I love thrift stores. I'd rather shop at a thrift store than just about anywhere, mostly because I'm such a tightwad. Mr. Gardner loves thrifting too, so it's a favorite pastime of ours. I started back in High School (before it was cool) at a store called Rags & Wags in my hometown. That was about 15 years ago. That's a lot of thrifting. I've learned a few valuable lessons in that time:
1. To get great finds, you need to go often. Probably once a week or so. Mr. Gardner is something of a bibliophile, so he finds out when the local thrift stores put out their new books, and tries to go weekly. He's found some amazing books using this method.
2. Don't buy things just because they're cheap. This is the hardest thing for me...I have bought way too many things at thrift stores for this reason, and not because I really like them, or will use them, only to re-donate them right back a few months later. Don't buy an item if you don't love it or have a specific use for it. Which leads me to...
3. Keep a list of things you need or want and take it with you when you go thrifting. This may seem counterintuitive, because if you've ever gone to a thrift store looking for something in particular, you know inevitably you will not find it! However, if you do go often, chances are you will eventually see what you are looking for. If you don't have said item on your list, you will walk into the store and be completely distracted by all the stuff, all the while having this nagging feeling that there was something you wanted to watch for...as you walk right past it.
4. Don't underestimate repurposing. This is probably one of my favorite things about thrifting. You can re-use and re-purpose almost everything in the store. We've picked up some great, well-made furniture at thrift stores. True, when we bought said furniture, it was spray painted purple and green, and needed to be refinished, but that's the fun part! Sheets can be made into almost anything, old baskets or luggage are great for storage, clothing can be resized, throw pillows can be recovered. There are a lot of amazing ideas out there for repurposing the items that are sitting, waiting for a new life!
5. For every item you buy while thrifting, donate an item back. This is a great way to de-clutter your home. I always have a donation box going at my house for items that are no longer used, or needed. I especially try to do this with my children's things, because toys and books and outgrown clothes seem to accumulate unusually fast at our house!
That's all I have, but would love to hear more tips from other thrifters...