Colorful yarn balls

Thrift stores are cool places; not only can you get secondhand items for cheap, you're also helping to keep the volume of trash down, and often donate to a worthy cause. But there's more to Goodwill and other thrift shops than used clothing and books. Here are some cool items you might not have expected to find in secondhand shops!

Home Decor

People are always updating the decor in their homes, and many of them donate old items that they no longer want. Paintings, both professional and amateur, can be found secondhand. Prints and posters are often donated completely matted, framed, and ready to hang. Keep an eye out for old paint-by-numbers, which some vintage lovers consider collectible. One of my favorite things to find is handmade cross stitch and needlework pieces, which are beautiful and surely took countless hours of painstaking work to make. Even if the frame is in rough shape, a nice piece of artwork can be easily re-framed to give it new life.

christmas needlework
Credit: Karen Kirk on PeachNifty

Other commonly found decorative items include pottery, figurines, wreaths, baskets, and candlesticks. With a few dollars, you can give your house a whole new look.


Clothes are the most commonly found item in thrift stores. There are usually countless rows of shirts, slacks, sweaters, dresses, and even coats available to browse through. But keep an open mind, and these clothes can be used for more than just wearing.

Secondhand clothing can be a great source of fabric for sewing projects. Plus size dresses contain large amounts of fabric in a variety of beautiful patterns and textures. Leather, suede, denim, and artificial fur can be found in the coats. Blouses sometimes feature large sections of lace, sequins, or beaded designs. Wool sweaters can be felted to make a variety of projects, and jersey t-shirts can be cut apart to make t-shirt yarn.

The cost of a piece of clothing can be less than the cost of an equivalent yardage of virgin fabric. And since many clothing items are donated brand new and never worn, you can find items that are as fresh and clean as cloth right off the bolt. Keep an eye out for interesting pieces of clothing and you might find the raw materials for your next project!

embroidered blue fabric

Holiday decorations

Want your home to look festive for an upcoming holiday? Take a swing around a thrift shop! There are holiday items popping up all year round. Large packs of greeting cards and paper valentines can be found, often in unopened packages. Christmas ornaments, many of them vintage, are a common sight. I've seen "haunted house" signs for Halloween, elaborate cross door hangings for Easter, and beautiful ceramic platters for Thanksgiving. Keep an eye out no matter what season, and you'll always have plenty of fun decor for the holidays.

Pet supplies

Thrift shops aren't just for humans, there are things for Fido and Fluffy too! Obviously no one wants dirty, chewed up junk, but a surprising number of pet items show up in great condition. I sometimes see hamster cages complete with elaborate plastic tunnel mazes, glass fish aquariums, and dog crates in both plastic and metal style. Rope toys with the tags still on and unopened packs of cat toys occasionally appear. One of the coolest pet items to find are artificial basking rocks and hiding caves made for reptile habitats.

For safety reasons, be sure to carefully wash any pet items that you find before using them, even if they look new.

So the next time you pass a thrift shop, think about all the cool things you might find in there. You never know what will be on the shelf today!