Are you holding back from shopping at thrift stores because you believe that ...
  • There's only broken down junk there?
  • Everything is old and out of date?
  • Only poor people shop there?
  • You'll never find anything you like in the mess?
  • You need a big imagination for buying second-hand stuff?
  • You don't paint or do crafts, so you couldn't make whatever you drag home look good?
Today we are going to dispel these myths because I want you to be a good thrifter.

I've collected a group of my own photographs to prove my point that good stuff goes out the front door of Goodwill, Salvation Army, and other charity shops every day. I know that some readers are confirmed, even compulsive, second-hand shoppers.

But many others think that every time you bring home a thrift store item, it doesn't become a treasure until you've painted it, or repurposed it, or added handles, or framed it, or distressed it, or taken it apart to repair it, or combined it with something else to make it beautiful or usable. Wrong.

The "silver" julep cup pictured above set me back $2.99, but the best part was, I didn't have to find silk lilies for it. The price included the flowers. Off the shelf, I had a pretty table-topper ready for staging.

The lovely globe you see here cost me $2. Yes. Someone didn't want it because it was out-of-date, but I think it's a classic, perfect for adding interest to the corner of a staged room without taking up space.

Does it take some imagination to go thrifting and come home with what will work for your home staging? I prefer to say it takes focus. Second-hand shopping is not like the usual retail experience, where the merchandise is lined up by category and size and color, and you simply narrow your search to what you need.

When I shop second-hand stores, I usually have a specific purpose in mind, either specific or general. That's my focus. I might even keep repeating to myself what my focus actually is. "Ginger jar table lamp, ginger jar table lamp..." as I browse the shelf of lamps.

Focus also means not getting distracted by what's surrounding the merchandise. With practice, your eye learns to isolate each item, so that you can judge each one independently. There are no department store mannequins (usually), no music, no perfumed air, or artfully arranged groupings to capture your attention and entice you to buy. What you see is what you get, so look carefully.

You have to be your own salesperson and store manager, as well as the customer.

A home stager can't have too many pretty boxes. To give you an idea of their scale, these two boxes are a little larger than a typical cigar box. One is made from shells, and the other is woven reed, and they are both super handy. I use them to elevate a plant, candle, sculpture, photograph, or lamp, or to fill out a bookcase. I am sure I didn't pay more than $1 for either one.

I am always on the lookout for glass hurricane chimneys at second-hand stores, especially in matched pairs like these. I added second-hand fake oranges and some silk freesia blooms to give them color. Together, the chimneys were about four dollars, a fraction of what they would be new.

I could show you the sticker that is still on the back of this original painting. It says $5.99, which is triple the amount you would pay for just the raw, unprimed, unstretched canvas. Including the frame, it measures about 25 x 30 inches. It wasn't dirty, incomplete, banged up, crooked or chipped. Do you see the point I'm trying to make here?

Let's talk lamps, one of my favorite second-hand finds. I paid less than $5 for the chrome lamp here. Even though stick lamps like this get a bad rap from some decorators, I find it versatile for home staging because it doesn't monopolize visual space. It came with the pristine white shade. Sometimes they come with lightbulbs, people! This lamp had no problems, and was ready to go into home staging service. Good second-hand stores routinely check electric appliances before they display them.

I hope these few examples of just some of my many thrift store finds encourage any reluctant second-hand buyers reading this post.

My eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and  For Top Dollar gives more advice on buying secondhand. Download the book now so you can start your smart staging today.