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!!

Garage Sale Pricing Is An Art

When you’re planning a garage sale spend some time deciding how to price your items.  Garage sale pricing is an art form . . . one that takes some planing and a realistic evaluation of your inventory.  

When pricing keep these rules in mind:

  • If your merchandise is priced too high, it won’t sell.
  • If it is priced too low, the money you make won’t be worth the time you spent setting your garage sale up and selling for two or three days.

Here are some guidelines that I’ve developed, based on my experience and tips I picked up from traditional retailers:

  • It’s hard to say what a used item is really worth. Whatever you decide on, leave room so that you can come down 25% to 50% and still make a profit.
  • Try to think of the type of buyer that would be interested in individual peices and how much they’d be willing to pay.
  • Be creative with pricing. . . Go WILD.   I’ve used the  “buy one, get one free” promotion to move smaller items or common things like  clothing or plastic containers.  
  • Announce ‘blue light special’ on certain items that might not be moving. 
  • Mark things down as the sale progresses.
  • Go for the unusual. Tell your next customer that they’re the 25th shopper and entitled to a 25% discount.  You’ll find that others will chime up and ask for the discount.  Tell them that it will apply if they buy 5 or more items.
  • Start an email sheet to inform your customers of your next WILD sale.  

Price it higher if:

  • It is the first day of your sale
  • You are willing to keep it
  • It has real collectible value or is vintage or antiques
  • Know the value of the item at auctions like eBay

Discount your pricing if:

  • It’s the last day of your sale
  • You are relocating and holding a moving sale
  • The item isn’t selling or is an item that doesn’t sell well at yard sales

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

Throw Away Society

I can’t justify throwing a perfectly good shirt or pair of pants away when someone less fortunate than I can use it. And, I can’t see spending the money when no one notices.

Note: Talk about clothes…washable…OK.

JD talks about the advantages of shopping for used clothing at thrift stores.

Collect Odd Pieces to Create a Whole

blog1I also love to buy interesting parts and put them together.  In these pictures I bought three separate items, at garage sales or thrift stores and didn’t pay more than two to three dollars apiece. I save all my odds and ends in my storage area and put them together whenever I have things that seem to work together.

blog2In this arrangement I bought the pottery bowl simply because I liked the texture of the piece.  Then I found this amazing hand-crafted pottery top that obviously lost its better half, and put the two together.  I used them this way for about a year when I ran across this amazing deer stand.  The stand may actually be reindeer, perhaps a mishap from Christmas, but it works great with my mismatched pottery pieces.

Stack for Attention and Space

When arranging boxes, stack them one on top of another to create height, then display a great piece on top of them.  Tip: When arranging a large area, a stack of items count as ‘one’ and will give the height needed for a harmonious grouping. 

Many times I will buy risers or odd bottoms that can increase the height of a piece that looks better elevated.

Thrifty Tips from the Yardsale Queen

This is a guest-post from Chris Heiska, The Yardsale Queen.

Some people believe the myth that there’s only junk at yardsales and thrift stores. That is absolutely not true. Buying at yardsales doesn’t necessarily mean that you are buying someone’s used, dirty castoffs. I often find Christmas wrapping paper still attached to the box,
or a wedding card tucked inside of a box that was probably a duplicate wedding gift (and now the present that probably cost $40 in the store is selling for $5 at a yardsale).

The nicer stuff does get snapped up quickly, so persistence is the key. I often stop by the thrift store in my town two or more times a week to see what “new” stuff has come in. Often the cashier says to me, “Oh, we just put this out today.”

I can’t say specifically that shopping at yardsales and thrift stores is totally responsible for us living a debt-free life, but I know it has definitely helped. (Our mortgage was paid off in April 2000.) For instance, I’m not spending $99 for a metal two-drawer filing cabinet at Staples and putting it on a credit card; instead, I bought a similar one for $4 at thrift store. I don’t have high credit card bills since if I know I need something, I just wait until I can find it cheap at a yardsale.

Shopping at yardsales has enhanced our lifestyle — our money goes a lot further than buying retail. My son is enjoying playing in a $50 camping tent from Target that we have set up in the backyard. I paid $5 (still new in the box) at a yardsale a few years back.

