10 Secrets From a Thrifting Goddess (errr… that would be me.)

The #1 question that I get asked most is “How do you find all your awesome junk?!?!” Well my friends, since today is a special day I am going to share with you how to shop at a thrift store.  These are the 10 best ways to find the really GOOD STUFF that you are always jealous about.


If you follow me on Twitter you will know that I have had pretty much the best luck ever thrift shopping this past week or two.

I can feel your death stares through the computer.

So I will have you know that I am breaking my own rules, since today is Tuesday. So you better listen and listen good. I am showing you how things look when I buy them so that you can kind of get an idea of what I look for.  Keep checking back to see what hidden awesomeness comes out of it.

So on with the SECRETS!!!

1. Know where the good stuff is in YOUR store.

When I go into my store there is a big room on the back that has furniture, lamps, large mirrors, bed frames, crappy toys, bikes, sporting goods, and a strange smell.  This room is where I usually find the best junk, so naturally I go there first.  There is a place where they put large mirrors and that is always my first stop.  (You can see my collection in my daughters room, and on my Wall O’ Mirrors) Large ornate mirrors are rare BUT they do show up. Like this one I just scored for $10.00


2.  Go in with an open mind.

I believe that the harder you search for something the less likely you are to find it.  Awesome junk picks you and you need to be ready for it.  For example I just bought this awesome coffee table for $5.00.  Do I need a coffee table? No.  But my Mother In Law is still trying to find the perfect one for her living room and until she finds it I am forever buying her coffee tables.


3.  Don’t be scared to hoard.

Ok maybe hoard is too harsh of a word.  Lets try this again.  Don’t be scared to save things for later.  If you see something awesome and don’t buy it cause you might not need it right.this.second you will be kicking yourself for the next 5 years.

Now, I am not saying buy everything that you *might* be able to use, I am talking about the kind of pieces that make you say “whoa” out loud and then you immediately have mother bear syndrome and look around to see if anyone is scoping out your treasure.

Like this awesome chandelier that I just found for $15.00. I literally said “Oh my gravy”, and ran to it. Goodness knows the LAST thing in the world that this girl needs is another chandelier (I have 5 that I am saving for later) but this one was THE ONE.  Its huge.  It almost goes up to my waist and I am 5’9.   And I can not wait to show you what I have done with it….after the hubs gets it hung.


4.  Look for things that can be refinished.

I rarely find something that I will keep “as is” .  Only really cool old junk with freakin awesome patinas stay as is in my house.  I never buy plastic furniture. Real wood only people. There are primers that you can get for plastic or laminate if you find something crazy cool but I haven’t used them before.  Are you so jealous of this chair?  I know.  I DIED when I saw it.  Cost?  Free.


My Mother In Law brought it home from their storage unit 3 days ago.  I had a dream about it last night.  The hubs came home from work and these were his exact words… “what the crap is that chair doing in this house”  See, that chair is from his childhood basement and weighs no joke, 35+ LBS.  He is having post traumatic stress disorder due to the fact that he had his toes ran over with it more than once. Sorry dear, the chair is staying.

5.  Don’t be afraid of a little hard work!

Refer to question #4 for the reason why. This is how you save money people.  By doing thing yourself.  If you want to pay someone to do it, give me a call but I will charge you.  Don’t be scared, its just paint. What’s the worst that can happen?

Certain types of pieces are perfect for certain types of finishes.  Like this cute pedestal table.  With those types of details it MUST be glazed.  (You can see my full glazing technique here.)


6. If you see something you love, don’t be afraid to throw some elbows.

Ha ha just kidding.  But seriously, if you see something don’t be afraid to act a fool to get it.  Or you just might be like my friend Lara who lost out on a ginorm oval ornate out the wazoo mirror for $15.00 because another lady snatched it up first.

If it is something that is too big for your cart have an employee tag it announcing to the world that it is YOURS.  Cause guaranteed if you don’t someone else will. And even if you are on the fence have them tag it while you ponder its potential.  Just make sure that if you decide against it you take the tag off so that other grabbers can have a chance at it.

7.  Look where other people aren’t willing.

Ok story time.  While my MIL and I were shopping on Friday we went to a consignment store that we had never been to.  Their furniture was way overpriced for my blood but as we were getting ready to leave the guy that works there told us that everything in this cramped side room was 50% off.  At first glance there was NOTHING awesome.  But I went in and started to dig.  In the back corner in a bookcase that was totally obstructed from view and took 7 minutes to get out was this:


for $2.50 I found the coolest tool box ever because I was willing to hunt for something. This my friends I am leaving just how it is.

