. This gets all dust and animal hair out thoroughly. Then stain or paint as you wish. Drapery panels are a great piece of fabric (for much cheaper than you can buy by the yard) to recover throw pillows with to freshen up your den or living room. I’m especially talking about the ones that ARE actually upholstery fabric. There are two retail stores (one is a Bargain Outlet) in particular that sell curtains very much cheaper than fabric by the yard is sold but not sure if I can name them here so I wont. You can also recover chairs seats with them for so cheap. I also buy heavy duty, (not thin cotton) large tablecloths as big pieces of fabric to make all kinds of things. So cheap! I don’t even know how to sew. They make beautiful themed aprons for gifts. Some stores sell seasonal tablecloths very cheap right after each holiday. Again, a huge piece of fabric for much cheaper than by the yard. My friends can’t believe the things I find in thrift stores. I needed three flower girl baskets, walked into one store and found three identical little baskets for .45 cents each. They were perfect for how I wanted to decorate them. I bought a yucky wedding dress and tore it apart to use the lace and satin to cover the baskets and for other wedding decorations. Also found a brand new package of batting for .99 cents. Saved so much money by going to the thrift stores first with my ideas and then to fabric and craft stores to fill in what I still needed. Such a good feeling and just plain fun!

    Reply
  2. I went through a phase of intensive doll clothing creation (especially when my girls were into American Girl dolls). They wanted swimsuits but the fabric was so expensive I ended up purchasing swimsuits from the Goodwill and cutting those up for the doll swimsuits.

    Reply
  3. I’m just now seeing this blog but I love it. I’ve been a “junket-runner” all of my life. I’m 74 and absolutely love re-imagining someone else’s cast offs! I was in my local Goodwill two months ago and found a beautiful tall, adjustable height lamp in a nice pewter. Brought it home, hubby put a new wire in it and a new switch cup on the top. It turns out it’s is a Heritage Restoration Hardware lamp that sells new for about $350 a $400 for a new one! This one is in pristine condition and I paid $10 for it!!! Love your ideas and pics. Thanks so much.

    Reply
  4. I keep a list on my phone of things that I could use if I find them, and pins of appealing items to watch for. That way I’m going in with a a definite purpose and it’s not so overwhelming. If I see something I think someone else might like I text them a picture of it for their approval.

    Reply
  5. My husband works construction. I told him if it is available bring it home. If we don’t like it or it does not fit we can give it away or donate it.
    he has brought home plants, palm trees, closet organizing stuff, yes even a full size hot tub that seated 4. If in doubt try it out. My family has always been thrift shoppers and we love it.

    Reply
  6. Don’t automatically walk past those baskets in a strange color. I needed two matching baskets (VERY hard to find in Thriftland) and scored a pair that were sturdy and exactly the right size and shape but what I call Easter Bunny Pink. A couple of coats of reddish brown spray paint and I was a happy thrifter. Especially since they were $1.50 each!!

    Reply
  7. Love your tips! My sister and I always thrift. My house is filled with thrift store finds, estate sales, yard sales and good old fashion dumpster dives! My ex works in maintenance and brings me things the tenant tossed or just didn’t want. I scored a brand new air fryer! My sister browses the jewelry and will buy a watch just to wear as a bracelet! It’s our “therapy ” Lol!

    Reply
  8. What do you do if you hove no imagination? I can go to a store, look at stuff, say if I want to make an outfit. I find some fabric, the stuff that I need to go with it, etc. but I can’t visualize what it will look like so put it all back and finally leave with nothing plus all the time wasted. I have a ton of books but in my mind I can’t seem to put it together in my mind. Anyone else have that problem?
    What make it discouraging is my family on dad’s side and mom’s side are so smart and talented but boy did it skip me!

    Reply
    • I always say, go with your gut! If you grab everything and think you like it, then do it! Don’t second guess yourself – your style is your style. 🙂

      Reply
  9. I’m not much of a thrift store fan but I do shop for baskets. I enjoy dreaming up themed gift baskets; paying twice as much for the basket as the things inside, not so much. Just yesterday I picked up three of varying sizes and shapes: $5 for the lot and that included a $1 donation! All three baskets are in good condition. Two need a little cosmetic work but that’s why high gloss spray paint was invented.

