Trash to Treasure DIY Projects and Ideas

Buying Secondhand: DIY Projects, Ideas, and Tips for turning Secondhand Trash to Treasure

I’m no stranger to thrift store and flea market shopping. In fact, second hand trash to treasure shopping is my preferred way to shop. It’s amazing what you’ll find hidden in the aisles, in the racks, and on the shelves of your local thrift shop. I mean, where else can you find a cool storage bench for your kids for their little reading nook?

Why shop for furniture secondhand?

The first reason is obvious… to save money. Retail furniture is expensive. The more affordable pieces are made poorly and the pricier pieces are tough on your wallet. This brings me to the second reason you should shop for furniture secondhand.

Second, you can find great quality for a low price. Let’s face it, they don’t make furniture like they used to. Much of the time retailers choose volume and profit versus quality and workmanship.

Third, trash to treasure is really a thing. When you take the DIY route, YOU pick the color. YOU pick the fabric. YOU create your own style with a one of a kind (almost) custom piece.

Fourth, there is an eco-conscious element. When you buy secondhand, you keep it out of the landfill plain and simple.

Shopping for Thrift Store Furniture

Only in a thrift store can you buy a piece of furniture for a few dollars and then with a little DIY magic, turn it into a one of a kind statement piece.

I always see these plain wooden bar stools at thrift stores for a few bucks.  Here is a tutorial and example of how to completely transform plain stools to something with much more character.

See what I mean? Literally, another person’s trash to MY treasure!

Here are a few more DIY Inspired trash to treasure thrift store furniture makeovers.

See? Thrifting is cool.

In fact, resale is a multi-billion-dollar industry.  According to the Association of Resale Professionals, Goodwill Industries alone generated $5.37 billion in retail sales from more than 2,000 Not for Profit resale stores and online sales in 2014. did their Annual Resale Report for 2017. Sure this report is geared toward fashion, however those second hand store all have home sections. Just sayin’.


Buying Secondhand: DIY Projects, Ideas, and Tips for turning Secondhand Trash to Treasure


Here are some interesting facts I read.

  1. Millennials are 2.4X more likely to be motivated by eco-conscious factors when shopping secondhand.
  2. Women over 65 are 3.4X more likely to be motivated by value and savings when shopping secondhand
  3. Thirty percent of Millennials have shopped secondhand in the last 12 months.
  4. Ten percent of thrift store shoppers are millionaires and 36% of thrift store shoppers make $250K to $1M!!!

What?????? Where do I fit in? I’m somewhere in between. I’m not a Millennial, nor am I over 65 but I’m a sucker for a good deal. You have to read the rest of that report because it’s extremely interesting.

Let’s move on.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when looking for furniture at a thrift store:

  1. Smell it. Yes. Smell. It. Does it stink? If it smells old and musty pass on it. It is very difficult to get rid of bad odors.
  2. Examine it. What type of project are you doing? Will you reupholster or simply give it a fresh coat of paint? If it’s a reupholstery DIY, can it be easily taken a part?
  3. How much does it cost? In my experience, the prices at thrift stores are inconsistent. Ask someone who works there what the daily deal is. For example, Goodwill picks a colored tag every day and offers 50% off.

Finding Furniture at Garage Sales

I’m one of those annoying people that will slow down in front of your driveway at your garage sale scooping out the goods and then speeding off if I don’t see anything I would snatch up right away. I am also one of those annoying people who will ask, “is that your best price?”

Garage sales kick ass when it comes to furniture hunting.

There are two strategies for finding furniture at garage sales:

  1. Go early. After all, the early bird gets the worm, right? Sometimes. Sometimes you run the risk of paying more.
  2. Go late. But you’ll miss the best stuff, right? Not always. It’s been my personal experience that I find the best deals in the afternoon right before sellers pack up and give up. They will practically give furniture away at the end of a garage sale. Why? It saves them time and hassle of calling the waste company to pick up the large items on a scheduled day or worse, from packing up a truck and hauling it to nearby donation center.

I scored with these beautiful bedside tables and this upholstered wooden bench using strategy number two. What did I pay? Five bucks each. Score!

Finding Furniture at Flea Markets

Flea market furniture shopping is a different world. It also depends on what type of flea market you go to.  Here, in Southern California, you will find REALLY cool and (trendy) vintage flea markets like the Long Beach Antique Swap Meet or the Vintage Marketplace.

Please enjoy a short video of one of my trips to the Long Beach Antique Swap Meet:

I mean, how cool is that? You’re welcome.

Flea Markets Are Dfferent

At a flea market, you are likely to find dealers and artist who already worked there DIY magic on old treasures they’ve hunted and transformed, for example,  a door into an industrial chic hall tree.

So, for flea markets, I highly suggest you read the article I wrote on The Art of Flea Market Negotiation. In it, you will find my tips on how to dress, what to bring, and rules of thumb for good communication when asking for the best deal.

Are you still not convinced to shop secondhand? Fine.

Then do it because everyone else is doing it. Haha! Here are some awesome posts by DIY bloggers and DIY Inspired readers who have published a guest post on my site sharing their own secondhand transformations.

Albert Einstein Quotes

The Takeaway

Lastly, before you go, the biggest takeaway from this article is not about where to shop or what the demographics of thrifters are, rather where your mind takes you. What I’m talking about is imagination. Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

If you can look past the ugly outdated fabric and the chipped paint, with a little imagination, underneath is a beautiful one of a kind piece of art waiting for you to work your magic and display it in your home.

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