Smart Women Decorate with Thrift

The value of living the life of “RE”

One Tuesday night, Barb Tobias taught a Colorado Free University Class, Smart Women Decorate with Thrift, and students s learned and shared their experiences in the wacky world of thrift.

We created Vision Boards on decorating. Unlike the standard Life Vision Board, the decorating version uncovers our affinity for colors, textures, elements and styles. It is amazing how each board morphs into a profile that not only reveals our personalities but expresses our passions.

Students learned a bit about themselves, and learned how to surround themselves with décor that reverberates with their creative ideals.

  • And, they learned the art of RE:
  • To REpurpose rather than toss.
  • To REfinish rather than pitch.
  • To REnew rather than to throw out.
  • To REvitalize rather than to chuck it.

And, if all else fails, and they would just as soon get rid of it, they learned where to send their “ love donations.”

  • Charity Centers
  • Churches
  • Shelters
  • Charity Drives

Decorating Faux Pas That Zap Our Energy

Beware of energy zappers that suck the life out of your rooms . . . and lives.   Commit to addressing those pesky problem areas that cause undue stress and fatigue.  

  • Clutter and disorganization heighten anxiety.  
    • Although our reactions to the chaos that surrounds us are often internalized and go unnoticed, the long term effects, anxiety and stress, are very real.  All of our senses react negatively to presence of clutter. Understand that there is order in the universe. Why not bring it into your home?
  • Oversized furniture or too much furniture that is haphazardly shoved into small places infringe on your personal space.
    • We often ‘make do’ with pieces of furniture that we don’t like, don’t fit or no longer resonate with our creative senses. Get rid of it.  Sell unloved items at your next garage sale, on Craigslist or give them away to charity.  Bring items that you love into your space and make sure they fit the size of your room. (Check out your local Thrift Stores and Consignment Shops for great buys.)
  • Poor furniture placement is as unsightly as it is annoying.
    • Too many people live around their furnishings rather than with them.  Furniture placement should be pleasing to the eye and offer uncomplicated traffic patterns. For example, people shouldn’t have to walk around a couch to get to a door wall or move the bar stools to access the kitchen.
  • Too little room between furnishings or accessories assaults our visual senses and reduces our feeling of space.  
    • The energizing power of Chi, or life-force, needs the opportunity to flow in and around objects. 
  • Fake plants are, well . . . fake.
    • Bring energy, harmony and soothing life forces back into your rooms with vibrant, healthy plants.
  • Damaged furniture is a real downer.
    • Battered, scarred or worn and torn furnishings are bothersome reminders that we need to repair, refinish or restore those ancient relics.   Commit to your renovation projects or . . . you got it . . . get rid of them. 
  • Hard or sharp furnishings can be cold and unforgiving.
    • Soften harsh lines or hard surfaces with comforting fabrics and rounded objects or edges.

I Love Bargain Hunting at Thrift Stores and Garage Sales

Below is an email that I received from a very excited client. We are working to transform her somewhat worn home into a chic and stylish habitat.

Just last garage sale season, Jo learned how to shop using a newly frugal but creative eye. She quickly learned to spot the potential treasures beneath the tarnish. Prepare Jo Garage Sale

After holding a garage sale of her own, we spent a few fun and productive weekends looking for bargain furnishings to replace the items we literally hauled out of her house and sold on the spot.   Remember the old addage; One woman’s junk is another woman’s treasure? (Okay, so it is close enough.)

Jo was very hesitant at the beginning of our project.  She was skeptical of finding quality items at local thrift venues.  Now, she is an ardent believer and often ventures out on her own to find her bargains. She has learned that imagination and resourcefulness are key factors in finding the right deals.

Hi Barb,

I just made the best buy of the day… a love seat – FREE, courtesy of Aurora Library. I was actually looking at all their $1 books because the library is closing for good.

I found a free bookcase and had just taken it to my car when I walked back in to find that they had just pull a love seat from the back room and pushed it onto the sale floor.

I was the first to look at it, then another lady started pushing it around and inspecting it.  Since I had already made my decision to buy it, the sales person let me have it. Can you believe that?

I felt like  I just gave myself a big ole’ Christmas present. I can’t even tell you how great my family room feels to me – it’s beginning to feel more like home every time I add something.

Oh, and I picked up a fabulous lamp Goodwill for $24 with my Senior Citizen’s discount!  Ha, ha! My family room is so cozy and the lighting is great now. I love it.

I can’t believe that I’m so looking forward to next garage sale season!  I would have never thought I would be such an ardent convert!  This is fun and it is not costing me any more money because I am using the funds that I made when we held my garage sale.

