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Decorating on a Peanut Butter and Jelly Budget: How to Secondhand Score

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Once I graduated from college, I wanted that "adult" look for my home, but I was living on a peanut butter and jelly kind of budget. I began scouring garage sales, thrift stores, and Craiglist, and was surprised to find that, with a little bit of work, I really could have the look for less. The picture featured above will help you remember what to look for: furniture, frames, books, knick knacks, and lamps-- items that I look for every time I go to a secondhand store.


From side tables to couches, there are so many pieces that you can find at garage sales, thrift stores, or Craiglist. The side table above was found at a garage sale for $5. I gave it a quick makeover with a coat of black paint and it became the perfect side table for my living room. I even found my sectional sofa on Craigslist for a whopping $60! Not only is it cheaper to buy furniture secondhand, but you can find quality, real wood pieces that are way better than the compressed junk that big box stores offer.

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Go into any thrift store and you will most likely find a bazillion picture frames. I love picture frames because they house family memories and friendly faces, which really bring warmth into a room. Grab frames that have fantastic details and pops of color that tie your room together. Don't let color scare you off--if the frame is a hideous puke green, but has fabulous details, paint it with some low VOC spray paint. You could even create a picture frame collage to fill an empty space on your wall.

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From the Organic Authority Files


I'm partial to books because I'm a writer, but books are a gorgeous way to add texture, height, and color to your space. Do you see how the books on the side table added height on the bottom shelf and a pop of color on the top? I especially look for Reader's Digest books because most of them have unique patterns underneath the paper jacket.

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Knick Knacks

It's hard to give advice about knick knacks because you have to be careful about how many you have in one area. Too many can make a side table or bookshelf look cluttered. However, a few knick knacks on a piece can add character, color, and personality. For example, the bird on my side table has a shabby-chic look that I adore, and it adds a little whimsical touch. Also, don't pass up those not-so-cute figurines--check out this tutorial from Make: Craft on how to transform them with a little bit of low VOC spray paint.

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Lighting is so important in every space in your home--it can really make or break your room. Lighting at big box stores are incredibly expensive and are "blah" compared to the one-of-a-kind pieces you can find at secondhand stores. The lamp on my side table was purchased at a garage sale for $3! It had a hideous shade, but it was easy to change. Even tacky brass lamps can be spray painted (with low VOC spray paint) into beauties. Now, my lamp has a unique look, adds color, and adds light to the dark corner of my living room.

I could literally go on for hours about all of the treasures I've found at secondhand stores, but I'll spare you. Trust me when I say, you can make your home look exactly like you want it--you just have to look for it. Part of the fun is the hunt and the awesome stories you can tell your guests as they drool over your amazing space.

Images: Bonnie Getchell

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