We’ve spent enough time on Craigslist and in secondhand and resale shops to know a good deal when we see one, so we decided to put together a list of 50 things that make us a bit giddy when we spot them on Craigslist, or at the ReStore and Goodwill. If we’ve missed anything, please share what you feel is a great score—and why—in the comments below!
UPHOLSTERED FURNITURE of sound construction that can be easily reupholstered. That means the job MUST suit our abilities as reupholsters. (Speaking from personal experience, if the piece is too complicated it may never get done and languish in your basement.)
WOOD FURNITURE that is of sound construction that can be refinished—if necessary—but only if you can use it now or in the near future, can give it to someone who needs it, or flip it (preferably for profit). Furniture takes up a lot of space, which is at a premium; best not to accumulate for “someday” use.
PICTURE FRAMES. Although standard sizes are best (4” x 6”, 5” x 7” etc), finish isn’t a priority. A can of spray paint can make anything coordinate.
ART FRAMES. Usually we start with the art first and then frame it. In this case, think backward and imagine what type of DIY art you could make to go into a secondhand frame.
CANDLES. For some reason, my secondhand stores are loaded with UNBURNED candles. Pillars, votives and everything in between. Buy them, burn them, enjoy the ambiance the create!
RAG RUGS (in good condition). We’re talking about those hand woven “grandma” type rugs here. Throw them in the wash and use them to create tote bags or pillow covers. Or, of course, you could use them as rugs too.
BED SHEETS. Bed sheets make fabulous dust covers when doing home remodeling. They can make for a last minute table cloth (both for indoor and outdoor dining). Their yardage alone can make for some great sewing projects not limited to curtains or even clothing.
TABLE CLOTHS. They might not be as in style these days, but a big tablecloth can come in very handy. Again, their yardage alone can make for some great sewing projects, but their original intent is what we like. I found a 72” x 120” white tablecloth at my local Goodwill a few years ago for about $5 just days before hosting and outdoor party in which we were erecting a 4’ x 8’ plywood table (on top of two sawhorses). The table looked lovely and everyone was shocked that they were eating off a sheet of plywood. A thick tablecloth can also be used as a great picnic cloth at the beach or park tossed over a picnic table.
FABRIC. Lots of people buy fabric and never use it. (Sound familiar?) My Goodwill has an entire section devoted to these cast offs.
COOL SWEATERS. Sweaters—especially women’s sweaters—can be turned into fun pillows. Look for bright colors or interesting patterns.
TOWELS. Wash them well when you get home and use them for Fido’s next spa treatment. Or, cut them into smaller sections to make perfect shop rags. (You can get A LOT of shop rags out of one big bath towel.)
YARN. Much like fabric, my Goodwill has TONS of unused skeins of yarn. True, most are acrylic, but they’re inexpensive and great for practicing your needle arts.
CRAFT SUPPLIES. People lose interest in crafts. Let’s take advantage of it. Rubber stamps, knitting needles, beading, you name it ... you can find it at one point at a secondhand shop. And they’re a great way to expose kids to these kinds of crafts too. Couple a pair of knitting needles with some of that yarn mentioned above and you’re on your way.
BEADED JEWELRY. Sure, you might find some beaded jewelry to wear, but you might find some to remake into something else.
MIRRORS. Admittedly, most of the mirrors I see have questionable frames. Or no frames at all—especially those huge, beveled edge bathroom mirrors. The former can be lightly sanded and shot with spray paint and the latter can be framed with inexpensive 1” x 3” or 1” x 4” wood trim.
LAMPS. Seriously, we’d never have to buy a lamp from a retail store for the rest of our lives if we didn’t want to. Here again, spray paint is our friend.
LAMP SHADES. Especially BARREL lamp shades. That’s because barrel shades are super easy to recover.
CLAMP LAMPS. We’re talking about work lamps. They’re perfect for the shop but also for photography. (I never seem to have enough on hand.)
TRIPODS. Old tripods can be turned into lamps (both table and floor), and even Christmas trees.
HOLIDAY DECORATIONS. Think about it … they’re only used for a short while out of the year and yet people still get tired of them. Then they give them away. Christmas-y candle holders, to haunted televisions (seriously, I saw one of those yesterday!) to Thanksgiving turkey platters, thrift stores have them.
HANDWOVEN BASKETS. If you have an occasion coming up that will require a gift basket, think secondhand first. If they’re a little dusty, don’t worry. You can actually wash most baskets. Just fill up the laundry sink with warm sudsy water, dunk them a few times and let them air dry on an old bath towel. If you should be so lucky and find a Longaberger basket, don’t even hesitate. They’re totally washable and totally collectable. (Flippable? Yes.)
CERAMIC PLANTERS. I keep a lookout for WHITE ceramic planters specifically. I always have a small stash of them on hand of varying sizes for when I need to repot a plant.
VASES. Seriously. They’re like lamps: we’d never have to buy another one retail ever again. Look for simple styles that will work for any room in your home. Remember, it’s the flowers that are on display, not the vase itself.
