If there are garage sales and thrift stores where you live, you can stage your home on the cheap. And be chic about it, too.

To put my own opinions to the test, I challenged myself to see how many times I could stage one table in my own home, using second hand items I'd purchased over the years, along with some things from dollar stores.

Keep in mind that I do not do professional staging for a living, so I do not have a warehouse or storage unit full of props to use. I am not a hoarder, but I don't throw many things away. I don't buy many things either. At least not at full retail prices.

This habit means two of us are able to live in a 1700 square foot home, using all the rooms, and nothing looks cluttered. Even the garage. Honest.

Don't ask about the closets.

Here are the results of my challenge.

I used a table I bought fifteen years ago for $10 at the Tobacco Barn in Asheville, North Carolina. I painted it white and lightly distressed it. Other than the table, every setup here is completely different.   

1. COASTAL DECOR. The thrifted $2 frame holds a print that was gifted to me years ago from my Connecticut sister-in-law. The two glass hurricanes I bought recently for 99 cents each, and here they hold some dollar store polished rocks and dollar store greenery. All three plates are thrifted at 99 cents each. All the shells are either collected on the beach or thrifted. I added some dollar store votives to the clear 49-cent dishes on the bottom shelf. Total cost: about $25.

2. ECLECTIC GROUPING. There's no theme here, just a collection of pretty things. Anchoring the setting is a $15 framed Asian print I was ecstatic to find at Goodwill this year. Ordinarily, I would hang it higher, but I hesitated adding another hole to my wall. Most second hand stores sell hardcover books for $1, even when they are coffee-table size, like these. The plaster obelisk still has its $3.99 price marked on its underside. The orchid was $2.00 at a garage sale, complete with flower pot. Milk glass is plentiful at second hand stores, and the little compote become mine for $1. I've used it to hold a garage sale $1 candle. I love the shiny metal box with a metal bow, especially since it cost $1, same as all the ornaments in the large plastic dollar store bowl. The basket and the tray were each about $3, Salvation Army finds. Total cost: $34.

3. CONTEMPORARY LOOK. The dollar store frame holds a thrifted black and white print. The lamp is a $2 garage sale purchase. The second hand shade cost me $1.50.  A dollar store charger holds Goodwill wine glasses at 59 cents a glass, and a Salvation Army vase holds dollar store lemons.  The flowers are from the dollar store and the "silver" vase is from Goodwill. An aluminum $3 thrift store platter holds goblets from the same place, plus a gifted bottle of wine. ( I'd fill the bottle with water for staging.) The $4 ice bucket is thrifted, too. Estimated total: $20.

4. TROPICAL COLOR. In this example, I gathered props that reflected the global look I wrote about here. Would you believe that the wall art is actually a wrap-around, cotton, batik print skirt, spray-starched and taped to a thrift store, unframed, painted canvas?  The painting was $4, and I am not going to count the cost of the skirt, because I've owned it for decades, and it was not "harmed during this filming." The Japanese-style, rice bowls were each 99 cents at Habitat for Humanity, and they hold four, $1 candles, stacked to look like two pillars. Love their color because it matches this (inconspicuously chipped) 50-cent garage sale vase I have filled with dollar store orchids. I can never resist wicker baskets like this square, $3 one. The wooden box is a garage sale $2 find. The round basket was $3, and the flowers and plant came from the dollar store totaling a hefty $4.  My cost: $21.50

5. FLORAL INSPIRATION.  The artwork cost me just $4.99 at Goodwill because the colors in the print were faded. I performed surgery on the print, refreshing the colors with inexpensive watercolors and marking pens, then putting it back under glass. Linens like this $1 pink table runner are common and cheap at second hand stores. The wooden candle holders cost me $2 for the pair at a church thrift store. The peonies are a dollar store purchase, and I put them in a $2 clay pot I painted white, on a $1 pink and white plate. The hotel plate serving platter set me back about $5, and the shells together were about $10.  Total: $26.

I hope my challenge and the results give you ideas for staging your own home. Don't turn up your nose at thrift stores. They are treasure houses for the DIY home stager, letting you easily decorate cheap-chic style.  Experiment with whatever objects you've found in your own closets and at garage sales and thrift stores to stage your home beautifully and economically.  

Download my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and for Top Dollar, and you'll learn other ways to save money when you stage your home.