Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

June 14, 2012

Treasure Hunting: What I Look For

Emily A. Clark recently posted a list of her top 5 yard sale must haves.  Basically, a list of what you should snag next time you're out and about yard saling.  Genius!

After countless posts bragging about my thrifty finds (search "treasure hunting report" in the google search features, to the right), it dawned on me you might like to know what's on my shopping list.  I'm always surprised by the goodies I find, but I do head out with some kind of an idea of what I want, or "need".  Yup, I'm a list-maker and have a list of things to look for + projects I have in mind.  Otherwise, in the early morning daze, I forget and miss something great!

Here's are a few items from my list that are versatile enough that you might want to add them to yours:

1. Vintage Ceramic Planters & Dishes

I'm trying to be Martha Stewart classy.  I've ditched my dollar store plastic organizers and have opted for 25 cent ceramic pieces instead!  I use super cheap (but super nice), vintage ceramic dishes to corral toiletries, office supplies and other tidbits.  Here's one keeping my lip glosses in order:

Photos from Martha Stewart; Martha Stewart, Paper Lust

2. Frames & Mirrors

Eventually I get around to using all of the frames and mirrors I buy, especially for crafty DIY art projects.  I recently scored three solid wood frames for 50 cents (for all three)!  They need a little paint, but will be a perfect - affordable - way to frame up my own art projects.

And, of course, you have already seen the much-loved feminist makeover I gave a $5.00 yard sale find. 

3. Retro Jewellery

I sometimes use large, reclaimed, vintage beads to make the bodies of my DIY Christmas spiders.  I also reclaim other pieces for jewellery of my own design and have even converted a tired pendant into something else.  Plus, I'm on the hunt for some cheap rhinestone brooches to spray paint a neon hue.  The materials in vintage jewellery have so much potential and can't be beat for affordability.  As a bonus, I have found some truly stunning mid-century pieces for a song, and that kind of treasure-finding just makes my Saturday!

4. Pottery, Art + Accessories

In terms of accessorizing the townhouse, I pepper our home with quite a few second-hand finds to gussy up the place for a fraction of the cost.  Because we splurged (well, his work is pretty affordable, comparably, but we still had to save up!) on Shane Norrie pottery from an art gallery, I've saved money by mixing in some $5.00 pottery pieces.  If you spy some great pottery or other accessories at a yard sale, snap them up!  While you're at it, take a second glance at original paintings, quirky prints and fun artwork. You won't even believe the savings, plus you have a chance to score something unusual. 

5. Bowls!

This was a suggestion of Emily's, too, and & I heartily agree.  Whether I'm adding a stunning vintage enamel bowl to my nightstand, or using a sweet vintage Pyrex piece for a bowl of (slightly dented) cherries, I find bowls so immensely useful and stylish.  I can't amass enough!

Bonus Item: Fuel for Collecting

Yard saling is oodles more fun if you start a collection.  It needn't be expensive or rare - just something you like.  Anything looks good en masse, like my silhouette collection, my budding McCoy pottery collection or Shannon's milk glass collection.  And finding a piece to add to a collection feels like such a triumph!

What do you look for?  Do you make a list? 

P.S.  Amy, from wrote a great post about how to shop at garage sales.

P.P.S. Today's the last day for my custom stencil giveaway.


  1. Thats a really good suggestion on the ceramic dishes. I organize with cheap plastic things everywhere-thanks for the tip!

    1. Happy to help! It was hard for me to believe, at first, that durable glass & ceramic containers would be cheaper than dollar store storage containers for little stuff.

  2. This is super useful! I am always amazed at the things that people find thrifting and going to yard sales – I seem to walk straight past ‘gems’ and I think it’s because I never really know what I am looking for! I’ll be practising my more focused/list approach from now on!

    1. Happy to hear it! I definitely bought more "junk" before I made a list. I thought making a list would be ridiculous, because who knows what you'll find, but it really helped me curate a nice collection of yard sale purchased goods - great finds I would have happily paid full price for! I hope you have the same luck :)

  3. Oh wow! Thanks for the shout-out! Love your shopping list... very useful. I use baskets the way you use ceramic dishes! Maybe I'll have to step it up to your class level!

    1. Baskets are another fabulous idea - Emily recommended them, too. Your post was great, I'm happy to share!!

  4. Such a great list! (And, thanks for the link.) I actually went to an estate sale this morning, and came home with one pitiful piece of milk glass :)

    1. Awww, what a shame! Well, there's always next time :) And, sometimes, not finding much makes the times we find something great that much better!

  5. After reading this post, i went to a yard sale and those were the items i immediately looked for.

  6. Great post!

    I look for pyrex...I always check if someone entering the store 5 minutes later will scoop it

    I am on the hunt for an umbrella stand (no lucK)
    I always check baskets and toys...milk glass, serving trays, hmmm...

    with one eye open for surprises!

    Can't wait to see your etsy shop!

    1. Ha ha! I do the same thing: I make a beeline for the section I like most (the Pyrex/kitchen ware stuff).

  7. Great suggestions! I'm a big yardsaler too--and am often on the hunt for similar items. One site I use that has helped organize my yardsaling is (I'll see if I can link properly!) I love it because it maps out local yard sales for me, so I save a lot of time mapping them myself :)

    1. Fabulous tip! I used google maps and do the work myself, but if this does it for me - even better. I'll check it out tonight (for tomorrow's yard saling)!! Thanks :)


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