Thank you so much . . . and, Happy New Year!
To your success,
Jo Guerra
Denver Entrepreneurs LinkedIn Group

Grouping Collections

Filed under Blogs, Decorating

collection1Collections are more effectively displayed when grouped together and artfully arranged.  These assortments of loved items can be displayed as the main focus of a room or tucked away and arranged in small, unusable spaces to create interest.

  • In this picture a collection of pigs sleep continently in the window nook of a sunny kitchen, adding the owner’s lively humor to her home décor.
  • Classic car prints, purchased at a garage sale in Michigan for three dollars apiece (sans frames) , capture the nostalgia of the twenties and thirties and the grandeur of the era when the automobile was king. The pictures set off a narrow area that is nestled behind a banister and previously only displayed the unsightly wall switches.


  • Collections can even be a mismatched assortment of items in varying hues of a favored color.  On this coffee table a collection of items use different shades of green as their common denominator.


Consignment and Antique Shops vs. Thrift Shops

Despite raving fans on both sides of the frugal fence, the popularity of thrift shopping, or thrifting as it is referred to by frugal aficionados, is soaring.  With the downturn of the economy, shopping for used items has become the new black. Yes, it is in vogue . . . even chic.  It is also undeniably green.  No more trees cut down, sheep sheared, or plastic is manufactured. In addition, the concern over sweatshop employment has little to no justification when shopping for bargains in the thrifty aisles of this nation’s secondhand establishments.

consignmentUsed treasures, despite where they are merchandised, fall under the general category known as thrift. However the shops that carry these secondhand goods are as diverse as they are numerous.

The adventurous throngs that shop for recycled bargains are divided into two categories; thrift store aficionados and the more discerning consignment and antique devotees. Bona fide consignment or antique buffs seldom venture into thrift shops and have little inclination to sift through stacks of secondhand effects to find their holy grails.  By the same token, thrift shop groupies loathe the thought of paying the historically higher prices demanded at the more trendy consignment or antique shops.consignment2

The difference between these two thrift venues typically lie in the quality of merchandise found in each establishment. Both consignment shops and antique stores demand higher prices but their goods are generally superior in quality and their stores are typically merchandised beautifully.




Picture compliments of

Repurpose On Purpose


To repurpose means to use an object for something different from its original purpose.  This creative process is not just rewarding, it is addictive.

When I am browsing through a thrift shop or scoping out a yard sale, everything I look at has endless possibilities. Some people refer to the process of looking at things differently as having an ‘eye’ for decorating.   I simply call it creative adornment.

I’ve made candlesticks from the bases of lamps, wall hangings from tabRS Church Window  036le tops and table tops from wall hangings.  I’ve covered interesting pictures with glass and used them as trays or vanity tops, and used architectural pieces, signs and windows in between pictures to make an interesting wall.

This wall assembly boasts two items that were repurposed and slipped into a picture arrangement; the shabby chic 1900’s church window hangs in good stead along with a coveted family heirloom…the original dressmaker’s shop sign that hung above my husband’s grandmother’s shop in Denver.

Individual expressions are as endless as they are personal.  I might use a wonderful old porcelain basin or pitcher as a planter while a scarred and dented antique birdcage might find its way to my porch to hold an array of trailing vines and flowers. I have even cut a peeling garden post into varying sizes and grouped them together to form a table top arrangement topped with scented candles. 

checker board and awning.  Barb 10-09 011Thrift stores, flea markets and garage sales or tag sales are ripe with abundant possibilities and unique finds. Start examining them with a new eye. 

In a friend’s home there is an amusing surprise at every turn. She loves to bring outdoor items inside.  Here she uses a freshly painted metal awning as an architectural effect over an inside door.  In addition, a bright checkerboard hangs as an object of interest on the wall next to the door.  

And finally, one of my favorites, in Sonia’s guest bathroom, a rusted and peeling wrought iron fence was turned sideways and functions beautifully as a magazine rack…and conveniently sports a pair of reading glasses, a courtesy for the Baby Boomers.

rs fence 10-09 016

Creative people have been repurposing for decades. I am often reminded of Scarlet O’Hara and her desperate attempts to repurpose an old set of curtains in the movie, Gone with the Wind.  She stripped the windows of their coverings to make a new dress and hat so as to appear unaffected by the ravages of the Civil War.

Although I would not suggest that your curtains become your next holiday gown, I am suggesting that you keep your mind open to new possibilities, and perhaps scale new heights in Diva decorating.

It is fun and frugal to generate a new look from an old item.  So if you are on a budget think about going green and repurposing all of the worn and weary items that are clogging up the beauty and individuality of your home.     

