My Secret Thrifty Decorating Resource

Do you enjoy the thrill of the hunt for decorating treasures?  Do you frequent church basement sales, yard sales or check out your local Goodwill or The Salvation Army on a weekly basis to find fabulous items to make over?

If so, I am going to let you in on my number one thrifty decorating resource… there may be one in your town that you don’t even know about.

How to find the best thrift shops in your area

I received an email a few weeks ago from a reader wanting to know where I bought the tall glass jars in my guest bathroom.

When I was writing my reply to her I realized that since moving to the lake I haven’t done as much thrift store shopping as I used to do since I have been so focused on updating the house.

Now that it has been 3 years since we moved to the lake house (yes, it’s been 3 years) and most of the major projects are behind me, I plan to spend more time getting out and finding “new-to-me” places to shop that are not at the mall or big box stores.

Last week I mentioned doing this in my post about Living My Best Life. I want to find stylish boutiques as well local thrift shops where I can find unique things while helping out the local economy.

Where to find the best thrift shops

I have had a lot of success buying things at thrift stores, secondhand stores, and consignment shops, but some of my best finds have come from a place that not many know about.

It is the best place to find furniture, decorative accessories, household goods and hidden treasures that is not on most treasure and thrift seeker’s radars.

What Is My Secret Decorating Resource?

Thrift shop at local senior living community

The best thrift shop that no one has ever told you about…

…It is Old Folk’s Homes – now known as Senior Living Communities. :-)  I became an insider to this “intel” many years ago when my parents and mother-in-law moved into two different retirement communities and lived there until they passed away.

Senior citizen apartment complexes and retirement communities usually have a shop in one of the main buildings of the community where the residents can sell their unwanted stuff or when someone dies (god bless) and their family doesn’t want the contents of their apartment – the items go to the shop.

The shops are not a place to go for used clothing, but for decorating items like furniture and household goods like vintage Pyrex and china.

It’s a fact of life that residents pass away every week and since there is usually a long waiting list for new residents that want to move in, the turn-over in apartments is quite fast.

The contents of these apartments end up at the shop so there are always new items from weekly, ranging from furniture, decorative accessories and household items.  Much like the inventory at a thrift shop.

Why I Like Senior Living Community Shops More Than a Normal Thrift Store

the best thrift stores near me

Not only do you find great prices, bargains and well-kept items at the senior living community shops, but the shops are usually staffed by the residents themselves. The volunteers who staff the shops are all so pleasant and chatty and will tell you all about Helen’s table or Josephine’s china that is for sale.

The older men who live in the community or whose wives are working in the shop, sit around talking to the ladies and talk about the weather with each other.  They will call you “doll” (in the most innocent way since it is just a saying of their generation) and will flirt with you.  It will make you smile.

The volunteers take pride in the shop and have the time to organize everything and keep it clean. This alone makes the shopping for “decorating treasure” experience much nicer than what you find at many thrift shops that are smelly with disorganized merchandise.

The best hidden thrift shop to find in your town

Larger and more upscale communities usually have better stuff and may have a name for their shop. They usually have a large space dedicated for it.  Smaller communities may simply have the merchandise in a room that you can go in to browse and pay a volunteer at the door.

What Can You Find at Senior Living Community Thrift Shops?

Just like shopping at any thrift store, shopping at the senior community shops is hit or miss kind of shopping. You never know what you are going to find – but I have found quite a lot.

Decorating Treasures await at senior living community thrift shops

When shopping at any kind of second-hand store, I look at objects and envision using them in a different way or transforming them with paint to make them become a part of my decor.

I rarely have bought something and used it as is, except of course the glass canister above that I use on my guest bath vanity.

How to makeover a second hand set of TV trays

99% of the time I transform the items to fit my style as I did with this set of TV trays.

A second hand set of wood TV tray tables become chic bistro tables.

With some paint and an easy to do type transfer method, I was able to make the set of trays my own.

Thrift-store-tray-makeover using clock themed scrapbook paper

I found this tray for a few dollars. With a little paint, scrap book paper and sealer I was able to transform it.

