November 16, 2015  

Hunting for treasure

Lately, I’ve been hunting for treasure. Specifically, thrift store treasure. I have been searching for holiday items, my eyes scanning the shelves for things that have potential to be given a new life as holiday decor.

Thrift stores are treasure chests of holiday items. As you’re starting to think about decorating for the holidays this year, spend an afternoon perusing the aisles of your favorite thrift store and see what you find. I bet you’ll uncover some great treasures that can be used to decorate your home for the holidays this year. Honestly, why spend a fortune on holiday decor that you only use for a small portion of the year until it goes back in storage? If you shop at thrift stores, you’ll find unique items for a fraction of the cost.

I found some amazing things at my favorite thrift store recently, and I want to share my shopping tips with you today. I’m guessing you fall into one of two categories of thrift shoppers: a) you are a thrift shopping fanatic like me and always leave with way too many things, or b) you don’t thrift very often because the stores are just too overwhelming and you usually leave empty-handed. No matter which category you fall into, I hope my tips will help you zero in on holiday decorating treasures the next time you’re out thrift shopping.

I need to go thrift shopping now! So many good ideas for holiday decor to shop for.


1. Christmas Trees
Let’s start with a big one. It may take some hunting, but if you search around the thrift stores right now you may come across an artificial tree. They’re not always in the best of shape, but you will surprised what people will donate to these stores. I have discovered some awesome trees in the past. If you don’t find one before Christmas, keep looking in January when people may be getting rid of their trees.

2. Wreaths & Garlands
You are bound to find wreaths and garlands at the thrift store. Garlands of greenery can be used with a strand of lights to wrap your railing, frame your window sill, and so much more. Also look for colorful garlands that can be incorporated into your Christmas tree or maybe a holiday wreath. Speaking of wreaths, every wreath I own is a thrift store find. I just found this amazing one the other day for $1.00! It’s in really good shape and just begging for some pizzazz.

Thrift Shopping Wreath

Thrift Shopping Garland

3. Ornaments
Ornaments really are a dime a dozen at many thrift stores. You’ll find so many! They may not always be in pristine shape and they may be a little dated, but that doesn’t matter. You can get crafty by spray painting them, covering them with glitter, or one of the million other ideas you’ll find on Pinterest. I like to use these cheap ornaments plus some greenery to fill bowls and baskets for some holiday cheer around my house.

Thrift Shopping Ornaments

4. Light Strands
Look for strands of lights. I’ve been surprised by the number of Christmas lights I’ve found while thrifting. Who donates working lights, anyway? Well, some people do. Their loss is your gain. I almost always snatch up light strands when I find them. You can use them in so many ways, from stringing them on your tree to lining your windows to lighting up decorations. Just find an outlet at the store and test them before you buy them. You want to make sure they actually work.

Thrift Shopping Lights

5. Containers & Vessels
Thrift stores usually have a huge selection of baskets of all sizes. When I dig through the baskets, I try to ignore the color and pay attention to the sizes and shapes. Baskets are easy to spray paint or jazz up with some ribbon. Also look for vases, boxes, and bins. I use these things all year round, but they are also great for decorating for the holidays. Throw some ornaments in a vase, or a festive blanket in a basket and you have instant holiday decor. Crates and bins can be used to hold rolls of wrapping paper or wrapped gifts by the tree. The uses for these things are endless.

6. Dishes
One of my favorite sections of the thrift store is the kitchen supplies. Look for things like platters, trays, and serving bowls. Trays and platters can be used for serving holiday treats, or just for decoration. Group a bunch of those cheapo holiday themed trays above your kitchen cupboards, or spray paint a tray and use it to corral hot cocoa supplies on your counter. Fill a big fruit bowl with greenery and pine cones and use it as a centerpiece.