    Reply
    • Absolutely! I’m the same way – love giving gift baskets and the thrift store is my favorite source for the baskets. 🙂

      Reply
  10. Great list. Loved all your ideas. I do A lot of sewing and can usually find some interesting buys on fabrics and notions. I do but used sheets, curtains, pillow cases, and table clothes the can easily be fashioned into dresses and night clothes for family. I have bought many fancy dresses and fashioned then into princess costumes. Also make gift baskkets. Wish I knew how to post on pincrest- but I am old and not so good on the computer.

    Reply
    • Princess costumes from fancy dresses! Many times I have considered such, but I don’t have your skills. You should consider opening a shop on Etsy!

      Reply
    • Dear Anne Harper,
      Just because you are old does not mean you can’t learn more about using a computer. Call your local high school, community college or university to see how you can attend classes for no credit, and for any computer classes they offer for seniors for free. You also can contact stores that sell computers for classes on software, networking, and more. You would be amazed at how many of the younger students will take you under their wings and help you!

      Reply
  11. Just from the pictures I love that Goodwill store! Where might it be? I can’t go past our local store without stopping in. I have found so many great things there. Love your blog!!

    Reply
  12. I do like baskets painted white or blue and occasionally in colors for Christmas, so iI wouldn’t pass up a colored basket that I could spray paint, if it was one that I really liked. But otherwise I like all of your ideas. Great post!

    Reply
  13. Very interesting post!
    But I have one more question.
    I’m visiting NYC next month (I’m French and live in France permanently) and would like to bring back some typically American thrifted souvenir ( 15 years ago, I brought back a lovely Oreo cookie jar there’s not way to find here!)
    What would you advise? I was thinking about old letter-press blocks, maybe, but would welcome any idea.
    Thanks in advance

    Reply
  14. Great tips!!! But about your advice to avoid lamps that look like they need repair, if you like the lamp–grab it!!! It’s super easy to rewire a lamp and only costs a few dollars. At your local hardware store, look in the electrical sections (not the light fixture section) because you can buy just the parts you need and skip the lamp repair kit that sometimes is 3X the price!

    Reply
    • That’s a great idea Eileen! Many people aren’t handy enough to know how to replace the electrical, but I agree – if you feel comfortable, then go for it!!

      Reply
  15. Wow Rachel! Hi 🙂 I’m really in a hurry (not that you should care) but I just had to take a moment to tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed this post. Your ‘leave it, ‘get it’ suggestions are so incredibly helpful. I can’t wait to come back and read more like this! Thank you 🙂

    Best Wishes,
    Kristi Kirk Trent, Oklahoma City

    Reply
  16. It really helped when you mentioned that, when looking for decorative lamps, we should consider its size and if it is applicable to the room where I will place it. I will be shopping for home decor items this weekend, and I am grateful that I’ve found your article which made me prepared for my decor hunting. We will be redecorating the living room since summer is here. Currently, the house still looks like it’s still winter. So thanks a lot for the tips!

    Reply
  17. I agree with your Thrift Store Plan of Action totally. I am an in-house national registered museum Event Coordinator and have decorated for many in-house programs. I have used your TSPA every time and have gotten rave reviews. Keep up the good work. You are a true inspiration to everyone.

    Reply
  18. I too am an avid thrift store shopper. I love finding hidden gems! I also love finding stuff to DIY, it transforms old stuff into something totally new and different. Great ideas you have here!

    Reply
  19. Very informative! Thank you for sharing the do’s and don’ts of thrifting! Baskets have always been my thrift store go to, I collect the ones that look like they’re made from actual twigs. They make a beautiful hanging ceiling display . Thanks to you, I now can venture into other sections without feeling so overwhelmed.

    Reply

Leave a Comment