We often hear people complain that they're no good at thrift store shopping—they have an aversion to dirt, no patience, or just bad luck. The truth is that anyone can be a good thrifter if they keep an open mind. It's as simple as recognizing when an object needs a good cleaning, a coat of paint, or even just a new context. Here are a few common items to keep an eye out for the next time you're at the thrift store.

  1. Dishes: You can find mismatched dishes in a range of colors and patterns at any thrift shop. Use them to build a collection, hang a wall of plates, or make them into mirrors.
  2. Artwork: If you're thinking of hanging a wall of clustered artwork, thrift shops are a great place to build a cheap, out-of-the-ordinary collection.
  3. Shelves and Secretaries: Storage pieces are always useful around the house. Clean up shelves with paint or wallpaper. Although old-fashioned, secretaries are really useful pieces that can easily transform into a home office, bar, or linen closet.
  4. Sweaters and Blankets: Have these dry-cleaned, and then use them to add some coziness to your home by reupholstering a chair seat or covering a footstool.
  5. Trunks, Suitcases, and File Cabinets: Industrial trunks and storage pieces or vintage suitcases are easy to find at flea markets and thrift shops. Clean them up and use them as occasional tables.
  6. Dining Chairs: Whether you're looking for a whole set or a single side chair, dining chairs are always waiting to be scooped up at second-hand shops. If your chair needs a little love, try painting it, reupholstering a seat, or staining it.
  7. Dining Tables: Simple thrift store tables can be used for kitchens, dining rooms, or repurposed as a desk. If the table is scuffed or needs some DIY love, try restyling it with paint, fabric, or even just a tablecloth.
  8. Lamps: Sometimes all a lamp needs is a new shade and a good cleaning to make it brand new. If you find a broken lamp at a thrift store, you can always try rewiring it.
  9. Rocking Chairs: We can't tell you how many Thonet rocking chairs we've found at thrift shops around the $30 mark, usually in excellent condition. Rockers are great for a child's room, a porch, or even a corner that needs a big piece. If your chair is a little dull, try painting it.
  10. Fabric: If you've got basic sewing skills, thrift stores are the perfect place to look for fabric scraps to use for pillows, napkins, tablecloths, curtains, and any other project that could use a stash of mismatched prints. Just make sure to wash your fabrics before using them.

Re-edited from a post originally published 02.8.2010