Thrift Shopping Wreath

Thrift Shopping Trays

7. Textiles
Search for kitchen towels, table runners, place mats, pillows, curtains, blankets, fabric remnants and clothing in festive holiday colors. A bit of red fabric can be used in craft projects or just to dress up a basket holding gifts. Check the clothing section for plaid shirts or holiday-colored sweaters that can be re-purposed in your holiday decorations. When I was shopping the other day, I found this green polka-dotted fabric. Isn’t it awesome! It’s a huge piece, probably about 4 yards, and it only cost me $2.00! I could use this to fake a throw blanket or I could use piece of it in many craft projects.
Thrift Shopping Green Fabri

8. Picture Frames
My rule of thumb is to always check out the picture frames at a thrift store. There are usually quite a few to choose from, and can you ever have too many frames? Buy a few and spray paint them a matching color, or wrap some red ribbon around the frame. Use them to showcase your family photos or festive art. This little wire tree doesn’t really count as a frame, but I think it could make a fun one. I snatched it up on my last thrifting trip. I’m a bit perplexed with what to do with it, but I was thinking you could hang a picture in the middle, or maybe an ornament or something.

Thrift Shopping Wire Tree

9. Craft Supplies
Look for ribbon, yarn, wrapping paper and other craft supplies. I almost always find spools of red ribbon when I go thrifting. It can be used in about a bazillion ways.

Thrift Shopping Ribbon Yarn

10. Vignette Props
Lastly, look for small objects that can be incorporated into holiday vignettes around your home. The sky is really the limit here. I’m sure you’ll find a big selection of knick-nacs to choose from. For instance, I found this amazing gold apple and gold pear the other day. How could I not get these? The gold is pretty worn, but a fresh coat of paint or maybe some glitter and they will be beautiful.

Thrift Shop Find Gold Fruit

When I went thrifting the other day, I hit the jackpot and came home with way more finds than usual. Part of it was that I was not only shopping for some treasures for myself, but also to send to a blogger friend for the holiday edition of the Thrift Store Swap.

The Thrift Store Swap is a group of bloggers that each hunt a thrift store for two holiday-themed treasures under $10. Then, we ship our thrifty finds to one of the other bloggers in the group and another gal ships us a thrifted gift. The swap turns into one big circle!

I participated in the Fall Swap, and it was sooo much fun that I am just itching to do it again (see my Wine Box Turned Pretty Tea Box and my Wall Plaques Turned Lovely Pallet Sign). This time, for the Holiday Thrift Store Swap, we’ve expanded our group to include a few more bloggers so we’re guaranteed even more thrifty goodness.

I went shopping for Brittany at DIY Just Cuz and found some amazing treasures to send to her (and a few things to keep for myself). I cannot wait to see what she does with the things I sent and I’m sure she’s going to turn them into something magnificent. You’ll be able to see all of our thrifty projects in early December.

The Holiday Thrift Store Swap group includes:

  1. 3 Little Greenwoods
  2. 5 Kids, a Dog and a Blog
  3. At Home with Sweet T
  4. DIY Just Cuz
  5. Happily Ever After Etc.
  6. Mid Michigan Mom
  7. My Creative Days
  8. My Pinterventures
  9. Our House Now a Home
  10. Sequins in the South
  11. Sugar Crumbs
  12. …and, of course, yours truly

I have been getting to know this group of bloggers, and I just know some thrifty magic is going to happen during this swap. I’m getting anxious to see what thrifted treasures I’ll get in the mail this week from Traci, the blogger over at Sequins in the South.

I hope this blog post leaves you feeling inspired to go thrift shopping this week and scout out some decorating supplies. What are your favorite decorations to thrift for?

Update: Check out the thrifty framed mini boxwood wreath I made as part of the Thrift Store Swap.
What a creative mini boxwood wreath out of paper!


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About the author

Emily Counts is the founder of Small Stuff Counts, a home and organization blog she created in 2013. Her goal is to help moms make home life easier so they can create beautiful, organized, and thriving homes. She shares life at home as a mom juggling two young kids and being a working mom with a corporate job. The Iowa-based blogger lives in the suburbs of Des Moines, Iowa, with her husband, two children, and rescue dog. Emily has collaborated with brands including The Container Store, Cricut, Command Brand, Bissell, Sam's Club and Rubbermaid.

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    1. Ooh yes, frames are always on my thrifting list. Who can have too many, and why spend $10+ for a new frame when you can find so many for next to nothing?

    1. I hope your thrift shopping trip was fruitful. It’s just so fun to hunt for treasure at the thrift store, isn’t it? Thanks for stopping by.

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