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How to buy secondhand housewares

By on October 31, 2009

Buying housewares at the thrift store can give your home a unique style. Some home-interior items that are passed over by others can be your ticket to an eco-chic design. It only takes a little extra time and energy, but it’s well worth it to take these items from scare to flair.
Here are a few ideas.

photo by backgarage

HOME ITEMS AND TRENDS: Popular units include bedding and kitchen items, such as storage containers, serving pieces, kitchen utensils and tools, cookware and bakeware. Look for small appliances, because you can find out whether you’ll enjoy using them before paying for a new one or replace broken appliances without shelling out a lot of money on a new one. For example, bread machines, home-canning supplies, dehydrators and slow cookers are cheap at thrift stores. Be sure to plug in electrical items to be certain they work. Missing a manual? Many can be found by calling the manufacturer. If they can’t provide one, try eBay or visit for all types of publications.

— CRAFT SUPPLIES: If you can sew, there’s a lot of material that can be refashioned, such as clothing, sheets, curtains or tablecloths. You can often find patterns, yarn and craft magazines, too.

— WALL ART: Look for prints, paintings, needlework, etc. Or buy some wall art simply for the frames, pick up a library book on basic mat cutting and frame your own photos, collages or children’s artwork.

— HOLIDAY DECORATIONS: You can find seasonal place mats, tablecloths, cloth napkins, bedding, throw rugs, vases, candles (new) and candleholders, and mismatched silverware. If you visit frequently, are patient, and are looking for a specific item, you’ll find it at a thrift store. Many have brand-new items from department stores, too. Some merchandise is going to be common, but you can find unique and vintage items, too. This is especially true in the housewares department, where you can find collectible dishes and glassware.

— FURNITURE: While most is fine as is, if you can refinish, paint or do simple upholstering, there’s a lot of potential for budget decor. Consider area rugs and shelves, too.

WASHING: For toss pillows, look for pillows with zippers so you can remove the case and wash them. You can find quality covers and simply use your own toss pillows. You can swap out the cases with the change of the seasons. If you’re cleaning wood furniture, you need to determine what type of finish it has on it. Dust it with a soft cloth. To clean, use a soft cloth, such as a microfiber cloth and mineral spirits. For more cleaning information, visit For upholstered furniture, most couches have care-instruction labels. Follow the care label.

AVOID: Car seats, mattresses, helmets and underwear, which can be unsafe, unsanitary or totally unappealing. Check for safety recalls at

TIPS: Know sales days and store policies. Some large thrift stores have multiples of the same item that are priced differently, and they won’t price adjust because they were stocked at different times. Some stores won’t sell any item that is missing a price tag. Don’t forget to inspect items closely for rips, missing pieces, stains, etc., because most items are sold “as is,” and many thrift stores don’t allow returns. Some stores will only do store exchanges, and sometimes it’s only on clothing. Finally, know quality brands and retail prices on new merchandise, your typical garage-sale finds or to compare to thrift-store prices.


  1. Momk

    11/1/2009 at 2:44 pm

    Caution: if you buy a pressure canner at a thrift store, you should have it checked for safety. The county extension office can do that for you!

  2. Pingback: Monroe on a Budget » Sara Noel’s second-hand shopping tips

  3. JenD

    1/25/2010 at 5:00 am

    Other things that are great to buy second-hand are books, computer software (check disks for damage etc), shoes and costume jewelry.

    I’ve calculated (yes, I’m that geeky) that in 2010 so far we have saved over 400 dollars by buying second-hand. That’s only from two purchases so far! One was an air purifier and the other a bread maker.

    My favorite thing to ‘find’ at a second-hand sale? The thrill of the hunt. You never know what you might find and it’s an amazing feeling when you do find something that you’ve been wanting for months.

  4. Dawn

    4/19/2012 at 11:18 am

    I also buy cards at VV and Salvation Army. Even if the boxes of cards are incomplete, the price is usually reasonable. I have also purchased Corelle, Tupperware and vases.

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