8.  Don’t be afraid to let your style evolve.

When I first started thrifting I hated brass.  I thought it was NASTY and every time I saw something I liked that was brass out came the spray paint.  But guess what.  I am now in love with it.  Especially if it has a really old patina, my heart sort of wants to flutter away.  I found these candle sticks for $1.00 each.


9. Don’t let un-awesome people stop your vision.

True story here.  All of my friends want to go shopping with me cause I am like the best thifter ever, right?  So I am a good friend and take them…with one stipulation they have to have an open mind.  Of course they agree.  But in truth they have no idea what they are in for.  They look at me like I have 3 heads when I get excited about some nasty thing.  Does that stop me from putting it in my cart?  Psssh, ya right. I know what it can become.  Would it stop someone who is unsure of themselves?  Probably.  If something speaks to you LISTEN.  (The most random statues and vases usually turn out the coolest with a coat of white spray paint.)

Now when my friends come over to my house they see the junk that I bought when I was with them and compare stories about its previous nastiness.  And are jealous.

10.  Don’t be scared!

Yes, the store probably stinks.

Yes, there are less than hygienic people there. (Sometimes I am one of them…)

Yes, there is a lot of gross stuff.

But there are also treasures and if you don’t hunt them down then guess what?  I will.

And if I run into you whilst thrifting and you have found something awesome….don’t show me,  cause I am totally the jealous type.

So there you go friends, hope this motivates you to go and look for something awesome.

And if you are new here and like what you see I would love it if you became a subscriber (top left corner) that way you can be sure to not miss anything awesome.

Especially all of the afters from this post, cause they are going to be epic.

Love Your Guts





Linking up to Tatertots and Jello

Tip Junkie handmade projects


  • Jen-CraftOManiac 22.03.2011 at 15:04

    You know we shop at the same thrift store, and I head to that back stinky room too. HA HA! I am bound to run into you and steal your coolness from your arms or cart. JK! 😉 thanks for the tips too. winks-jen

  • Char @ Crap I've Made 22.03.2011 at 15:10

    I may have forced my 10yo to sit unattended on top of a desk once (last weekend) whilst I tracked down an employee.

  • maggie (the midwestern sewing (& more) girl) 22.03.2011 at 15:15

    You completely rock. I adore your blog! Thanks for the tips…headed out to try them in “real life” right now…;)

  • Glenda 22.03.2011 at 15:18

    I go to the same thrift store as you, so it is no wonder I have a hard time finding the cool stuff. You’ve been in before me :) However, when I went in last Saturday, I found a music stand for my son, obviously cast off from a local school. It has an extra wide music platform. I paid $8 for it, which is an insanely fantastic price!

  • projectanthologies 22.03.2011 at 15:18

    I’m new here and find you hilarious. Subscribing now! Thanks. 😉

  • 22.03.2011 at 15:21

    You are preaching to the converted! Thanks for the awesome post!

  • Rita 22.03.2011 at 15:23

    AMEN! I’m a new follower!

  • lauren@WESTFURNITUREREVIVAL 22.03.2011 at 15:29

    absolutely love that chair you found.. all your finds are great.

  • Kim @ seven thirty three 22.03.2011 at 15:29

    I knew you would have awesome stuff on your mantle. Seriously, take a trip to VT and redo my mantle decor. Please?

  • Melissa O 22.03.2011 at 15:32

    my favorite is trying to have them go lower on prices. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t. You are too cool for words. Amazing. So jealous of the Chandelier. Been looking for one for ages.

  • Jayna Rae 22.03.2011 at 15:32

    Great post. When I first started thrifting again, and I mean like my first day back, I found this great piece. It was large. I fell in love immediately. I was toting it around and this lady walks by, stops, and tells me, “I was going to get that so let me know if you change your mind. I really want it.” I thouht to myself, “what gull.” She did it like 3 times. Hello!!! Would I be toting this awkward thing around in a store while my 2-year-old is running amuck and I can’t catch him because of it, if I didn’t want it?

  • jandjhome 22.03.2011 at 15:51

    Awesome tips! I used to be scared of thrift stores, now I love them.