Here are a few tips when shopping at yardsales:

  • Be sure to look over stuff carefully since things are generally sold “as-is”.
  • It’s easier to shop when I am not lugging my huge heavy handbag around so I wear a fanny pack. It keeps my hands free to look over items and carry stuff.
  • If you are buying something in a box, make sure its what it says it is. My friend was disappointed when he bought a printer at a yardsale and opened the box at home to find the seller’s old printer in the box, not the one pictured on the box.
  • Carry lots of change and small bills — much quicker to pay for something with exact change than waiting for the seller to make change.
  • When buying electronics, ask to plug it in to test it.
  • When buying a big item (like a desk or set of drawers), if you have to come back later with a truck to pick it up, take a piece with you — like a single drawer. That way the seller won’t be tempted to sell it to someone else who comes by later and offers more money.
  • Clothes can be a real bargain at yardsales. The downfall is that you can’t try them on to see if they fit. Sometimes thrift stores have dressing rooms. Make sure all the buttons are there and the zipper zips. I also check the label for cleaning instructions (if it says Dry Clean Only, I tend to stay away since I want wash ‘n’ wear clothing). I also try to plan ahead for any special event clothing we may need. When I saw a classic conservative black dress ($5) that could be used for funerals or weddings (multipurpose!) I bought it since I knew it would come in handy.
  • When buying CDs, VHS, or DVDs, check to make sure the right item is in the right case. Check the backs of DVDs and Cds for excessive scratches.
  • If toys are electronics aren’t working, check the battery compartment to see if they have corroded batteries inside. I keep a multi-purpose tool in my fanny pack with a screwdriver to check.
  • Look toys over carefully before giving to your child. I found nails and thumbtacks thrown in a canister of TinkerToys. For baby items, you can usually call the manufacturer’s toll-free number to find out if an item has been recalled. The safety belt on my child’s baby swing (that I bought at a yardsale) had been recalled and they sent me a replacement safety belt.
  • In general, I would stay away from buying a used baby carseat at a yardsale or thrift unless of course I personally knew and trusted the seller.
  • If you buy glassware, gently run your fingers of the edges. Sometimes your fingers can catch imperfections easier than your eyes.

Note that not every thrift store is created equal — some are run by volunteers and others are run for profit by storeowners. To find some non-profit thrift stores in your area (or to check some out while on vacation), visit

And when you do decide to check out your local thrift stores, flea markets and yardsales, you never know who you may run into. Celebrities who have been seen buying secondhand include Kirstie Alley, Jodie Foster, Clint Eastwood and even Oprah to name a few. If buying secondhand is good enough for them, it’s good enough for me!


This is just the tip of the iceberg. Visit Chris at The Yardsale Queen for more ideas on how to save money at garage sales and thrift stores.

The Secret Contents of a Diva Tool Box

I love tools. I’m talking hammers, wrenches and power tools.  I even created my very own trusty chick tool box that rides with me in my car.  Most of the tools are smaller, because there is no heavy lugging for this Diva.

And, yes, I do hunt for my tools at garage sales, flea markets and thrift shops.  When every other woman is looking at the chic cocktail dresses, I’m checking out the tools, the workbench and the hand-held power saw.  Hey, whatever works! 

My tool kit is stationed in my home and ready to throw into my car at a moments notice. I also find tools that are small and compact and easy to use.  I’m not a carpenter, but I’m handy (or I’ve become handy) and I only use tools that fit my size. 

Secret Contents of the Diva Tool Box

  • Small Hammer
  • Interchangeable tipped screwdriver
  •  Picture hanging kit
  • Assortment of Screws & nails
  • Stud finder (Guess I was looking for a Stud in all the wrong places!)
  • Nail file and polish repair (oops)
  • Tape measure
  • Pliers
  • Level
  • Handheld electric screwdriver
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Paint brushes-3 size
  • Small bottle of Turpentine
  • Carpenters pencil
  • Razor scrapper and razor blades
  • Stapler
  • Assortment of Tapes

The Diva Restoration Kit for Thrift Shoppers

Bringing out the beauty in the neglected but cheap treasures that I’ve found at some flea market or garage sale took a little creativity and some doctoring from my Diva Restoration Kit. Over time I have found most of these things from the very garage sales  and thrift stores that I frequent. 

It has taken me a while to find out which products work best and how and when to use them.

Here is a time saving list of my restoration essentials:

  • Old English oil stain (scratch remover) the most wonderful concoction ever!
  • Rags and paper towel
  • Permanent markers – all colors including gold, bronze and silver
  • String/tape
  • Glue remover – For those yucky price tags
  • White glue/ wood glue – for repairing ceramic or wood items
  • Pen and paper pad
  • Artist brushes
  • Sand Paper
  • Wood stain
  • Batteries
  • Light bulbs
  • Q-tips
  • Felt squares, double stick squares
  • Needle & thread
  • Paint sticks – these are great for fill-ins and come in a variety of colors
  • Magnifying glass
  • Glass cleaner/paper towels
  • Furniture polish

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