The Best Things to Buy at Thrift Stores for Your Home

A look at the best (and worst) things to buy at thrift stores for home decor and furniture.

Are you a thrift store shopper? Fewer and fewer people seem to be shopping at them, with the rise of minimalism and changing tastes. But if you like antiques or farmhouse style items, you are in luck. Things of that style are everywhere at thrift shops and very reasonably priced.

I think the best things to get at thrift stores are home decor items. There’s no grossness factor, and you don’t have to worry about things wearing out or being old. In every shop, there are certain things that are consistently easy to find, with a good selection of actually pretty items, not just junk. (Although there is plenty of that too!).

Here are the best things to get at thrift stores for your home.

1. Baskets

They are EVERYWHERE. I can’t explain why everyone is getting rid of their baskets and selling them at thrift shops…but it is basketpalooza at these places. I have never spent more than 3 dollars for one unless it was a Longaberger, which I rarely buy. That’s cheaper than a gift bag, if you want a cute way to package up a gift.

You can use them for storage and organization all over the house, for anything for tea bags to firewood to shoes to laundry. Their price and versatility makes them one of the very best thrift store deals.

2. Picture frames

Again, these are everywhere. Just make sure you check the back to make sure it has both hooks for hanging on a wall, or a table display foot, depending on what you want it for. Don’t forget you can easily paint it to your taste. Often you will find framed prints that are ugly, but the frame itself is nice. Don’t be afraid to rip out what’s inside. Concentrate on the bigger sizes, because they are so expensive at stores.

3. Wreaths

Only for the wreath form! It’s usually very easy to cut off or pull off whatever tacky thing is on them, and it is still much cheaper than buying a brand new form. You’re going to have to look past what’s on the wreaths, because the decorations themselves are usually awful. If you’re looking for a specific size, bring a ruler, because the enormous fake flowers will sometime trick you into thinking that the wreath is bigger then it is.

4. Kitchen Items for Organizing and Display

Even if you are squeamish about putting your food in something used, there are plenty of uses for food storage containers that don’t involve food.

  • Glass jars for cotton balls and other bathroom items
  • Crocks for wooden spoons and spatulas
  • Plates or platters for hanging on the wall
  • Mason jars for buttons, matches, kids small treasures, and other tiny things

5. Reference or Display Books

No one is buying these things, but kids love them. They are so nice to have on a shelf for the little ones to flip through and stumble on new things that interest them. Keep an eye out for reference books like atlases, bird and bug guides, and state maps. Encyclopedia sets can be found free or cheap and are both charming and lovely for kids.

Books in general are one of the best things to buy at thrift stores in terms of value, but the selection is usually not great for adults. Never, ever, ever, ever pay full price for something like this. Remember you can throw out the ripped dust jacket and have a pretty hardback book.

Oh, if you ever see an old globe with countries that no longer exist, buy it! They can be worth a lot on the resale market.

6. Vases or Other Flower Holders

Everything from pretty blue and white ceramics, teapots, and large vintage mason jars can make a beautiful flower vase. Bud vases, for tiny flowers, seem to be everywhere. If you are looking for a frugal way to have flowers in the house, grow your own vintage cutting garden!

Don’t forget about potting containers too.  Any large container that you can drill a hole through will work for outdoor containers or for houseplants.  Look for a cheap plate as a saucer.

7. Candlesticks or Other Candleholders

Another thing that has fallen WAY out of style, but is still lovely for the mantle and dining room. They are almost free. Don’t be afraid to mix and match different styles. Taper candles can be be purchases very cheaply at restaurant supply stores.

8. Wooden Furniture

Look for things with no moving parts.  Think wooden chairs, step stools, benches. Doll furniture can be found easily too. Easy to repair, no drawers to get stuck, no upholstery to be totally grossed out by. Be picky! Are you really going to sand and paint that piece? If not, there is nothing wrong with letting it go. This is last on my list because it’s a challenge. Craigslist is way better for furniture.

Keep in mind:

  • Don’t expect to walk in the door and think “wow, I love this stuff,” the majority of it is not attractive, and you will have to dig.
  • Keep a list, written down, of what you are looking for. It can be general or specific, but give yourself some direction.  (It is helpful to know your overall style and house colors, too.  Thrift store shopping is a big part of slow decorating.)
  • Bring small bills.
  • Many stores have a minimum purchase amount for credit cards and your purchase probably won’t hit the minimum, since the best things to buy there are very inexpensive.
  • Be picky. If there is nothing you like, just leave without buying anything. This is hard for me because I feel like it’s rude, but it’s not. Many people come every week to check out whats new, and leave if nothing appeals to them.

Happy thrifting!

The Best Things to Buy at Thrift Stores for Your Home

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  1. To help keep your home from looking like a thrift shop, adopt the one in one out rule. For every item you bring home, donate one item.

  2. This is a wonderful, very detailed post about thrift shopping. I have always loved thrift shopping for ALL the reasons you describe above. And what amazes me is the absolutely gorgeous things people donate. I am often so shocked, but in a good way! I (recently) have had amazing luck with beautiful table runners. For $3 or $4, my dining room table looks straight out of BH&G! Thank you for this inspiration!

  3. I love thrifting! I buy very few things brand new. Underwear and socks, those I get new.
    I really have to hold myself back when it comes to knick-knacks. I jus don’t have the room. It really has to be something that I am wowed over, “what a find!”. Beatrix potter figurines – those are worth making room for. I also have to keep culling out stuff I don’t need and don’t love as much.

  4. We really enjoy searching for treasures in thrift shops and yard sales. We have found many wonderful items that are both useful and decorative while still being the rustic style we like. Browsing is relaxing and you can meet interesting people who will sometimes give you leads on things you may be specifically searching for. Baskets are great for corralling loose items all over the house. Thank you for the great article!

    1. So true about meeting people! It’s such a friendly environment. Thanks for the lovely comment!

  5. Ooh ooh ooh, a pet topic of mine. I’d also add:

    Children’s mittens because they’re perpetually lost
    Greeting cards with icons on them—I frame them (in a thrifted frame) for baptism gifts
    Pretty handkerchiefs—one for every pocket

    1. Ok. Are we taking handkerchiefs into which a nose is blown? I really want to adopt this, but I’m having a hard time. Is it gross? What do you do with it if you’re out?