  • Andrea 22.03.2011 at 16:07

    Awesome tips! I started thrifting for clothes when I was a teenager but only recently have I started looking for pre-loved housewares at these places too at the age of 26! The hubs and I just bought our first home and I am in a design frenzy! My home style has been evolving in leaps and bounds. My fav point is about not being scared. There have been many of time when I like something but I think to myself that I can’t pull it off. BULL HONKY! It’s time to just go for it! I can have a yard sale with all the stuff that doesn’t make it! Thanks for the wonderful post! =D


  • kimber 22.03.2011 at 16:14

    I go to the thrift store all the time. But the truth is, I am scared to commit to big projects on account of a very mobile 8 month old. It’s hard to get anything done with such a little helper. Also, there is limited room in my apartment for awesomeness.

  • Mr. Goodwill Hunting 22.03.2011 at 16:44

    All of these tips are so amazing. I think you nailed it from every angle. Not a stone left unturned.

    And since we are brothers and sisters (wait…you didnt know that…lets call Oprah for a reunion show) we both have the same blood running through our veins.

    I think my favorite one is #9. People tend to always give you that “What the Heck are you going to do with that look” But those are actually some of the BEST items to date.

    I am sure you have a whole heap of tips and I am all ears!!!!

    Mr. Goodwill Hunting

  • Decor Createur 22.03.2011 at 16:48

    Your hilarious! Wish I had TV so I could watch you nate today… lame… love all your awesome finds.

  • Kelly H 22.03.2011 at 16:54

    I love this post! I found an awesome old wooden bread box on a bottom shelf at the Salvation Army. It was $6 on the tag and when I got to the register found out it was half off!
    My husband gave me a “what the heck” look when I came home with it. I took off the rusted hinges, replaced the knob, and painted it white. I have yet to find replacement hinges and am kicking myself for tossing the old rusty ones, but when I DO find them, it’s going to be an awesome craft storage container. :) It’ll be up on my blog soon!

  • Jessica and Justin 22.03.2011 at 17:19

    My favorite part: “less than hygienic”. Love it! I can’t wait to watch you on Nate today! P.S. Sooo sad that my nearest thrift store is 50 miles away.

  • Darcy 22.03.2011 at 17:37

    Such great tips..thank you! Your blog is so far my favorite!

  • Our really empty nest 22.03.2011 at 17:55

    Great ideas, great thoughts, thanks for sharing! Sue

  • Terry 22.03.2011 at 18:11

    Amen, you said it all.

  • LaVonne @ Long Wait 22.03.2011 at 18:32

    Love it! I really want to go to the thrift store now 😉

  • Rhiannon 22.03.2011 at 18:40

    oooh you got some awsome steals!!! so j

  • 22.03.2011 at 18:46

    This is a great post!!! Thanks for the tips.

  • Charm Bracelet Diva 22.03.2011 at 19:01

    You are too funny! I JUST got back from Goodwill where I scored a really large oval mirror (a bit overpriced, I thought, at $12.99) but I knew it would be perfect for…..somewhere (I know it’ll come to me!)in my home!

    I am so with you on all of what you said. I’m pretty much obsessed with thrifting these days.


  • Jen@GarageSaleDiaries 22.03.2011 at 19:04

    Thank you for saying its OK to “hoard” or “save for later”. I LOVE that! I am glad I am not crazy for grabbing up all the fabulous items I find even though I have no idea where I might use them right away in my home! I cannot wait for garage sale season to start here in Michigan. Your blog gets me inspired to update my WHOLE house!! You are very talented!

  • Dani'sMama 22.03.2011 at 19:13

    Awesome Tips!! and p.s you did great on the Nate show!! I stopped everything to see your piece, loved the makeover!!!

  • Janine 22.03.2011 at 19:38

    I saw the show today, watched just for you. You did terrific! Keep on being you and doing things your way, congrats!

  • Miss Charming 22.03.2011 at 20:00

    Your 10 secrets to thrifting were spot on! Here in Texas thrifting isn’t for the faint of heart. The Goodwill opens at 9a and by 9:10a it’s pretty crowded. If you see something you think you may even sort of like you need to dive onto it with elbows flying because if you don’t, the four people next to you will! Love your blog!

  • Kiki Estique 22.03.2011 at 20:05

    This is by far my new favorite blog! You are awesome! :) Thrifting is one of the best feelings ever- I love finding new treasures! Thanks for the inspiration……

  • ~Lavender Dreamer~ 22.03.2011 at 20:43

    This is such a GREAT post! You should link it to all of the vintage link parties to spread the word! Thanks…you’ve helped me! ♥

  • I♥naptime w/ Chocolate Sundaes 22.03.2011 at 21:10

    Awesome tips! Now I want to hit up goodwill!

