I think many of us, especially if we’re parents, are in the habit of getting in and out of the store as fast as we can. So you’re probably thinking, what does this woman mean I should shop the entire store? That sounds like a waste of my time!

It can be really tempting to head to one area of a thrift store to find what you need. I used to do it a lot too: I’d check the rack that had the kids size of clothing we needed, sift through the toy shelves and maybe check the men’s XL shirts for a fun graphic shirt.

Did you know that doing this could mean you’re missing out on some great finds? Yup! That’s why you should shop the entire store when you’re out thrifting. 

There’s a few reasons why you’ll find great items in an unusual area of the store. 

The most popular reason, in my own shopping experience, is the thrift store employees didn’t know where the item actually belonged. They might think a toy is home decor, or think that a kids magnetic chore chart would be better in the office supplies section. 

A great example are the Manhattan Toy Skwish toys. I’ve found them on many occasions in the wooden accessories section or home decor for only $1-$2 each. They’re actually kids toys that retail for $20 each! Great savings on an awesome baby toy.

The next reason I shop the entire store relates to both having kids and working in childcare: using an item outside of it’s original purpose.

Buying toys and materials for activities gets expensive and it gets expensive fast. Not to mention the fact there are already SO many items living unloved on the planet. Arguably, too many items on the planet. Instead of spending a fortune on sensory bin materials or loose parts I hit up some of the more unloved areas of the thrift store.

You know those miscellaneous bags that hang near the kitchen supplies in Value Village? The home supplies sections that you never go near? Gold mine for super cheap materials!

Some examples: 

Kitchen Utensils

(Whisks, wooden spoons, mashers, pots and pans…)

Use as:

  • Tools in sensory bins
  • Instruments
  • Mud kitchen/play kitchen utensils
  • Messy play accessories
  • Extra baking/cooking supplies to bake/cook together
  • Sand toys

Curtain & Napkin Rings

Use as:

  • Loose parts (in sensory bins, in your toy rotation)
  • Counters (practicing numbers, math learning)
  • Pieces to a game (example: I paired a set of wooden rings with a wooden back massager, game was to stack the rings onto the back massager legs)

Beads, keys, buttons…

Use as: 

  • Sensory bin fillers
  • Sensory bottle fillers 
  • Lacing practice 
  • Arts and crafts materials 
  • Math/counting pieces

There’s also 

  • Cookie cutters for play dough, oobleck and slime 
  • Baking trays for sorting activities or a paint tray 
  • Fake flowers for sensory bins or decor 
  • Spice racks as wall toy storage/book displays
  • Magazine racks for plush storage

The third reason I browse the entire store when I’m thrifting is for misplaced items. 

When we shop in a regular retail store, chances are we aren’t going to miss out on a toy or shirt if one of them goes misplaced.

In a thrift store everything is unique so if a shirt ends up in the wrong section, you’ll never know it was there!

So, I guess I’m really just feeling the FOMO of a good find.

I have found some awesome finds just from browsing though.

One of my favourite examples is the time I decided to browse shirts that were three sizes too big for B at the time and found a Lizzie McGuire t-shirt!!! I’m pretty sure I let out a very loud gasp when I made that find. (I’m a huge Hilary Duff fan!)

Another favourite example was the time I found a vintage record player, in working condition. It was buried underneath binders and paper holders in the office supplies section and just happened to catch my eye. I’m still partly convinced someone that wanted it had hidden it there for later but hey – finders keepers in the thrift store world, baby!

In both examples I had no real reason to be in those sections other than browsing. My wallet wishes I wouldn’t.  

Does browsing the whole store sound too time consuming or overwhelming? I get it, I’ve been there. What helped was finding a shopping pattern that I follow each time I go to the store. I choose the side of the store I want to start in, then go aisle by aisle until I’m at the other side of the store. For the stores the are set up in funky ways, I’ll do the outer aisles & walls then head to the middle sections after. 

If I’m really on a time crunch and I can’t swing a full store browse when I’m out then I’ll do a reduced version of this. I have my favourite sections: books, home decor, kids toys and the hanging bags. I’ll start with those, as I know they’re the sections I’m most likely to find something I want or need, and then head around the rest of the store with what time I have left. 

Well, that’s that! The more you shop, the more you’ll start to find yourself falling into your own certain pattern while you’re there. Just remember to always make time for your favourite aisles! 

Make any cool finds while you’re out thrifting? Be sure to upload them to Instagram and tag me in them – or use the #beingthisthriftma hashtag




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