When people find out about my passion for thrifting, the first question I inevitably get is "How do you find the good stuff? Any time I go to a thrift store I find nothing but junk." If you had asked me two years ago when I started this blog, I'd have probably said something like "Oh, I guess I'm just lucky." After doing it for so many years in so many different places, though, I now recognize that I have a bit of a formula. Yes, believe it or not, there is a method to my madness. Here is a peek into how I bring home the good stuff.
I think what makes finding the "good stuff" so hard for a lot of folks is simply the fact that they feel a bit overwhelmed in thrift stores. With so many different things invading your senses at once, it can be exhausting sorting through everything to find the items you love. You know that brief moment after you dump a new jigsaw puzzle out of it's box, when all you see is a pile of colored cardboard? Your instinct is to start looking for the patterns in the mess. Apply the same theory to thrifting. If you can start to recognize the types of things you love in the piles of crud, you can zero right in on them, without even noticing the crud. It's a difficult skill to hone, but once learned, is the most valuable skill a thrifter can have.
Shop in Passes
I will usually enter a thrift store and immediately make my way to kitchen goods. I do a quick look about, see if anything jumps out at me, then head over to furniture. After doing a brief inspection of the entire store, I'm ready to re-examine the sections in more depth. At this point, treasures will start popping out at me because I'm looking past the stuff I already know I don't want. After years of thrifting I can now do this in a matter of minutes. Between the dust, smells, textures, and visual stimulation, you'll start to feel weary if you spend too much time looking at every single item. Weariness leads to sloppiness, and sloppiness leads to missed treasures
Since I was a teenager I've loved the '60s and early '70s aesthetic. I've always been drawn to burnt orange couches, crocheted acrylic throw blankets, porcelain mushrooms, etc. Even as an adult, though my tastes have grown and matured, I'm still drawn to this style. I find that knowing exactly what I like helps me zero in on the good stuff because I'm not hemming and hawing over stuff that I only kind-of like. Train yourself to recognize colors, shapes, fabrics, and patterns that speak to you. Recognizing what you truly love means that you won't waste time fretting over whether or not the stuff you're bringing home will fit in with your current decor. It all fits because it's all intrinsically you.
Everything in Context
It's easy to recognize something's value once it's put into context, but out of context it can look like worthless junk. Dealers know this, which is why merchandise in antique stores almost always looks much more appealing than the same stuff in grandma's dusty, musty basement. If you're contemplating something at a thrift store, try to visualize how it will look next to stuff you already own. Seemingly mediocre (or downright ugly) bric-a-brac can transform into beautiful art once placed as part of a menagerie in your home. If you have a hard time visualizing stuff like that, my suggestion is, naturally, Pinterest. Making an inspiration board trains your brain to recognize the things you love out in the "wild." For example, I have a board called Thriftable Interiors. I look at it often because it helps remind me of exactly what I want in my home: an eclectic collection of unique finds, anchored with well-designed furniture pieces against a clean, white backdrop. Oddly specific? Yes. Does it work? Absolutely!
It's all Relative
I've had plenty of people guffaw at my quirky, colorful style in the past. It's important to understand that we all find value in different things, so what I think is "good" may be downright "awful" to you, and vice versa. That's why I find it so important to understand what you value when thrifting. If you love finding modern, high-end pieces marked well below retail, you can find that. If you love unique, genuine vintage, there's plenty of that, too. Either way, it's important to know what you love, what you want, and ultimately thrift shop with the intention of building around your personal taste. Once you've embraced your true style, thrifting becomes easier, less time consuming, and most importantly, way more fun.
Do you have any thrifting tips? I always love to hear other people's advice!