Take a thoughtful walk around your home and think of ways to repurpose items that are worn or dated, or those things that you have simply grown tired of.  Think, “How I can use this for purposes very different from its origin? Have fun. Get creative. Think outside the triangle!

Eight Divalicious Tips That Will Turn You Into a Garage Sale Maniac

I never attended a garage sale until I began my secondary career as a thrift diva. But once I got started, I realized that they are one of the best ways to find bargain pricing on just about anything you need – as long as you aren’t in a hurry to find it!

That’s right.  No other source, not even Goodwill, the Salvation Army or your favorite  flea market sells stuff as cheap as people who are purging, cleaning out closets,  moving or settling an estate. Which is why garage sales are always on my “hot list.”

Granted, if you’re shopping for a specific item, you may not find it on any given day no matter how many garage sales you hit. But, then again, even if you don’t find what you came for, chances are you’ll find something else you can use at a price that’s negligible – sometimes even free!

Beyond that, garage sales are a blessing for those with babies and small children. Why?  You can stop the constant “baby needs it” cash outflow by letting other people’s kids be a steady supply of new-to-your kids toys and clothing.

Here are eight of my best tips and tricks for garage sale success:

1. Timing Matters.

  • Most garage sales occur on the weekend starting on Friday, as early as 8:00 a.m., and run through Saturday or Sunday.  (Although not as many are held on Sundays.)
  • Early birds have been known to show up an hour and a half early (yes, at 6:30) so if your heart is set on an advertised item, plan to arrive early. However, be courteous. If the sale is not open, wait in your car.  Don’t knock on the door at 6:00 in the morning.  (The sellers may have been up until 3:00 a.m.)
  • When shopping garage sales go on the first day.  The good things will go first and prices can still be suprisingly low.  
  • Estate sales are often houses full of items.  Since the merchandise is usually better quality, it will also be more expensive.  You will find better bargains if you wait until the end of the last day.

2. Shop late and bargain to save money.

  • Most of the time, the better deals are found at the end of the sale when sellers are faced with the prospect of hauling their stuff back inside or to the thrift store drop-off center. 
  • Bargain harder at the end of the day when there is less opportunity for the seller to get asking price.   
  • Basically prices are always negotiable at garage sales. You may not get it, but it never hurts to ask.
  • Buy multiple items to get a “bulk” rate. 
  • Early in my thrifting “career”  I snagged a sterling silver butter dish for $5. Strangely enough,  many sellers do not price items, seem indifferent to how much money they make, and will essentially let you name your price even early on in the sale — so aim low.

3. Plan your route to save time and gasoline.

  • Pick one promising sale to visit first, and plan the rest of your stops to flow out from your first stop.
  • Shop at Subdivision Sales.  Homeowners band together to offer house-to-house sales all on the same day. What a boon!
  • Look up sales online in advance, but be aware that many people only advertise garage sales via signs posted around the neighborhood and on major streets the morning of the sale. So anticipate that whatever the route you’ve planned – you’ll likely end up with a lot of small detours.
  • In the height of the garage sale season, plan to visit only one general area each week. Driving ten miles out of your way for one sale that may or may not be any good isn’t a productive use of your time or gas money.

4. Choose your neighborhoods wisely.

  • For the discerning shopper, patronize the upscale neighborhoods.  Yes, they might be a little pricy, but that is where the nicer things are found.
  • A good rule of thumb is to haunt the middle class neighborhoods. They typically offer the best ratio of good stuff to good prices.

5. Choose your sales wisely.

  • Moving Sales are the best places to get deals because people are limited by time deadline and how much they can move.
  • Estate sales are best for higher end items, but you’ll pay higher prices as well.
  • Ordinary garage sales are a crapshoot.
    • Cruise the Internet and pick out the best ones by reading the ads on Craigslist, although I’ve found that you never know until you get there and take a look. 
    • To save time, simply cruise by uninteresting looking sales.  You might miss some good things hidden in boxes, but at the height of the season, there are so many sales and limited time. 
    • If you’re looking for a specific item, like an antique dresser, you can try emailing and calling all the people who have actually posted ads in advance and seeing if anyone is selling that item. If so, they might be willing to set it aside for you until a certain time (say, 8:30 for a garage sale that starts at 8:00).

6. Plan ahead so that you don’t waste your money.

  • Set a budget before you head out the door.
  • Avoid buying things just because they are a great deal.
  • Be honest with your time and talents. For example, unless you love to refinish furniture, you’re unlikely to suddenly take up the hobby and that shabby chic chair will be collecting dust in your garage for quite a while. 
  • For sales with unpriced items, make sure to ask about prices before you let yourself get attached to things. 

