You’re on the hunt for that perfect piece of furniture. Maybe it’s a dresser for your son’s room, a new queen bed frame or an antique desk to redo as a gift for your dad. You prowl Goodwill like a hunter on an African safari, ready to pounce the moment you see that dresser come into view. How do you know it’s the right piece for your needs? If you’re considering buying furniture from a thrift store, here are 5 surefire tips for a great shopping experience.
TIP #1: Use all five (ok, four) senses
It’s not enough to just “see” your dream dresser come into view. When you find your perfect piece at a thrift store, examine it with ALL your senses. Feel the grain of the wood for any buckles or blemishes. Pull out each drawer and listen for scraping sounds that could mean a need for repair. Smell inside for signs of mold or mildew that will need to be cleaned. We’re skipping taste here because… well, no one wants to lick grandma’s old dresser drawers. That’s just unsanitary.
TIP #2: Travel outside your comfort zone
If you always visit your nearest Goodwill, try heading into a new neighborhood. You’ll be rewarded with a fresh selection of gently used furnishings, not to mention throw pillows and accessories you haven’t seen before. If you’re looking for something specific – for example an antique desk or a child’s bed – try visiting neighborhoods with pricier, older homes or lots of families with young kids.
TIP #3: Be honest about your skills
It’s easy to transform drab into dreamy with a little elbow grease. Are you handy with a paintbrush? What about a saw? The amazing thing about buying furniture at thrift stores is that you can turn it into anything you want – provide you have the skills, or can learn.
If you’re handy with chalk paint, pick up that faded nightstand! If you’ve got a steam cleaner, it’ll be no problem to get out a spot on a beige couch. If you failed wood shop in high school or you can’t paint a straight line, on the other hand, you might want to stick with furniture that looks good as-is.
Tip #4: Look for hidden gems
With a little creativity, old furniture can be repurposed into something new. Turn a boring old sewing table into an awesome “upcycled” desk with a little cleaning and re-staining. Give some $1.30 chairs a facelift with paint and upholstery. The key is to look for furniture with “good bones,” as your grandpa might’ve said. So, skip the IKEA knockoff and beeline for that 1970s china hutch. Solid and well-built. Sturdy. Remember, real wood can be sanded and rebuilt much more easily than chipboard or plastic.
TIP #5: The early bird gets the couch
This one seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many thrifty shoppers forget to arrive early to get the best bargains. Because thrift stores like Goodwill rely on donations, new items can arrive at any time. However, many donations are made over the weekend when workers have a day off to do household errands. It can take a day or two to process these new arrivals.
Try coming in on a Monday or Tuesday (early in the day, if possible) for goods dropped off over the weekend. If it’s a sale day like Goodwill’s 50% off Saturdays, visit on Friday evening to browse furniture that will go on sale the next day. If you find the perfect couch, you’ll know to go back first thing in the morning.
With our 5 handy furniture shopping tips, you can find the perfect piece (or project!) for your home. Whether you plan to keep that couch’s retro charm intact or repurpose, repair, or resell your find, we’ve got what you need. Ready to head out on your next thrift shop furniture hunt? Find a Goodwill location near you.