Pitfalls to Avoid in Buying Thrift Store Furniture and Home Goods

We have all been victim to the “I have to have it!” complex in the diversity of stores we frequent, often times lending itself to a credit card bill larger than our rent check. For those of you, like me, who owned up to this and instead strayed to the second-hand point of view, congrats. While we are applauding ourselves for our “reduce, reuse and recycle” merit badges, pause for a moment to consider the traps that have bled into our gently used showroom. (For those of you who do not shop second-hand, these also apply to all other shopping experiences quite easily!)

So we show up in our weekend loafers to wander the well-arranged aisles and come out with new or slightly used items like no one’s business- but what mistakes are we making? Here is a chance to learn from my years of experience, focusing on the home goods arsenal of today’s second hand shops.

Jedi-mind tricks furniture and other home goods will play on you:

1. “Cutest widget in the world” This mind trick represents the little chochkeys with zero functionality. The functionality could be a generality, as in that set of 12 different salt and pepper shakers shaped like little animals, or simply non-functional for you: an ottoman that is too short for most of your furniture and too uncomfortable to sit on its own. Imagine walking down the thrift store aisle and seeing an awesome African artifact that has no place in your nautical living room. You are welcome.


2. “Is that real leather?” This mind trick stands for the items that we just cannot put down because they appear to be valuable. Is that silver? Is that china? While these are all valuable questions to ask, if you are not the expert on that matter you may be bringing home something fake and paying too much for it. One possible work-around: Smart phones and laser fast searching.


3. “It’s just big-boned” This side-swiper may come out verbally as, “I don’t know how I will get this home or in into my room.” I can tell you from experience (picture a turtle shell of a papasan chair on top of my car) that this one is worth its weight in planning gold. Before you hand over your cash, ask the salesperson for a tape measure or call your neighbor to see if they can help you by lending you their truck. Another possible remedy? Ask the manager if they have a delivery driver they work with, since most thrift stores do not deliver, however you are not the first person to want to bring home a couch in their Mini Cooper.


4. “Shaky legs and stinky pits” This valuable rule showcases how you need to smell your item and wobble the parts to make sure everything is as it should be. You might think you can tighten a leg or mask the smell but most of the time that is just not going to be your outcome. If you can tighten the leg in the store- bravo, but that smell… it is not likely to come out with your spray freshener.

5. “Redo you don’t” Similar to my last golden rule, do not be trapped by the inner handy-man or handy-woman in you! You might see a simple project and run straight ahead to your own version of a Flea Market Flip but if you have never cut a mirror or reupholstered a chair… you just might not start now. This one also leaves a pain in my side as I look around my living room to a couple blank canvases, faded cushions and a mismatched table that “only needs a little stain!” Top of Form

pinterest joke

6. “What a discount!” Again, I sigh. It is important to know the original department store price was left on that lamp for a reason! A simple rule I like to remind myself- these items were donated (most often) and while this would be a great discount at Boston Store… this is not Boston Store… Would you pay the new sticker price if you did not happen to see the old one?

7. “It’s SO cheap!” It is.  I wish I needed to say more about this one, but you know who you are if you fall for this mirage. I am in your camp, no worries. I see a giant box television for $5 and I want to find a way to get it up the stairs! If you do not have a husband who can shake his disapproving head, call me and I will yell at you.


Alright my friends. We have come to the end of the golden rules. I know what you are thinking, “BUT those do not apply to THIS fur coat in Phoenix!” Its fine, go forth and commit adultery against these rules. I am sure I will stray a time or two myself, (perhaps for the cat clock with the moving eyes and tail). I only ask that you think through these phrases before sliding your debit card at the next thrift store. It will save you from re-donating items and taking up space in your home that could instead be filled with items you use and cherish every day.

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