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How to Make Your Home Uniquely You with Second Hand items

Our style will always evolve, it will change slightly as we try to navigate what feels like “us” — just like clothing trends. We try different styles that fit our personality, our lifestyle (still talking about clothes here) and that goes the same for our homes.

But then we suddenly feel like we arrive in a more comfortable place. Maybe instead of going with trends we figure out what is timeless, for us. Because timeless style for clothes and home decor will be different for each of us that makes our heart pitter patter and our eyes go, “Ah ha! I recognize this feeling!”

So I thought I’d share some thoughts on the evolution of our home style and what I think has helped me decide what was my style, so you can hone in on yours – but keeping in mind, design is never done and our style and tastes are constantly evolving just like us!

colorful painted summer spring fireplace screen
  1. Look to Pinterest, watch YouTube videos and look through design books to see what images make you swoon.
    Since you are here, let me give some recommendations! Click on these authors to be taken to their books and place them in your cart! My favorite designers: Mario BuattaAshley WhittakerChristopher SpitzmillerJames T FarmerCathy KincaidMark D. SikesAlexa HamptonGil SchaferHomeworthy has wonderful home tours on YouTube! I watch many of them over an over again to study the interiors and details to look for on my next hunt.
  2. Ignore what is trending on Instagram.
    Social media can be a good place for inspiration and help you identify what you like, but ignore everything you see on Instagram that seems trendy or telling you what to like if you see it often. Just because you see it often doesn’t mean you have to like it. I personally am not into the boho desert look with arched doorways – but I can find beauty in them and homes are beautiful but I don’t want it in my home. You decide by looking at images or watching home tours on YouTube what catches your attention without the distraction of what IG is showing you to like. 
  3. Start adding and replace items slowly.
    Look at every item that you can replace. I slowly replaced any farmhouse items and blah beige items in my home as I came across newer items. Truthfully, it took me two years time to replace everything in my home to the style it is today which I may call eclectic upscale estate sale but I enjoyed the hunt and didn’t rush!
  4. Have something in every room that makes you a little bit nervous whether it’s the color, a boldness, a unique piece of furniture, something cheeky. It will add some personality or at least a story to your space. Think of an item (I have a leopard bench) or a wallpaper in a room. Thrift stores can give you the guts to try something different or bold at a small cost so do it!
  5. Before you buy, it should make you feel an emotion. Almost every item in my home has made my heart pitter patter. There is no “meh” in my house because there is no room for it! Your style doesn’t have to have a name or fit a category, you can like several styles like I do! It makes it eclectic but not in a messy way. I mix traditional with contemporary. When you at an estate sale sometimes you feel pressure to buy something but don’t! There’s always another one around the corner but if it makes you pause and you do a double take, carry it around with you so no one else snags it up. You can always leave it behind if you decide 20 minutes later it’s not for you.
  6. Keep in mind, you always change it. Doesn’t really work? That’s OK, resell it, donate it, you are free to change your mind. I have donated back to the same thrift stores I bought from a few months later realizing my purchase wasn’t a great fit. 
  7. If you are over 30, do not buy cheap. We have outgrown the age of building furniture unless it’s for a very specific dispensable purpose, (sorry IKEA but maybe for small things or the garage), it is time to buy already assembled furniture with good workmanship. I will never forget taking hours to put together a crappy tv stand, like 4 hours and I said to Benjamin this still looks like JUNK and I would’ve gladly spent money on a Pottery Barn TV stand! Even second hand you can find dovetail drawers, oak bookcases, and custom furniture. Use the yard sales, estate sales as a way to upgrade at a discount — rich people do this for their homes, trust me. The item might cost the same as new item at a big box store but you are getting a better deal because you are getting quality, hi dove tail drawers and solid wood! 
  8. Pay attention to what you donate. Is it the cheap stuff from Home Goods, Target? I love me some goodies from there too, but not all of it. The price you’d pay there is the same you’d pay at an estate sale for better quality. Like clothes, I tended to always donate the cheaper items that were trendy or worn too quickly. Now sometimes that is OK, but if you find yourself in abundance with bad habits that aren’t providing value in the long run, it’s time to change what you buy.

BUY second hand

Yard sales, thrift store and estate sales are a wonderful way to experiment, at the right price. It’s also probably better quality if it’s old (and you can paint it or refinish it). Not all estate sales are cheap, but you may find bargains that can allow you to take a risk for a very small investment.

Check out GarageSaleFinder.com and EstateSales.net. For thrift stores I like White Dove Thrift (for Phoenix).

Don’t forget your local thrift stores, and antique stores. A quick Google search will bring some around you – and if you are out running errands, pull up a map and type “thrift store” and see what pops up near you!

I think the more we buy and change things out the more we figure out what works. And once we’ve gone through all the trends we realize, wow trends are just trends and our house looks dated and we feel tired of it (maybe) so what look do you think you could love, forever? 

WHen I was confused with my style

I recall years ago being so confused on how to decorate my garden room and I looked to another influencer and thought what would she pick? and I would start looking but it felt like I was just finding a place holder to finish decorating a room. 

How to stay focused

It’s so easy to buy all sorts of things, and that’s OK because it is eclectic, there’s nothing wrong with that! But some of the time when you are out, it’s a good idea to do the check.

Ask yourself, Does this fit the look I want to achieve? 

You don’t need to do this all the time, just most of the time so that you can stay a bit on track with your purchases. Reading design books also help you recognize lamp styles, pillows, or shapes that give you the look you want, so study up. Check out my Amazon list of interior design books I recommend

Purge, purge, purge

What is also important is decluttering because as you bring things in, your place might look very confused like its struggling with an identity. My house looked style confused for two years, I was replacing items as I found them until it felt right. 

I would give away the items to my friends or donate before shopping at the thrift store. Look for places that benefit a cause instead of Goodwill — Salvation Army or White Dove Thrift (Phoenix valley) benefits the Hospice of the Valley. I will shop at Goodwill to get my bargains but I won’t donate my items there.

The thrill is the hunt and looking for inspiration! Have fun and work within your budget and take your time realizing what makes your heart excited!



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Diana Elizabeth Steffen setting the table for her annual garden party


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Diana Elizabeth is an author, photographer, and obsessive thrift shopper. You can typically find her in the garden wrist deep in dirt, at a local estate sale or planning her next creative themed party. She continues to blog weekly.


  • Lin Sue Flood

    Thank you so much for the lovely words about Hospice of the Valley’s White Dove Thrift stores! Proceeds from sales support our charity care programs for families in need… so very grateful to you for getting out the word to wonderful thrift shoppers in our community!

    • Diana Elizabeth

      Hi Lin Sue! Wow so great to get a comment from you :) My husband used to volunteer on the patient side many years ago (been busy with work but he hopes to one day go back to it). It is a wonderful organization!


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