Thrifting Secrets from Someone Whose Home Looks Like a Million Bucks

published Oct 3, 2016
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(Image credit: Emily Billings)

Not everything in Jessica and Ryan’s home is from a thrift store, but a large bulk of the furniture and decor is. Their style looks anything but second-hand, however. Not surprising considering Jessica Cook is a vintage seller with her Etsy shop Houseworking. I asked her to share her best thrifting tips, second-hand secrets and hand-me-down hints. You’ll be a thrifting expert in no time!

Jessica weighs in — thrift stores vs flea markets vs yard sales

Thrift stores are where I do the bulk of my vintage hunting. For the most part, prices are very low because you’re dealing with donated merchandise — the trade off is that the good stuff is usually crowded in with lots of crap. But to me, there’s something weirdly zen about wandering around the aisles of a thrift store or junk shop, eyeing up items and contemplating them. I think there’s a level of creativity there, to be able to see something in a completely different setting and figure out how to make it work for you.

In the same vein, I love flea markets. It’s a whole experience — walking around, ogling different dealer’s items, and haggling. Prices are higher than thrift shops because the dealer has already done some picking for you, but deals abound and that thrill of making a score is very real. Flea markets are also great for the sheer volume of stuff; there’s so much in one place that your odds of finding something are exponentially higher.

(Image credit: Emily Billings)

I’m an impatient person in a lot of ways, which is why I personally find yard sale-ing really tedious and rarely fruitful. I would much rather go somewhere where I’m looking at lots of different things from lots of different people. On a similar note, I think estate sales are fantastic (a whole lifetime worth of stuff!), but the often competitive nature of them really just doesn’t work for me. Hats off to the the estate sale enthusiasts out there; it’s just not really my jam.

(Image credit: Emily Billings)

How to cut through clutter and zero in on the good stuff:

My thrift store strategy is to always grab a basket (not a carriage — too bulky) and put in any item that is even a maybe. The worst feeling is when you go back for something and realize that some other shopper just snatched it up.

When I’m in a thrift shop I haven’t been to before, I will check out every single section of the store that isn’t clothing. Home items can end up being categorized as many different things, so sometimes you’ll find something like a great basket in the sporting goods section.

It sounds tedious but once you frequent the same store enough, you get a feel for their system, which makes shopping much more efficient!

(Image credit: Emily Billings)

Jessica’s shopping game plan:

…I do keep a list of measurements that I keep on my phone, just in case I come across something that might work in our space.

Because I’m a vintage seller, I’m always out looking and buying small items. My rule is I only purchase items for my shop that I personally would want…and because of that, a lot ends up living at home with me for a while before it goes up for sale. If I feel like I need to keep a piece that I’ve just bought, I’ll swap it out for something else that I’m ready to let go of. I love living in an environment that is in constant flux, so this works really great for me!

(Image credit: Emily Billings)

How to not go overboard on your budget:

I have an unwritten $100 rule — I don’t really spend more than that on a single item.

→ More thrifting advice from Jessica:

Thank you, Jessica!

→ See more of Jessica and Ryan’s gorgeous home in their house tour.