Thrift expert shares successful secondhand shopping strategy

by Judy Stringer

Whether you’re on a budget or trying to live more sustainably by reusing or repurposing items, finding the right pieces of secondhand furnishing can take more time and patience than running to the nearest store or logging onto a mega home goods site.

“But it’s also totally worth the extra effort,” said Dina Younis, an Akron-based thrifting blogger and podcaster.

Along with helping you save money and the planet, Younis said shopping secondhand is a great way to find unique and timeless items that can elevate your interior spaces.

Younis shared her top insider tips for secondhand shopping success.

Prepare ahead of time

Before taking a deep dive into the used furnishing marketplace, make a list of what items you want to purchase, Younis advised.

“Take some time to kind of assess the room and the spaces that you’re hoping to decorate and furnish,” she said. “If you just jump into shopping without a good idea of what you’re after, you can quickly become overwhelmed.”

Younis prepares her shopping list according to room, but you can also list your needs by priority. If you are redecorating a full room or filling a new apartment, for example, a couch and/or bed would likely be prioritized over side tables and wall art. She also measures the spaces to be furnished and carries that information on her phone with the shopping list, so both are readily accessible.  

Finally, your preparation should include some forethought on your desired aesthetic or style for the space. Not sure? Grab some home magazines or look at home decor online to get a feel for what you like and save photos of your inspiration rooms on your phone as well.

“You’ll be surprised to see that after you do that, certain items just kind of stand out, even in a really crowded store,” she said.

Look online and offline

Thrifting stores, such as Goodwill, Salvation Army and ReStore locations, are great places to shop for secondhand furniture, according to Younis.

“They get lots of big furniture and bigger items, and because they need the floor space, they are likely to price these pieces pretty fairly,” she said. “Plus, it’s really fun to walk around and see what’s out there.”

However, she likes the precision offered by online platforms like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist and OfferUp. Oftentimes, you can search for the exact item you are looking for, specify your budget and set alerts for when items that match your search are posted.

“Again, people typically want that furniture out of their homes, so they are ready to make a good deal and you shouldn’t be afraid to make an offer below asking price,” Younis said. “Another benefit is that once you put in a few key search terms, ‘midcentury sofa’ or ‘retro lamps’ or whatever, the algorithm will kind of start feeding you items that fit into that category.”

Secondhand shoppers can also find nearby deals among the Country Bargains listings found each month in the ScripType magazines of Richfield, Hudson, Independence, Sagamore Hills, Bath, Brecksville, Broadview Heights and Hinckley.  

Don’t settle

When sizing up your potential purchases, opt for items that have “good bones,” Younis said. Solid wood pieces, for example, will last longer and add more of a classic aesthetic to your interior spaces than cheaper particle board furniture. In that same vein, it’s a good to plan to splurge on a few higher quality “statement pieces,” she said, and then bargain shop for accent pieces.    

And if you find something that you’re “just kind of on the fence about,” Younis counseled, “keep looking. There’s always going to be used furniture in circulation.” ∞