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What NOT To Do The Next Time You Go Thrifting For Furniture
Avoid making these 10 common mistakes while shopping for new furniture in thrift stores.
If you're looking to redesign your home but don’t want to shell out the big bucks for new furniture, you can likely find everything you’re looking for and more at your local thrift stores. Thrift stores typically carry secondhand furniture that is both sturdy and affordable. While this furniture isn’t usually in the best condition, you can typically find some great pieces that just need a bit of sprucing up to look brand new!
But when you’re thrift shopping, the key is to shop smart, not shop fast. As you explore your local thrift stores, you’ll need to determine which furniture holds potential and which items should be left behind. If you aren’t careful, you could end up wasting money on low-quality products you don’t actually want. You can start shopping smarter by avoiding these 10 common thrifting mistakes.
Measure your home and furniture before you make a purchase.
Don’t spend your hard-earned money on furniture you can’t actually use. While you likely do have an idea of what furniture you’re shopping for, don’t make any big purchases without measuring first. When we say measure, we mean you should measure the space in your home and measure the piece in question to ensure it will fit nicely. It’s super easy to throw a tape measure in your purse before you leave to start shopping and have it handy when you find a contender. It would just be so disappointing to buy a piece of furniture you love, only to get home and realize you don’t have a place for it!
Don’t try to rely solely on your memory while making decisions.
Don’t try to store all the important information in your mind when you go furniture shopping. The human brain can only contain so much information. For example, write down measurements of the spaces in your home you are trying to decorate to cross-reference while you shop.
Additionally, it’s usually a bad idea to try to recall colors from memory. People almost always remember colors at least a little bit differently in their heads than what they are in reality. So if you are trying to match your new furniture to a certain color, it’s a good idea to bring a fabric or paint swatch with you while you shop. While physical samples are best, at least make sure you have pictures of the paint, colors, or furniture you are trying to match easily accessible on your smartphone. If you try to match colors by memory, you may end up with similarly colored pieces of furniture that all clash.
Don’t ignore great frames because of ugly art.
A common mistake that thrifters make is overlooking beautiful, high-quality frames because they don’t like the artwork currently inside of them. In the heat of the moment, people tend to forget that the art inside the frame can be removed. That said, it still may be worth it to make the purchase if you’ve found a deal on a top-notch frame. You can simply take out the art and replace it with artwork or photography you like better.
Don’t underestimate strong smells or major repairs.
A lot of the furniture you’ll find in thrift stores has seen better days, but much of it can be easily repaired or spruced up. However, there are occasionally times when secondhand furniture just won’t be worth the effort it takes to fix it up. For example, furniture that needs to be entirely reupholstered or totally refinished will require quite a bit of time and money, especially if you’ll need to hire professionals to do the work for you. Instead, look for pieces that require minor maintenance or repairs you can do yourself as a DIY project, such as applying a fresh coat of paint, swapping hardware, or tightening loose screws. Be realistic about what type of repairs or maintenance each piece will require before you make a purchase you might come to regret.
Furthermore, don’t even bother with any furniture that has a weird odor. If something already has a noticeable smell, it’s going to be very hard to get rid of it and likely won’t be worth the time, effort, or money. You might even spend more money trying to get rid of the smell than if you had bought the piece when it was new.
Don't overlook quality wooden pieces.
These days, a lot of modern furniture is made using particle board or faux wood. So if you stumble upon a piece of nice wooden furniture, you’ve essentially just found a diamond in the rough. Karen Spintzhauser, a former Salvation Army employee, told Insider that “Finding a solid wood piece that is well-constructed is like finding treasure. I'd buy every time." Plus, many wooden pieces can be quickly transformed with something as simple as a fresh coat of paint or a new stain. Therefore, don’t pass up this great deal if you stumble upon some high-quality, solid wood furniture while thrifting.
Don’t be afraid to embrace the big and the bold.
Many people tend to shy away from furniture that would be categorized as a big or bold statement piece. However, this can sometimes be a mistake. Not only does going big and bold add some fun and personality to your living space, but it can also make the room seem bigger. So if you are between two pieces for your home, we encourage you to try out the bigger option.
Don’t forget to check for pests or bug damage.
Just because your prospective furniture looks fine on the outside doesn’t mean it is in good shape on the inside. Sometimes, secondhand furniture is infested with pests, like bed bugs. Once these pests make it into your home, they are a huge hassle to get rid of. Therefore, you want to carefully inspect the furniture for any signs of bed bugs or bug damage before you bring it home. If you find bed bugs, report it to the thrift store manager and resume shopping elsewhere. Don’t bring the infestation home with you.
While there are several ways to check your furniture for bed bugs, the easiest to do while thrift shopping just requires latex gloves, a credit card, and a magnifying glass. Using a credit card or gloved hand, run the edge of your credit card or finger over any creases or cracks on the surface of the furniture in several directions. As you comb the surface, see if any actual bed bugs, feces (which will be dark red stains), or old skin appear. If they do, you know the furniture is infested. Since bed bugs like to hide in dark spaces, you can also use the flashlight on your cell phone to visually check dark corners and creases in the furniture.
Don’t shop alone.
If you live with a spouse or roommates, always make sure to bring them along when you go furniture shopping. If you shop alone, you might end up purchasing furniture that your home’s other residents don’t like. This could create tension in the household. Avoid the drama and plan a day to visit the thrift stores when all involved parties can be there to voice their opinion and agree on purchases.
Even if you live alone, it’s always nice to have company while you shop and a second opinion readily available. Therefore, it’s still a good idea to bring a friend or family member with you when you are ready to buy.
Make sure to shop around.
If you see something you love at a great price, don’t hesitate to buy it. However, you still want to use your best judgment before you make a purchase. Every thrift store has a different selection of one-of-a-kind pieces, and that inventory is constantly changing as new donations and consignments get dropped off. Before you impulse buy everything on your list at the first thrift store you visit, you may want to check out the products at other thrift stores in the area to be sure you aren’t missing out on better furniture somewhere else.
Don’t be a mean negotiator.
In addition to already offering lower prices, thrift store owners and managers are sometimes willing to negotiate with the clientele. If you come across a store owner who is willing to negotiate with you, remember to haggle with kindness and respect. Negative or rude comments are unlikely to score you any bargains. If you can form a rapport of kindness with the store owner or manager, you might even find that your positivity earns you more deals and discounts in the future!