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I know you can find a lot of advice on what items to avoid when shopping at a thrift store – an article I read on the list sixteen different things! (I was wondering what could be left at that point?)

But I’ve been a thrift store shopper for over 30 years – my success shopping in thrift stores has been the biggest factor in creating the cozy farmhouse style I enjoy in my home! Now maybe I’ve been lucky, but I’ve never come across any of the hazards listed in these articles. For example –

  • I have never brought home bed bugs, mold, or other pests.
  • I’ve never gotten lead poisoning from eating old dinnerware, messing with architectural debris, or using old hardware.
  • I have never found my body suddenly out of alignment from wearing used shoes.

My secret weapon? Common sense. I don’t just grab, I inspect items very closely. If the shoes are obviously deformed by someone else’s feet, I will not buy them. If the nonstick coating is flaking off the pan, I won’t buy it. If a piece of furniture has a strange odor or damage that appears to have been caused by pests, I don’t buy it.

So, since I’ve never had a problem buying used items, my list of “what you should never buy at a thrift store” is pretty short. Here it is:

underwear/swimsuits – Due to the parts of the body that touch it, I always buy these items new. Including the arms.

mattresses – Even if there are no bed bugs, there is still “Other People’s Garbage” (OPG) like body dirt, dead skin, hair oil, etc. I prefer to start over with mattresses and add my own dirt.

bed pillows – See OPG above. I’m specifically referring to the pillow you’re resting your head on here. If I were to find a great throw pillow or other accent pillow at a thrift store, I wouldn’t hesitate as well. I buy cushions for my couch at thrift stores all the time.

Old, damaged, or “out of date” safety equipment – Bicycle and motorcycle helmets and child car seats contain energy absorbing foam that is considered “worn out” if it gets too old or absorbs an impact. So with no way of knowing if the protective foam is any good on these items, I would always buy new. And I didn’t know this until recently, but apparently car seats actually have expiration dates due to possible deterioration of internal materials.

old cribs – Cribs with drop sides and those with slats more than 2-3/8 inches apart present suffocation, entrapment, and other injury hazards to the baby.

These are the items I don’t buy at thrift stores. As for the items I buy, the practice of inspecting them closely before purchasing has helped me avoid virtually all of the potential pitfalls of thrift store shopping. It also has the added benefit of ensuring that I won’t spend even a small amount of money on something that is dirty, torn, or damaged. It’s not a bargain if it can’t be used!

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