CRYSTAL. Okay, I’m not really a fan of crystal, but ever since I found a Waterford ring holder at my local Goodwill for $1.99 that retails for $60, I always scan the cut glass section. How did I know my ring holder was Waterford? Because it was stamped on the bottom!
MASON JARS. For obvious reasons.
WHITE DISHES/DINNERWARE. Plain white dinnerware goes with anything! And can come in very handy when company calls. Another personal anecdote here: A few years back we hosted Christmas at our home. We knew we wouldn’t have enough cups for cocoa/coffee. The plan was to find something at the party supply store to pick up the slack, but after spotting a set of the cutest BRAND coffee cups at the Goodwill for just 49 cents a piece, our problem was solved. Forty-nine cents a piece meant they were CHEAPER than some plastic wannabe. Oh, and did I mention they go with my Pottery Barn mugs perfectly??
DRINKING GLASSES. For the same reason mentioned above. Glass—even secondhand—presents better than paper or plastic. Also, for daily use, if the kiddos break them, no biggie.
BOWLS … FOR PETS. Doesn’t Fido and Fluffy deserve to drink and eat out of people bowls? Sure they do. And, cereal and soup bowls from the thrift store are MUCH cheaper—and probably cuter—than a pet store alternative.
CAST IRON COOKWARE. Made to last hundreds of years. These can easily be cleaned up and used on the daily. In fact, we have a great guide on salvaging and re-seasoning old cast iron cookware right here!
KITSCH. Have you ever noticed that one piece of kitsch is kinda sad but a lot of kitsch is anything but? If you have a hankering to add to your kitschy collection, the thrift store is definitely your friend.
HARDCOVER BOOKS. We love books as much as the next person, but some of those old hard covers at the thrift store are less than desirable. Better they find new life as art or a headboard then end up in a landfill.
BOARD GAMES. Sure, you could play them, but the boards themselves can make for great art, especially in family rooms or kid rooms.
ART. Before buying art or even making something from scratch, check secondhand first. If you don’t spot the perfect piece, look for something that can be manipulated to BECOME the perfect piece.
OLD MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS. Don’t worry if they don’t work, because you’re going to make art wall art out of 'em. Just clean that old guitar up first or shoot it with paint to make it really pop.
OLD DRUMS. Okay, they’re musical instruments too, but in this case, drums make for cool pendant lamps.
OLD SPORTS EQUIPMENT. Just like musical instruments, old sports equipment can make for great ‘art’, especially for kid’s rooms or ‘man caves.’ Think old tennis rackets spray painted a funky color and such!
FOLDING LAWN CHAIRS. Again, another one of those things we never seem to have enough of when we need them. Because they are easily re-strung, consider buying them even if they’re less than perfect.
FOLDING TABLES AND CHAIRS. Often referred to as ‘card tables and chairs’, these things are super easy to re-do and are very handy come part-time and holiday season.
DIRECTOR’S CHAIRS. Director’s chairs don’t get enough coverage, if you ask me. They provide for better than usual temporary seating, they’re REALLY easy to remake into your own liking, and you can turn them into side tables. How versatile is that?
HAND TOOLS. A hammer is pretty much a hammer, as a pliers is a pliers. If you spot a used hand tool that’s in good shape, it’ll last you for many more years to come.
METAL TOOL BOXES. Old metal tool boxes—or tackle boxes—are the best. And if it’s a little rusty, no biggie.
YARD TOOLS. And a rake is pretty much a rake and a shovel is a shovel. A 30 year old shovel works just as well as a brand new one.
CORBELS. Wood corbels are expensive if bought from a lumber or conventional salvage yard. If you happen to spot some at a ReStore, grab them. They can function as objet d’ art or finish a counter/bar.
WOOD WINDOWS. Especially the divided light type. They can be transformed into side tables, room dividers, and backyard getaways, just to name a few.
FARM TABLES. We’re talking sold wood and rectangular. Such tables offer a huge slab of wood! Buying the equivalent at a lumber yard would set you back $100 or more. We recently bought one such table off Craigslist for $40. We cut off a piece to fit over our big tool box and joined the leftovers to fit our smaller toolbox. A twofer that turned out perfectly!
SOLID CORE DOORS. Our go to’s for headboards and table tops.
FLOORING. Both wood and tile leftovers are plentiful at my local ReStore. No, you probably won’t be able to find enough to do an entire home, but for a small job, it’s a great, cost effective alternative.
CHANDELIERS. Whether they are hanging above bathtubs or in trees, chandeliers have sprung up everywhere. A good way to ride the popularity wave without shelling out a lot of dough is buy secondhand. A shot of spray paint will erase a multitude of style sins.
GLASS DOOR KNOBS. If you see them, don’t hesitate. Even if you don’t use them on your doors, you can turn them into interesting art and decor items, or, perhaps, even flip them. New, solid glass door knobs are more than a little expensive.
Whew! Did I miss anything? Let me know if the comments. Or, if you're looking for something to do with some of your newfound treasure, check out our Recycling section for lots of project ideas.