My junior year of college, my roommate introduced me to thrift stores. We took the bus to a store a couple of miles from our house, and I apprehensively thumbed through the racks, finding nothing in my size, and being more annoyed than excited. Fast forward like a decade, and I adore the thrift store. There’s nothing more thrilling than finding something of great quality, that’s one of a kind, for a fraction of the cost that you’d find in a department store. It took a few trips to get over that “thrift store smell”. But these days I love it. It smells more like undiscovered treasure than mothballs.

I’ve also graduated from searching for J. Crew sweaters and vintage bags to home goods. Before I bought my house, I didn’t have a reason to venture into the home section. But within the last couple of years, I’ve realized the value in the home section. My house is full of accessories, glassware, Christmas ornaments- you name it- all from the thrift store. Gently used Crate and Barrel merchandise at dollar store prices. My definition of winning.

1. Shop the right store.

When I first started thrifting for home goods, I realized something that any Marshalls or TJ Maxx shopper already knows. The neighborhood where you’re shopping matters. The thrift stores in higher income areas have the best things. Wealthy people aren’t driving to inner cities to drop off their things, they’re going to the ones near where they live. As a general rule, nicer areas = nicer things.

2. Be in the mood.

Although the thrift store is a hidden treasure trove of awesomeness, sometimes you have to dig. Patience is key here. You’ll see a lot of chipped serveware, awkward ceramic figurines, and mismatched candle stick holders before you find your buried treasure. It takes me anywhere from forty minutes to an hour to get through the home section at my favorite store. So stop at Starbuck before, take your time, and be patient!

3. Be open.

The number one way to be unsuccessful while thrifting is to have a specific idea of what you’re looking for. Now this might sound like blasphemy to my OCD readers, but it’s proven. Like science. In department stores, you’re guaranteed to find what you want. At the thrifts tore, it’s a toss-up. You might not find the wooden cutting board you’ve been looking for, but you might stumble across a set of beautifully ornate photo frames. That’s the way it works!

4. Be okay with not finding anything.

I’ve been guilty of this in the past. After spending nearly an hour in the thrift store, I’d end up with a basket of things that were cool…but unnecessary. And in an effort to validate the trip, I’d buy them. Flash forward a few months and I’d be returning to the store, dropping off the same items I’d bought months earlier at the donation window.

5. DIY is a thing.

Don’t be afraid of a little DIY. A gross stool or set of frames are easily livened up with a coat of spray paint, or a beautiful lamp freshened with an updated shade. A favorite blogger of mine, LiveLoveDIY , has some great examples of full rooms she’s decorated with a little DIY polishing of thrift store items.

Now go forth and prosper! Take a weekend trip to the Salvation Army, and see what you can find. :)