A Beautiful Mess Flea Market Shopping Tips

Since we started house shopping early last Spring I have become (even more) addicted to flea market shopping. The thing I love about flea markets, antique malls and vintage stores is that the selection is somewhat curated. Here are a few tips and tricks I have learned along the way!Flea Market Tips from A Beautiful MessIn the past I was guilty of snatching up every single cute find and good deal I could find. When we were preparing to move I did a major declutter, donating and giving away hundreds of pieces of clothing and housewares. It wasn't easy, and the experience changed my perspective on shopping forever. Now when I go into a flea market I look for super special items. I search for things that I've never seen before, that are unique or a special fit with my style and pieces that have personality and versatility. I learned to say no to items that are "pretty cute". This is the single most important tip that I would give to anyone who loves vintage and flea markets. It's easy to over-shop. Saying no is important. With this new habit I feel like I am getting more out of the flea market shopping experience. I come home with less and in return I have less clutter and appreciate each item I buy so much more!Flea Market Tips from A Beautiful Mess Regular shopping trips are key, especially when you are shopping for something in particular. I spent several months searching for this simple side table and this industrial cart. For whatever reason it's difficult to find that one thing you are really shopping for. Quick weekly visits to your favorite spots will increase your chances of finding that perfect something. I also stay organized by keeping a wishlist in my planner and keeping phone photos of my unfinished rooms that still need major pieces or wall decor.Flea Market Tips via A Beautiful MessI am a huge list maker. I mentioned above that I keep a wishlist in my planner. This is for items that I may have waited a long time to find. I have lots of items that I would love to find but don't actually need on this list. Long term "dream finds" are fun to search for. It's also important to keep an open mind. Sometimes when I am shopping for a certain piece of furniture for my home, I find something completely different I love even more. Remember to keep your eyes open for possibilities. There is usually more than one way to accomplish the look and feel you want to create in a space.Flea Market Tips via A Beautiful Mess I will be the first to admit the "fixer upper" items tempt me. I see a broken shelf or a chair with ripped upholstery and my first thought is ReStyle! While this is attitude great, there have been too many times when I brought a less-than-perfect item home only to let it collect dust in my basement for the next year or two. A solution that works for me is to only buy imperfect pieces that I plan to ReStyle immediately. If I can't wait to get started then I buy it. If I know I won't get to it for a while, then I don't.Tip 5A big question when it comes to flea market shopping is, "When should I splurge?" I too keep a thrifty mindset most of the time, but once in a while an item comes along that I would pay nearly any price for. How do you know the difference? For me, it's items I know I will keep forever. Incredible vintage, personality pieces and one-of-a-kind finds. When I see something that I know I'll keep forever, I buy it. This is a rare thing, maybe once a year does it even happen. I definitely think that forever items are worth a splurge!Flea Market Tips (A Beautiful Mess)There is a big difference between collecting things and hoarding them. I used to kinda hoard things under the banner of "collecting". Recently, I downsized my collection two ways. 1. I thinned our my collections. If I had 40 vintage scarves I would keep my favorite 10 and donate the rest. I started thinking of collecting from a quality perspective instead of quantity. 2. I evaluated all of my collections. I realized that there were a few things that I didn't really need anymore. There were also a few collections that I called complete, so I won't be adding to them anymore unless I find something insane. That's just a little about how I collect without overdoing it! I honestly feel I am enjoying the things in my home SO much more since starting these new habits.  

Thanks so much for reading! I also shared some thrift tips a while back. If you have any questions about flea market shopping, or tips of your own, leave me a comment! xo. Elsie 

  • I liked that you brought up that flea markets or other outdoor markets can be a great place to get “fixer upper” items. I have been wanting to do some fun furniture restoration projects for a while now. But I am having a hard time finding pieces to use. It seems like I should start looking at outdoor markets for them.

  • other than the very good tips
    I love how you designed and presented this post
    very pretty!

  • This is wonderful. I find that if you tell people you love owls (which I do) they buy you ALL OWL THINGS EVER MADE. So I find it’s easier to keep your collection to yourself a little, unless it’s a rare collection. People see my owls around the house, but they are no longer buying anything with big eyes and feathers haha.

  • Awesome tips! I live in Hawaii, and I miss the variety of mainland thrift stores. We have some interesting gems out here, and I’ll definitely keep your recommendations in mind next time i’m out shopping.

  • I needed this!! Currently searching for furniture to fill my new (and much more spacious) house.. it’s SO easy to get carried away and just buy every pretty thing!


  • Great tips! Will definitely keep them in mind.

    rosa @ rosa & fox


  • I’ve had to stop buying clothes that need to be fixed before I can wear them. I can start again when I actually fix the stuff I already have 🙂

  • Do you have any suggestions for how to locate flea markets. I live in the Richmond, VA area & I have looked online but nothing comes up. I have driven by 2-3 in somewhat questionable areas, they didn’t look too exciting & I’m not sure I’d want to go to them because of their location.

  • We’ve been virtually “hitting the flea” with our Armchair Junking series over at The Junk Drunk. Check out our recent post with a Book Ends round up, with a link to our recent Coffee Table round up as well. I hope you all like it!

