I get a lot of questions about how to know what to buy at garage/estate sales, thrift stores, junk stores, etc.. Shopping at these places is something that I have spent many years refining my eye in order to find good finds at low prices. Believe me I have made many mistakes and bought things that were just junk and sat in my garage until my next yard sale! My love for junking started and still exists out of necessity to furnish my house on a very small budget.
Here are a few things I have learned over the years.
At garage/estate sales don’t be afraid to dig in boxes or look under and behind things. I have found some of my greatest treasures buried under other items.
When shopping on a budget and looking for a specific item, such as a dresser, set a price limit and stick with it until you find your item. What is a good deal for you is different from a good deal for me so know what you want to spend and don’t feel like you’re being cheap if you only want to spend $25 on a dresser!
Know what is real wood! Steer clear of particle board furniture.
See the potential in an item. Don’t let interchangeable elements like the color of a frame or fabric on a chair keep you from a good find that can be made into the perfect piece. Caution: When buying an upholstered piece look at its condition. If the webbing, springs or cushions need repair this can cause your $5 chair to become a very expensive chair at the upholstery shop. Also consider the amount of fabric needed to recover a chair. Rarely will you find upholstery fabric for less than $10/yd. and you can plan on needing 3-5 yds for most fully upholstered chairs.
Buy what you like. I have read a lot of tips on junking and the writers often say buy what you like and you will find a place for it in your home. I often do this but before I buy it I picture it in my home (this helps me spend my money wisely). I ask myself will this go with the rest of my decor? Where would I put it? What could I get rid of in order to make space for this new item? For a while I made the mistake of just buying what I liked and not thinking of where it could go, then I ended up with boxes of stuff but no place for it all. Joel threatened to call the show hoarders, so I learned my lesson.
Have fun! Don’t take junking too seriously. Dig into your imagination and be creative.