We Gave a DIYer $25 to Shop at Goodwill — Here’s What She Got for Her Home

published Apr 20, 2024
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Goodwill store and donation center in San Jose, California.
Credit: Barbara Ash / Shutterstock

Your personal style can come in many forms, but as an avid DIYer, mine is all about refreshing and upcycling secondhand finds. I’ve spent countless hours wandering through thrift stores across the U.S. and can tell you this: You can find almost everything you need to dress up your home in the aisles of thrift stores. You just have to teach yourself how to look!

Since I like to put a DIY spin on most of my decor, shopping thrift stores for the starting pieces is a total win. It’s cheaper than buying new, it lets you decorate with unique finds that better reflect your personal style, and buying items used helps lower your carbon footprint.

When thrifting for DIYs, start by thinking about the product you’re hoping to achieve, whether that’s updated dining room seating for a table, something to give your sofa some extra oomph, or art for a gallery wall. Next, think about those things on the most basic level: chairs, pillows, and frames.

At the thrift store, search for those basic building blocks — you’ll find that the selection is much wider when you are considering the potential of items, and not just what they look like in the moment. Combine your thrifted items with paint, fabric dye, a needle and thread, sharp scissors, a glue gun, and other basic supplies, and you’ll be unstoppable!

I recently stopped by Goodwill looking for a few items I needed for my living room. Here’s what I brought home (and how I’d make those items over).

Credit: Ashley Poskin

Picture Frames

I’m working on a wall of cameos in my living room, and oval frames are the best. Even though this frame has a cute vintage print inside, I plan to remove it (don’t worry, I’ll save it for a different use!). Then, I’ll paint the outer frame black and add a silhouette of my dog.

Credit: Ashley Poskin

Lamps and Lampshades

I pick up interestingly shaped lampshades whenever I see them. New lampshades are expensive, and they are one of the most fun things to DIY. You can completely change the look of a shade by dyeing it, adding fabric or fringe, or painting it with acrylic paints.

As for lamps, I’m currently obsessed with making lamps into flowers, so I picked up this desk light for $4.99 with plans to turn it into a daffodil to match my previous DIY lamp

Credit: Ashley Poskin

Textiles

Thrift stores are a great place to find vintage linens for straightforward practical use, but you can also use them to reupholster seat covers, lamps … anything you would use fabric for. I picked up these adorable woven plaid place mats that can be used as-is, but I have plans to make them into throw pillows for my sofa. 

Credit: Ashley Poskin

Baskets

Whether you’re looking for baskets to paint, dye, or just organize your things, baskets are in abundance at thrift stores. One of my favorite hacks is to remove the handle of a basket so it will easily fit under a bed or slide on and off a bookshelf. I’ve even turned a large basket into a dog bed!

Credit: Ashley Poskin

Scarves

Like vintage linens, vintage scarves have just as many uses! I’ve employed them as curtain tiebacks, and have also made entire curtain panels out of a large lot. They’re vibrant and look absolutely radiant blowing in the soft breeze of an open window. They also look gorgeous framed as wall art.

Credit: Ashley Poskin

Stools

Stools are the best piece of furniture to pick up at will, because they can have so many uses. Add some foam and piece of fabric over the top, and you’ve got a tiny footstool or ottoman. Take away the foam and fabric and paint the exposed wood, and you’ve got a great little plant stand or cocktail table. Placing stools with plants or even a stack of books around your home can be a really lovely way to instantly add character and coziness. I will never pass up a stool at a thrift store (even if I don’t have an immediate use for it in mind)!