Before I delve into the thrifting tips I promised in this post last week, can I take a moment to bitch?
Did you know tomorrow is the first day of Fall? Did you know that here in Phoenix, it will be 105 degrees? Whatever.
And now, a few things that I've learned in my thrift/vintage shopping adventures. I've also thrown in some pretty photos just to keep the post from being all text. In no particular order:
Tip 1. - Know What You're Looking For
Having at least some idea of what you're looking for will keep you focused and from spending money on random things that you really have no use for. When prices are cheap, it's tempting to fill your cart with all sorts of goodies. Stay focused on finding what you have an actual need for and go directly to that area as soon as you enter the store. If I'm looking for art, I head straight to the back of the Salvation Army store where I know they keep paintings. If there's nothing there that I want, I do a quick lap around the perimeter of the store (sometimes things get moved around by other shoppers) and then I'm out the door and onto the next place.
Tip 2. - Keep an Open Mind
This may sound like I'm contradicting Tip 1 a little but stick with me. Some of my favorite finds happened when I wasn't in the market for them. Take these lamps for example, I was looking for art on that particular day and I wasn't having much luck at all. I was at my next to last stop of the morning and out of the corner of my eye, the color of the lamps grabbed my attention. Normally, I would have left those lamps there because frankly, I had no real need for them, but they were five bucks a piece. By keeping an open mind, I found some gorgeous lamps that I can rewire, top off with gorgeous black shades and sell or use for a client project. Now, if these lamps weren't so cheap, I'd have left that store with a little tear in my eye and no lamps. Which leads me right into my next tip:
Tip 3. - Be Honest with Yourself
Are you really going to reupholster that chair if you save it from the dumpster or is it going to sit in the corner of your bedroom with a sheet over it for the next year? Is your skill level really up to the task of repairing the chipped veneer on that mid-century dresser? Do you reeeealllllly have the time and patience to strip and re-stain those nightstands with about 10 layers of ugly paint on them? Just because something is cheap and has great lines, doesn't mean it's a good deal...for you. Be realistic about what you are willing and able to take on.
Most of us can handle giving furniture a couple of coats of paint and replacing hardware. If a piece is going to require more work than that, think twice about buying it. Before you think I'm sitting here in judgement on my DIY high horse, I actually have a wing chair in my bedroom with a sheet over it. It's been there at least a year and at this point, I don't know if I'll ever do anything with it. I had delusions of finally trying my hand at upholstery. Hahahahaha!! I know now that I have nowhere NEAR the amount of patience or skill to try that nonsense. So you see, it happens to all of us, the euphoria of a good find and seeing the hidden potential beneath ugly fabric. I am by no means immune!
Tip 4. - Pay Attention to Display Pieces
By this I mean simply, look at what tchotchkes are sitting on. Sometimes there is so much to look at - so many distracting little curiosities - the sheer volume of eye candy can be incredibly overwhelming. With so much going on, it's easy to miss some real treasures that are hiding under the displays. I don't know how many times I looked right past a gorgeous etagere like this one because I was more caught up in what was on it.
After I realized what I had been missing I started looking around at all the tables, dressers and bookcases. I had been overlooking some really beautiful pieces! So, take your time and don't forget to look down.
Tip 5. - Go Often
What constitutes "often" may be different for everyone. For me, I try to go once a week. I've figured out that this plan works well for thrift stores like Salvation Army, Goodwill and St. Vincent DePaul's. Inventory tends to turn over pretty quickly at these places. Prices are cheap and because of this, things move fast. So I like to check them out weekly because there is always something new.
Sidenote: since inventory is always changing here, if you see something you absolutely cannot live without BUY IT NOW because it will not be there when you come back.
Vintage stores and antique malls, in my experience at least, don't have the same quick turnover as thrift stores. The prices are typically higher so you'll often feel like you're seeing exactly the same goods from your last visit.
If you're serious about thrifting/vintage shopping, going often will help you build a relationship with certain stores. Make friends with the owner or employees and let them know if there are specific things you are in the market for. They may be willing to give you a heads up about upcoming inventory. Just make sure you really are prepared to buy. Don't waste their time if you're just a serial looky-loo with no intention of buying anything. Not cool.
So there you have it - my tips for successful thrifting and vintage shopping. Oh, a few last minute minor details:
- Take hand sanitizer. This is secondhand stuff from god-knows-where that you're digging through. Protect yourself.
- Wear comfortable shoes with CLOSED TOES. No flip flops. Again, the germ factor and just general safety issues.
- Ask permission before taking photos. It's just good manners.