Learn how to thrift shop with my six simple steps. I help people curate a place they love that matches their style in a sustainable, affordable way.

Follow these 6 Steps to Thrift Shop BETTER:

  1. Have A Plan
  2. Know Your Style
  3. Envision It In Your Home
  4. Do A Second Pass
  5. Go Often
  6. (BONUS) Bring Cash

How To Thrift Shop Like A Pro

There’s an art to thrift shopping, and I’m here to share it with you. It’s easy to step through the doors of a thrift shop, wander the aisles, and see what catches your eye… But that can quickly become exhausting and overwhelming. My goal today is to teach anyone how to find the diamonds in the rough.

By the way, these tips are for thrift shopping for home decor, but the same principles can be applied to fashion, accessories, books… just about anything else too!

1. Have A Plan

Know what to look for and only search for that. This makes searching less chaotic. It’s easier to zero in on the target when there are only 1 or 2 items in mind. For example – Is today a vase day or a picture frame day?

Note: If you’re browsing and something else catches your eye it’s ok to pause and look. Don’t pass a good thing up. You’ll have a chance to whittle down your shopping basket later in tip #4.

How To Thrift Shop Home Decor Like A Pro - BohoHouseATX.com/how-to-thrift-shop
Almost everything I own has been thrifted. For example, in this living room scene alone I spy 10 second-hand finds: the 4 picture frames, the 2 mirrors, the sectional, the area rug, the coffee table, and the vase.

2. Know Your Style

Know your preferred home decor style prior to thrift shopping.

Think – what colors, materials, and styles do you want in your home? This will help you see through all the clutter lining the shelves, walls, and floor.

Every home has some kind of theme, even if it’s “eclectic.” –  Not sure what yours is? Take Popsugar’s decorating style guiz and see! – This is a pretty good quiz, plus you can take a hint from the same words they used to describe you during the quiz to use while you shop! (According to the quiz I identify as neutral, cozy, and glam on the weekends!)

I’ve trained my eyes to see past the stuff that doesn’t match and zero in on the items that I already know will look good in my home!

My home is a mix of natural elements and mid-century modern, with light warm colors: think whites, pinks, and oranges… So when I think I really like something, but it’s too dark or fussy for my home’s vibe, I can pass it up guilt-free.

Beautiful boho bedroom, even the peacock chair was a second hand thrifted find! - bohohouseatx.com/how-to-thrift-shop
Can you see how everything I own fits into a theme? It makes me so happy, and I love how practical these pieces are too. My style matches my decor, so I can also use my wardrobe as art. In this pic, my second-hand finds include the peacock chair, the robe and hats, and almost everything on the photo ledge.

3. Envision It In Your Home

Do your best to imagine how the thrifted find will look inside the home before you actually pay for it and bring it there. This will involve some imagination, but it will help save time and money; especially since thrift stores don’t often have a return policy.

While you’re in the flickering fluorescent lighting of your local thrift it’s important to be able to see through all the buried treasures and imagine the end result. You may not need to know where you’ll put it in your home (although an idea would be helpful) but you should know if it will belong.

On the contrary, don’t stray away from something “ugly”, it might have potential with a few tweaks! Think: painting, removing elements, repurposing. Thrift shops can be deceiving with all the clutter, poor lighting, cramped aisles. That’s why they say one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.

For example, I like to use the metal wire from old lampshades as plant stands! (Here’s a quick tutorial I made a while ago)

This DIY plant stand was made by tearing off the cover of the wire lampshade and spray painting it. The base still works as a lamp! - BohoHouseATX.com/how-to-thrift-shop
This DIY plant stand was made by tearing off the cover of the wire lampshade and spray painting it. The base still works as a lamp!

DIY TIP: I LOVE buying pretty frames and then replacing the picture later. I’ve never spent more than $15 on a single frame. At first, I thought this was only possible with classic picture frames, but I’ve learned how to take the back off of professionally framed artwork, too; thus opening up a whole new world of opportunity! (Here’s a youtube tutorial)

4. Do A Second Pass

So you’ve got your cart full of pretty things? Thrift shop finds you THINK you want in your home? Now let’s look back through them…

Do you really need another coffee mug?

Will this vase really be better than the 4 other vases at home?

Step 5 is your chance to decide if what you’re buying is truly worth it.

While I do support second-hand shopping, I am also a believer in the KonMari Method: only own what sparks joy.

If that mug is a cool find, but won’t spark joy as you try to fit in your cupboard, it might be best to leave it behind for another lucky thrifter. However, if you KNOW your coffee experience will be better because of it, then who am I to stop you from making that cost-effective purchase?

gray cat on brown sectional admiring my thrift shop finds | bohohouseatx.com/how-to-thrift-shop
Gatito may not have been thrifted, but I did rescue him. 🙂 (Or did he rescue me?) Other items in this pic that I found 2nd hand: almost everything in the bookshelf; the mirror and frames on the wall; the leather sectional; and the baskets and end table.

5. Go Often

Thrift shopping, like any other art, is a skill learned over time with lots of practice and dedication… Totally kidding! BUT the more you go, the more chances you have of finding something cool! Their inventory moves quickly so hit up the thrift shops often and don’t miss an opportunity!

Just think, if you’re a “shopping is my therapy” kinda person, thrift shopping could be a nice little break for your wallet – and if it’s not really for you, well that’s ok too. More cool finds for me!

Fun Fact: There’s a popular hashtag called # this is why i have to thrift shop everyday. I love it, it’s like a tag for all the people clued in on the little thrift shopping secret to share their finds. It’s also a collection of other beautifully curated eclectic bohemian homes. – Some hashtags get overused and oversaturated, but this one? It’s a goldilocks tag, it’s just right.

this is why i have to thrift shop everyday (#thisiswhyihavetothriftshopeveryday) - How To Thrift Shop For Home Decor Like A Pro - BohoHouseATX.com/how-to-thrift-shop
Here’s a screenshot of the #thisiswhyihavetothriftshopeveryday (taken during the holiday season). It’s also a great place to find other related accounts!

6. (BONUS) Bring cash

My favorite thrift shop in town is cash only and I always forget. So let this reminder be a blessing to both of us. 🙂

And that, my friends, is the simple guide on how to thrift shop like a pro.

The same rules apply for regular shopping too.

What’s your Thrift Shop M.O.? / What’s your most memorable thrift shop find!? / Did I miss any tips? Let me know in the comments!

Let’s stay in touch!

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Lisa Loperfido

Lisa Loperfido

Lisa Loperfido is the owner and designer behind BOHO HOUSE ATX, a beautiful, chic, mid-century modern home nestled in Austin, TX. Her house is an inspiration, and a gathering place for creatives and friends. Her website (bohohouseatx.com) is an extension, a place for decorating tricks and homeowner tips, so anyone can live the boho dream.
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