Night table with second hand thrift store tray on top that was made over using paint and scrapbook paper.

Now it is a pretty tray to top my night table. How to Make Over a Tray with Scrapbook Paper

Senior-community-thrift-store-finds of vintage clip-on earrings

Vintage jewels and sewing supplies are always in abundance.

Craft and decorating ideas using buttons and vintage clip on earrings

Shopping in senior living community shops is how I amassed so many vintage clip-on earrings and colorful buttons that I use to embellish many things like these table place cards.

Vintage clip on earring used to embellish a gift

Or use wrapping a gift.

How To Find Senior Citizen Community Thrift Shops in Your Area

I am on a search myself right now to find a few communities here in South Carolina that have a shop. I did a Google search for “Senior Citizen Communities”  “Retirement Communities” and “Thrift Shops Near Me”

Call the main number and ask if they have a thrift store or re-sale shop on the premises.  The shops themselves may not be drive up store fronts, but are usually inside one of the buildings on the community’s property.  You may have to get buzzed in depending on the community, but I have never had a problem getting in when I state that I am there to go to the re-sale shop.

Most of the shops have limited hours so it is always best to call first to find out at what time and days they are open.

Ask at your church and friends you know whose parents live at senior living communities. They may know if there is a shop inside the community that is open to anyone, not just the residents.

Senior Living Retirement Communities – they are my secret thrifty decorating resource. Now that you are an insider to this intel…Shhh! Don’t tell anyone. :-)

Happy Hunting!

Do you have a secret resource where you find great stuff that you want to share?

If you enjoy the thrill of the hunt, I have more thrift store shopping tips in this post: Decorating With Thrift Store Finds

Budget decorating secret shared on where to find the best thrift store in your area.

More Thrifty Decorating Ideas

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  1. Jaye M Brown says:

    Great idea Diane about shopping in retirement communities. I never knew that and we live in Pinellas county, FL which is the most densely populated county in Florida and has hundreds of retirement and senior home communities. Wow, I’ll have to get on the phone and find out which ones may have a “re-sale” store. You know I like the thrill of the hunt.

    Thanks again, Happy Fall Ya’ll.

    Jaye Brown

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Jaye – I am sure you will find a few senior communities with treasure shops. Happy hunting!! Happy Fall to you to… I am so tired of hot hot weather.

  2. I love shopping at thrift shops and second hand stores for decorating to but you do things in a more beautiful way.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Pauline – How sweet of you to say. :-) I do love to turn second hand stuff into something pretty or that will fit my style. It sounds like you do too.

  3. I loved the site. Congratulations

  4. Diane,
    Please let us know if you find any here in SC especially near Chapin. I am a thrift store junkie.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Patrica – I will.

  5. Kathryn Rhyne says:

    The best senior community to visit here in Greenville would be the Cascades…you really need to check it out. Also, the Woodlands near Furman. Those are the 2 “ritzy” ones near us.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Kathryn – Thanks so much for the names of the communities. I will give them a call. Hugs to all. XO

  6. Kimberly C Bruhn says:

    Our little town here in Southern Oregon (Ashland) has a thrift shop that benefits the local hospice. It’s called the Hospice Unique Boutique (or HUB) and is a great source for amazing furniture, home goods and even high-end clothes and jewelry. I’ve seen a couple more hospice thrifts in our state so it might be worth the effort to see if there’s one near you! We have a lot of retirement communities here…and I will be looking to see if any have thrifts…so thanks for the info!

  7. I had no idea!! But was an interesting concept. I am definitely going to be on the hunt now. I hate going to thrift stores and they have smelly clothes.

    If you find some in SC, I’d love to know. Because I am in SC also. Not far from you as a matter of fact. Live in Lexington County. Small world!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Lori – I haven’t found any yet, but one of my friends who lives on the lake by me, used to live in the Northeast section of Columbia and took me to a few of her favorite shops. Thrift and boutiques I had never been. It was a fun day. My usual days out shopping are either in Harbison or along Sunset Blvd. in Lexington. Maybe one of these days we can plan a meet up.