  • Trista 22.03.2011 at 21:29

    Can I go to the thrift store…like right now? Skip soccer practice and all??

    Love your site, loved you on The Nate Berkus Show. Loved that you said basteges.

    PS–I hate brass. Must be because I’m new to thrifting.

  • Anonymous 22.03.2011 at 21:41

    Can you reveal which thrift store you frequent? I live in Utah but not in your neck of the woods so you won’t have to worry about wrestling treasures away from me! Just discovered your blog and laughed out loud at this post. A new follower here for sure!

  • Meg and Mum's 22.03.2011 at 21:55

    Everytime I read your blog I feel compelled go to shopping! You’ve found amazing stuff, and thanks for the tips!

    My husband picked up a junky dresser the other day which turns out has quite an eerie twist to it. Check out my latest post if you’re into the spooky stuff!
    Megs :)

  • Homemaker is not a "dirty" word 22.03.2011 at 22:01

    Thanks for the tips. I have started trying to get to the DI once a week, but I am seriously bugged. The DI’s up here in the SL having some serious pricing. Stuff I see that you and a few others have picked up down south for around $10 is going for 35-40 up here. It is ridiculous. I am tempted to make a trip down there just to thrift. Great Junk!!

  • Dixie Mom 22.03.2011 at 22:04

    Ha! Totally reminds me of when I was little and I’d “call” something mine. You know…”I call it”! And my sisters and I would run around the rooms “calling” things so that no one else could have it.
    I’m so going to do that…

  • Jennie 22.03.2011 at 22:35

    HEY “MISS FABULOUS ON NATE BERKUS”! You did freakin’ awesome. I LOVED the lamp you made in the background. The blue jars made me want to run laps around my living room. SOOOO CUTE! AHHHH! I want ’em! SO, we will be in the big SG on the 1st. AWWWW YEEAAAH! I am totally hitting up your guys’ DI before I leave. Maybe we can go together? Let me know! That is if you aren’t off in some other country doing a TV shoot on your crap:) You know I think you’re awesome. SOO proud of you! Keep it up girlie!

    Jennie {CInnaberry Suite}

  • Jaime 22.03.2011 at 22:39

    I want to be your BFF. I want shopping a shopping friend. Too bad we live on opposite ends of the state.

  • amity 22.03.2011 at 22:51

    i loved watching you on the nate berkus show!! i have been looking forward to it all day. i love the advice you gave on shopping at the thrift stores!! i love to go to the d.i. it is such a blast, especially in the mornings when they bring out the carts and people go nuts!! my sister says it reminds her of seagulls in the parking lots. thanks for all your really great ideas!! i can’t wait to try and make the mirrors that you had on the show!! thanks again.

  • Jessica 22.03.2011 at 22:55

    I need a thrift store. … Or I just need to learn to read Japanese so I can know what I’m looking at while I’m driving! lol! Seriously though, I’ve now become a classified ad stalker so I can have a chance at some good ‘junk’ over here.

  • Michell @Girl in Air 22.03.2011 at 23:03

    I’ve been in some smelly thrift stores and found some great treasures! The hubby still thinks I’m crazy for shopping at thrift stores…

    Just stopping in the tell you…you did great on the Nate Show! I don’t get that channel but I stalk his website…

    You were so not what I expected:)Even better! I spent lots of time in St George…I used to fly for Sky West:-)

    Does the Camera really add 10lbs??? You looked fabulous!

  • Faith, Trust, and a Little Pixie Dust 22.03.2011 at 23:19

    Thanks for this fun post, Mandi. AND I saw you on Nate’s show today. You did a great job! Thanks for making us Utah bloggers proud!

    Warmly, Michelle

  • Denise 22.03.2011 at 23:56

    We must be related. My friends and family think I’m crazy for stopping at Goodwill 3x’s a week. My hubby thinks it’s all junk till I spray paint stuff white.
    I love your #6. Last Friday I got some funny stares as I dragged a cute wood chair all around the store. I knew as soon as I took my hand off it someone would snatch it up. MINE!!!!

    Denise at sparechangechic

  • April 23.03.2011 at 00:23

    I totally agree with EVRYTHING! I generally gravitate to the gross stuff. I think my hubby get really frightened sometimes!