7. Shop with a friend.

  • Be careful not to compete with them for every thing you find . . . you just may loose a friend.  Rather, consider someone with strengths you lack.
  • If you aren’t good at bartering . . . bring someone who is.
  • Bring someone who knows more about an area (furniture, glassware, jewelry) than you do. 
  • If you drive a small car, enlist a friend that drives a pickup truck!

8. Loose the great expectations mentality

  • There will be days when you don’t find anything you like or can afford.
  • You are under no obligation to stay any length of time at a sale.  There are too many out there to waste time at a sale that has nothing to offer you.

And now, let the garage sale fun begin!!

Why Thrift?

With the downturn in the economy, thrifting has become the new American pastime allowing you to incorporate cheap but chic decor and fashion into your life. Across America hundreds of thousands of treasure seekers attend garage sales, yard sales, rummage sales, flea markets and estate sales to pick through other people’s stuff to find BARGAINS. This grass roots phenomenon has been compared to the modern– day gold rush as evidenced by the ever so popular Antique Road Show.

Personal Benefits

  • You save money: buying reusable, quality products is less expensive
  • You conserve natural resources: decreasing energy and raw material consumption helps the planet
  • You eliminate waste: sensible consumption frees up natural resources for other worthwhile purposes
  • You help others recycled clothing and household items are also sent to developing countries
  • Customers also benefit by getting access to quality used goods at a great value.
  • The poor and indigent benefit from food and shelter

Community Benefits

  • Customers also benefit by getting access to quality used goods at a great value.
  • The poor and indigent benefit from food and shelter

Worldwide Benefits

  • Individuals in developing countries around the world can now create their own marketplaces in which to conduct commerce.
  • As a result, other individuals in these countries have a resource where they can find used, affordable merchandise.

To The Planet

  • We’re doing our part to save our planet from the 20-billion pounds of used clothing and textiles tossed into landfills each year.
  • One thrift store chain (Savers) and its recycling program alone prevented 280 million pounds of unsold merchandise from ending up in landfills last year by reselling to domestic and international people in need.
  • Can you believe that the average North American throws away 67.9 pounds of used clothing and rags into the garbage? This results in over twenty billion pounds (or more than 9.09 billion kilograms) of used clothing and textiles tossed into landfills each year. When you donate to or shop at thrift store, increase the re-use of goods and help the environment. So says Don Ruehs Start you own High Profit Thrift Store

When Decorating Use Odd Numbers For Dramatic Effect

Decorating tips-j

There are several things to consider when grouping collections.

  • Collections make eye-catching statements when grouped using odd numbers. Stick to three to five items.  More than five pieces tend to be too distracting, unless it is a very large grouping that will be viewed collectively as one piece.
  • Spacing is critical when arranging multiple items.   Although most collections are initially viewed as a whole, there needs to be enough space between each item to allow an admirer to also observe each item separately.  
  • Vary the heights of the objects so that the eye flows easily around the collection.   If the objects are the same size, think about placing some of them on risers of different heights. 

The large antique horse at the top of the picture was purchased at a garage sale in Michigan years ago. When I moved to Colorado I realized I needed to work with the vaulted ceilings that graced the living room and dining room areas. To create height, I hoisted this wonderful old carousel piece onto a vintage hutch (from my mother’s farm) and initially displayed him all by his lonesome.  

Over time I found his other two companions and two different thrift venues.  The one on the right was snapped up at a 75% off clearance table at The Great Outdoors. And, the one on the right was a garage sale reject that I bought for a few dollars along with her broken ear and tail. I loved her old wounds and chose to display her just as she was. 

Together the three make a great arrapretty hats b 10-09 021ngement atop my dining hutch, and add the height I needed to fill up the tall ceiling space.

These three charming hats grace a bureau in a guest room of my girlfriend’s house.  She has a knack for finding vintage items and displaying them with nostalgic grace.  And note that she has used parts of a fence post to display her bonnets.   

She has also incorporated two other elements of artful arrangements; an odd number of hats was used, and she varied the heights to create visual interest.   

RS Odd numbers 3 balls in bowl 018And finally, a simple raised bowl holding three different textured balls makes a simple but elegant display.


Decorating Tips-eCollections are more effectively displayed when grouped together and arranged artfully.  They can be tucked and arranged in small, unusable spaces to create interest.

This grouping of classic car prints was purchased at a garage sale in Michigan for three dollars apiece (sans frames).

Capturing the nostalgia of the twenties and thirties when the auto was king was important to me, which is why I have hauled this grouping around the country whenever I move.  It recalls the grandeur of the auto era and brings a little bit of my Michigan upbringing into my Colorado home.

The pictures set off a narrow area that is behind a banister and previously only displayed the unsightly wall switches.

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