What to Do with Thrift Store Finds

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I know it’s hard to believe in this day and age, but some people don’t know what to do with thrift store (or yard sale or garage sale) finds. They see only what is, and not what can be. Here are some ideas for turning something boring or butt-ugly into something beautiful. (Also, don’t forget to donate what you don’t want or need so others can find their new awesome finds, too).



  • Wash them and wear them as is.
  • Throw them in with some dye to get a new color.
  • Shorten a skirt or dress to update it.
  • Turn a shirt inside out, pin it along your side to make it more fitted, sew and trim along the pin line for a new seam and a new look.
  • Add embroidery or bias tape or lace or applique for a new look.
  • Cut them into quilting pieces and make a quilt.
  • Make pants into shorts or a skirt.
  • Make costumes from themselves.
  • Salvage the fabric or notions from something truly awful to make something truly awesome.
  • Buy sweaters with natural yarns and ‘frog’ the sweater to salvage the yarn and knit or crochet it into something new.


Are you kidding? A lot of these are perfect just as they are!

  • Use a belt as a scarf or vice versa.
  • Take the awesome beads from the terrible bead job and make a new piece of jewelry.
  • Add a scarf or fabric flower to a so-so hat for new impact.
  • Re-cut a scarf into a more modern design.
  • Get a coat professionally cleaned and repaired for a like new coat.


  • Wash them and use them as is.
  • Throw them in the wash with some dye to get a new color.
  • Use them as a canvas for fabric paints.
  • Make washable slipcovers for pillows, chairs, or pet beds.
  • Use them as fabric to make lightweight tops, dresses or skirts for women and girls.
  • Use them for quilt backs.
  • Make tablecloths and table runners.
  • Make a toga.

Housewares and small appliances:

  • Always check to see if appliances work and cords are unfrayed (unless you are confident in your small appliance repair abilities).
  • Repurpose (and spray paint?) An old analog TV for a dedicated DVD or game console TV for a child’s playroom or bedroom.
  • Buy glassware, silverware, or dinnerware in similar colors but different styles, or vice versa, and use them together.
  • Create a useless but pretty collection of gew gaws for a cabinet or shelf.
  • Repurpose pitchers and other containers for new purposes (flower vases, countertop storage, etc.)
  • Help a young adult moving out on their own for the first time by creating a ‘hope chest’ of useful items.


  • Clean and use as is.
  • Paint it or decoupage it.
  • Use it for ‘something else’: A pantry to hold fabric for your sewing room, a small dresser or bookcase for a bedside table, etc.
  • Replace cushions and re-cover (buy a slipcover if you’re not handy) to breathe new life into an upholstered couch or chairs.
  • Paint mismatched items to bring unity to them and use them together.
  • Use the gorgeous frame from the gawdawful painting (or vice versa).

Books and magazines:

  • An excellent way to stock a child’s library.
  • Use pictures from coffee table books with repurposed mats and frames for wall art.
  • A cheap and easy source of paperback books.
  • Create a ‘lookbook’ from pictures and articles in magazines.
  • Use slick magazines for decoupage projects.


  • Sometimes, if you’re very lucky, you come across someone’s yarn or fabric or notion stash. Enjoy!
  • Garden tools are often useable as is. Using bright colored duct tape or paint on the handle makes them easier to find in the garden (pink leopard spots are a favorite of mine). If they aren’t useable, they might serve as decoration in your ‘outdoor space’.
  • An old wooden ladder can be painted or stained or left as is and used as shelving or decoration in many settings.
  • Toolboxes and fishing gear boxes can be re-purposed for many storage uses, as can old file cabinets.
  • When you find something you absolutely love, envision how you can make it fit into your life. If you can make it fit, make it yours. If not, leave it for someone else.

Add your ideas in the comments.

Related articles


  • DIY: 10 Crafty Stores for Getting Creative on a Budget (bradsdeals.com)
  • How to Shop Secondhand for Quality Clothes (smallnotebook.org)
  • Look of the Day: Thrift Score (fabsugar.com)
  • Weekending: Two Adventures in One Day (smileandwave.typepad.com)
  • $14 For A Picasso. Thrift Store Gold! (wdok.radio.com)
  • Guest Post – Four Looks with Thrifted and Vintage Clothes (mainebelle.com)
  • Callen & Eli’s Artful Treehouse House Tour (apartmenttherapy.com)
  • The Perfect Finds! (theunderestimatedmom.com)
  • Virtual Thrift Store Helps You Clear Clutter and Benefit Charities, Too (1-2-3getorganized.blogspot.com)
  • Fun and Easy – Make a 1920s Costume from Vintage & Thrift Store Finds (thebestinvintage.wordpress.com)
  • The Pros and Cons of Thrifting (lifeofcarbon.wordpress.com)



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