  8. Great idea! I have to say, I never knew about your secret resource. But now I do, but we’ll keep it our little secret! Shh!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Sophie – I hope I can find one of the shops were I live now. I am still searching. I love your email address… cozyteapot. I think I need to start up the kettle right now to make a pot to enjoy this afternoon.

  9. Darla from HeartWork Organizing says:

    So true. Senior communities are a great source for goodies.

  10. Wow…never heard of this. My own mother lives in a very upscale retirement community and they do not run such a store. Only small in house dollar store for residents. I will look into others though.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Sher – I had to ask around to find them. My mother in law lived at a church based community. It was the best one. My parents lived in a large upscale community that only had a room, but it was open every Friday morning. I hope you can find one.

  11. Thank you for this great idea! Since I relocated recently I haven’t been able to locate any decent thrift stores. This will help me search for other venues.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Dianne – I hope you find a few stores. It took me a while to find them when I moved to SC Next week a new friend who likes to go thrifting is going to take me to a few new stores I have never been. I am looking forward to it and hope to find something good. Keep searching and asking around. I am sure you will find one or two.

  12. Now that is a really great idea!

  13. Lisa Marie says:

    Thanks for the tip Dianne. I never knew that retirement homes have thrift shops. I adore thrift stores, my heart skips a beat when I enter one that is crammed full of awesome goodness! In my experience the small thrifts that donate directly to charities have much better merchandise and are much better priced than Goodwill and the Salvation Army. I’ve gotten so many great things over the years. I recently found a Cuisinart toaster oven (not in the box but looked like it was never used) for a whopping $10.00. I have also scored a Pottery Barn comforter set, Serena & Lily pillow cases, Christmas tree ornaments, Kate Spade purses, brand new snow boots and so much other good stuff!

  14. Julia@Cuckoo4Design says:

    I have also never heard of these shops but it sounds like w wonderful way to thrift. Thanks for sharing

  15. TerriC/HoustonLady says:

    Hi Diane,
    Thanks for another great tip. I have found a few baskets at thrift stores that I have made my own ; )
    (another great tip from you). I am always looking for vintage jewelry to make gifts with. I hope I find a few Senior Living Community shops near me.
    Have a great day!

  16. Francesca says:

    Wow, you’ve definitely got some great finds. Brilliant for decorating on a budget and ideal for first time house buyers. Volunteer run initiatives/shops are sometimes some of the best. Thanks so much for the tips!

  17. Pegg Macko says:

    Hi. I know that you lived in the Bucks County area outside of Philadelphia before you moved. Where did you go for those Senior Living Communities??? Thank you and Happy New Year.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Pegg – The best ones were in the Mennonite owned communities. Dock Woods in Towamencin, Montgomery Country and another up in Lower Salford that I can’t remember the name. Something…Lutheran Home I think was the name of that one. I also went to one in Bucks County at Ann’s Choice. I haven’t been to this one since my parents passed away, so you might want to call first to see if it is still there.

      1. Pegg Macko says:

        Thank you so much. I’ll make some calls and try some places that are in those areas!

  18. We have Assistance League here that runs a very nice thrift shop. Thanks for sharing your info!!

  19. Mary Boger says:

    And what a great way to benefit a senior, if they’re still among the living.

  20. I hadn’t heard of those types of shops either. I’ll be checking in my area, too. Another resource here is the SPCA Thrift Shop. The volunteers curate incoming donations and their shop is attractive and well stocked—with the added draw of benefitting shelter animals.

  21. I haven’t heard of these! Not sure my town has them. By the way, is that blue & white wallpaper in your bathroom? I love it, so beautiful.

  22. Nancy Walden says:

    There is a retirement community near me that was originally called Air Force Village (it was renamed a couple of years ago). They have turned several house into re-sale “stores.” Each house hold a specific type of merchandise. They even have one with clothes. They operate just like you described–limited hours, volunteers and a group of men sitting around and talking!

  23. I have never heard of these types of shops. My mother was in assisted living in Michigan and her facility did not have one. I will have to check in my area. Such a great idea.