Why I keep a thrift list (and why you should too)

What the heck is a thrift list?

Well my friends, a thrift list is just a shopping list.

It’s a shopping list made specifically for items that you hope to find secondhand. It includes things you can’t buy new, like antiques, or that you don’t want to buy new for whatever reason (budget, environmental impact, etc). The concept of a thrift list probably seems pretty obvious to many people, so I’m not claiming to enlighten you with any great wisdom here. The way I manage my thrift list is what I really want to talk to you about.

My thrift list includes both short and long-term ‘thrifting’ goals, and although it’s called a thrift list, I’m not just casually thrifting for the items on my list (not all of them anyways).

I’ll walk you through my process.

It took four years of searching to find the perfect bed for my master bedroom. I found it on Facebook Marketplace last month for $75.00 and painted it green.

My Current Thrift List

  • Vintage green rolling pins
  • Antique/primitive/farm style dining table, no drop leaves
  • Tall/narrow wood china curio cabinet for the bathroom—(max: 24″w x 26″d x 6’h)
  • Bolt of sheer fabric for bed curtains (about 20 yards)
  • Vintage jar/tin/container for dish washing brushes
  • Wire frame lampshades, bell shape, 9-11′ height
  • Green/brass lamp finial
  • Beaded flowers
  • McCoy
  • Vintage aluminum Christmas tree
  • Antique ribbon display
  • Umbrella stand

This is the same exact list I currently have on my phone. I always include measurements and reminders about shape, color, type, etc. if I’m looking for something specific.

These antique wooden chairs were on my thrift list when I lived in Oregon. I found the first three within a month, and the fourth took another five months. Mismatched, but similar in size and shape, I painted all the chairs green to unify them as a set.

Managing the list

I manage this list in two ways. The first is simple—I read it over before I head to a thrift or antique store just to give myself a reminder of things to look out for while browsing.

But I also manage the list actively, on a daily basis, by searching for items on FB Marketplace, Etsy, Ebay, local auction sites (and sometimes the big national ones) and Craigslist.

The lamp on the left was a find from earlier this year while I was antiquing in Texas. It’s the perfect bedside lamp and I was in need of a matching lamp for my husband’s bedside table. After a few months of searching, I purchased the lamp on the right from a seller on Etsy. Both vintage green pottery lamps with similar details and colors, they are mismatched but similar enough to coordinate. I love the asymmetry and interest they bring to the space.

The umbrella stand is a great example of an item I search for at least weekly. I am looking for a very specific McCoy umbrella stand. So every week I do a quick search on Ebay, Etsy, and auction sites to see if one has been listed. It’s an item that tends to sell quickly, so searching often is really important. Of course, I still hope I’ll run into the perfect one at a garage sale for $50 one day, but in the meantime, it doesn’t hurt to pop online for a quick search.

The antique ribbon display is an item I added to my list only this week—I’ve recently become obsessed with them after seeing one posted on Instagram. From my research so far, I’ve learned these pieces sell for several hundred dollars at the low end of the spectrum to several thousand at the high end. So this is likely a piece I won’t be acquiring for a while—it might take me ten years to save for one, ha! But, I may get lucky and scoop one up locally if I am diligent and keep my eye out. You never know!

I’ve been searching for my vintage aluminum Christmas tree this way for years. I haven’t found one yet, but I know I will eventually.

This is the point of the thrift list. It doesn’t always result in instant satisfaction, but it serves as a daily reminder to actively look for those items—both easy and seemingly impossible to find—that you’re most excited to bring home.

Some of the items on my list are always on my list. The McCoy pottery will probably never come off. I look for it automatically when I am antiquing.

This wooden tray was a quick find. It adds much needed warmth to the kitchen while covering up my ugly stovetop. It’s crowed with kitchen utensils in vintage McCoy pots, a collection I am always adding to.

That bolt of fabric is something I probably won’t be able to find (not secondhand, anyways). I’ll likely end up buying it new because it’s for a project I’m planning to work on in the next few weeks. Having it on my list just serves as a reminder to keep my eye out. It also reminds me to search on FB Marketplace often—people list bolts of fabric all the time!

So many items in my home have been found using my ‘thrift list’ strategy. Recent finds include my antique craft room storage cabinet and my collection of vintage floral prints.

The key to finding items secondhand is just patience and perseverance. You have to be OK with waiting a long time to find some items. It took me over four years to find a bed for my master bedroom!

Now go write down your thrift list, and get hunting! Happy thrift(listing) everyone!

2 thoughts on “Why I keep a thrift list (and why you should too)”

  1. This is a great idea. I have a list in my head but I get so distracted while I’m doing searches I waste a lot of time. LOL I’ve never heard of ribbon cabinets but they look really awesome. Happy hunting!

    1. I get distracted too! Haha. I might never find a ribbon display in my budget but it won’t stop me from hunting for one! 🙂

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