  • C...H 23.03.2011 at 00:29

    Hi I discovered your blog watching the Nate show & I’m SO glad I did :) I am LDS also and LOVE to decorate and recreate. My big question for you is where did you get your wood floors? I’m hoping you got some amazing deal on them that you would like to share!? I have been searching for the perfect price for 2yrs!! I’ve got all my rugs picked out just need to find affordable floors :) please help :)

  • cleverlyinspired 23.03.2011 at 01:27

    YOu were great on Nate!!

  • bliss. 23.03.2011 at 02:21

    You are flippity flippin funny! My kinda gurl.

  • The Adventures of Ordy and Joon 23.03.2011 at 02:33

    LOVE all these tips!!! OBSESSED with the mirror and chandy (duh… go figure…) and I can’t believe how awesome you looked on tv! EAT SOME FOOD you’re makin’ me look bad! hahahahaha

  • Mandi@TidbitsfromtheTremaynes 23.03.2011 at 02:50

    How come we are not neighbors so we can go “shopping” together? WHY?

  • Emily 23.03.2011 at 02:56

    I LOVE your blog!!! You did great on Nate’s show!!! I want to paint and acid treat my mirrors now!!! I love your creativity and Ideas!!!

  • Jeanette 23.03.2011 at 03:34

    I took your advice and went to my local DI (in Salt Lake). Found some fabulous frames! I took my kiddos and they totally found some gross 3 foot doll that we HAD to buy as well. Next time I’m going sans the kids. Thanks for your tips, love them! Watched Nate today and am totaly your stalker now!!

  • Emily @ RemarkableHome 23.03.2011 at 04:07

    What a great post! I need to get my butt to more thrift shops! Guess I better finish refinishing the huge buffet in my garage before I bring in more junk or my husband might divorce me! I am still kicking myself for not picking up a gorgeous sideboard in perfect condition for $35 at our Goodwill last year! What in the WORLD was I thinking not snatching it up???? STUPID STUPID STUPID!

    would love for you to stop by my new blog:)

  • Makenzie & Jordan 23.03.2011 at 04:48

    Mandi!!! I watched you on Nate today! I fell in love all over. Umm I’m just gonna say this and then we can forget about it but I seriously would buy a chandelier from you (probably any of them) if you want to part with one of your like 5 cause I have been looking forrrrever for one. Anyway love you and miss you – we should go to lunch and catch up.

  • Dave and Natasha 23.03.2011 at 05:31

    Great job on the Nate Berkus show!!! My mom (who lives behind your in-law’s) called me to tell me to go watch it! Your stuff is awesome and I love your house!

  • Jennifer 23.03.2011 at 14:09

    Too funny and all too true. Love it!

  • Kathy S 23.03.2011 at 17:22

    I love your post, I don’t ake my friends because I know they would think I am mental. My daughter and I love to go along with my MIL. We love 50% of days, we aren’t afraid to run to the good places when the doors open. I run and my daughter and MIL grab a cart. We love to rummage for hours ion the way back of shelves, you name it we look. My 10yr old duaghter has no issue spending hours in a thrift store with me. We usually go first thing Saturday morning straight out of bed in our PJ’s and hair unbrushed, we don’t care and most often we blend right in. I hope to see you at a thrift store one day! Happy Hunting!

  • Richmond Thrifter 25.03.2011 at 00:53

    Love these tips!!! Gave me a good chuckle!

  • Lucy Designs 25.03.2011 at 01:24

    You are just a cool chick!!! love everything!

  • Lucy Designs 25.03.2011 at 01:38

    I had to share this on my FB page I think #9 is my new mission statement!

  • HannahMoore 28.07.2011 at 02:43

    I love #9 … I hate when Im finding some cool stuff, and who ever I’m with give me the looks like “why would you buy that??”… ugh im so glad this happens to other people!!

  • theatticbirds 07.11.2011 at 23:21

    I love it! These are the 10 I hold to and tell others about – you’ve done them well!

  • Pax 24.02.2014 at 01:04

    I listened to a friend about a plate I was going to buy for 20 dollars and put it back. Got home, searched it, am still a little bitter as it was worth 8,000. dollars. Trust your gut people.

  • verob 26.06.2015 at 17:19

    I LOVE YOUR BLOG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I love how REAL and honest you are about your life. <3
    it sounds pretty creepy but when i'm out thrifting, it's like you're invisibly next to me supporting me while I look crazy to everyone else.


  • Jenene Marchian 20.09.2015 at 15:23

    I agree with everything you have said in your blog. Some of my comments to my Thrift store & flea market shoppers – If you like it buy it. Don’t stop to think about it – it will be gone when you go back. Enjoy the beauty of all these treasures.


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