  • thinned our = thinned out 😉

    yes! hoarded. good god, I know what that is.. definitely thinning out my collections too! yikes!

  • Great article! The store you guys visited is my favorite ever! We live in California but I’m from Springfield. We went back and visited last summer. It ended up being the last time I saw my Grandma, and the last thing we did together was visit this very market! Wonderful memories.

  • Hi there! I have to say, not only this post is SO helpful but also, those pictures are so stylish. I cant find words enough to tell you how much I appreciate your blog!
    When I go thriftshopping I mostly buy mugs! I cant help, I found them beautiful. But for all the rest, I am keeping your tips in my notebook!

    Olive xox

  • Marysia,
    There is no sales tax at charity thrift stores, but you do pay it at Flea Markets and vintage stores. 🙂

  • Great tips, they seem so obvious but sometimes I forget that things. Pity we do not have here such big flea markets.

    I was wondering. Do you pay tax in a second hand stores in US?

  • I LOVE flea markets! I am quite lucky to live less than 15 minutes from the Mile High Flea Market – I wish I could go more often! Thank you for the tips – it seems a lot of people are in the mindset of decluttering and cleaning out. It’s a good feeling!

    Stephanie May*


  • I think, that every body who appreciated flea markets and antique shops knows the feeling of being overwhelmed and buying everything that is ‘pretty cute’ or ‘a real bargain’. But after years of buying too much, I settled for guidelines very close to yours. Once in a while I tend to forget, so this was a nice reminder…Thank you!

  • Absolutely love vintage hunting! Next time you come to Phoenix. we’d love to show you our favorite spots!

  • Elise, your tips are great! I am currently trying to tackle the clutter that has accumulated over several years and it seems like an impossible task! I think I’m going to start living by the old saying, “if I bring something into the house something of greater or equal value must go.” but whenever I see a vinyl or vintage leather purse my mind just snaps and I must buy them all! Anyways, keep up the good work!

  • I wish we had flea markets like this over in the UK. Some great finds and I bet your home will look amazing.


  • I love this post! Such great tips. I’ve always wanted to find that special vintage piece!


  • These are good tips. I usually pick up all of the things I find interesting and before I check out, I narrow it down to just the best few things to try to minimize buyers remorse.

    Did you get the Dixie Cups album? I have that on my music wishlist. What a cool find!

  • These are such good tips. I too used to “collect” things, but then one day looked around and saw a cluttered mess. Thanks for sharing!


  • Ug number 6 has to be the hardest! I’m trying hard to train myself into these good habits. Thanks for narrowing them down into a manageable list!

  • Good tips, especially for a newbie shopper like me. I would love to see some of your splurge finds (or just links back to them – I am still newer to the blog so if you’ve posted before I may have missed them)!

    Great post!

  • I’ll have to try these out this weekend while trying to find a “new” desk 🙂

  • This is the perfect list and I can’t wait to go to all the flea markets now! Make it be summer.

    xo Ashley

  • I do pretty much all the things on this list except that I should probably splurge more on certain things. Thanks for the tips!


  • I became inspired by your blog and for the first time, went thrift shopping over winter break! It was amazing! There’s so many neat and unusual items that you normally wouldn’t find elsewhere. Thanks for the tips:)

  • I completely agree with the last one, being a collector and not a hoarder! Love it!

  • I need to start being more picky and not bringing home things that need to much work. I’m notorious for doing that.


  • My sister and I just went thrifting together this week, and it was so much fun. Plus, she offered a crucial second opinion on some of my riskier purchases.

    Teal cardigan with gold buttons and black trim? Sister approved so it must not be TOO crazy.

    I think shopping with someone whose opinion you trust is always a good idea. A friend can keep you from buying anything that’ll gather dust in your closet, or from swooping up a creepy figure that would look ridiculous with your collection of otherwise cute woodland creatures.

  • Everytime i go to the antique mall I come out with way more than I planned!!! These tips definitely help :]

    I’ve been meaning to try out their tea shop in the middle. So precious!


  • this tips are just fabulous! I love thrifting and flea market so much and these are great things to keep in mind!


  • Number 3 is great for regular shopping (like clothes and not vintage/thrift shopping) too! Thanks for the great tips!
    Have a great weekend!

    Juliette Laura

  • I’m going to have to start doing a lot more thrifting, the idea of finding gems is so enticing 😀

  • Really helpful post! I tottaly agree with ” be a collector but not a hoarder” 🙂
    Always love to ”hear from you” girls. 🙂


  • I like your tips, they’re very realistic. And you have perfect timing. I’m heading out to a few antique shops tomorrow!

  • Great tips!! Have a great weeken!

    Celine in http://cravingforbarneys.com

  • I’m just about to de-clutter my house. Here in Southern California with a high of 74 it almost feels like spring. It’s time to spring clean.

  • That pics are really so nice and I always like to find something great for inspiration. Have a great day.


  • Ohhh, I love the black and white photos. I used to be on the hoarding side as well, haha. Now it’s all quality over quantity.



  • I truly wish we had flea markets like this in the UK. We have little charity shops but nothing as good as these or thrift stores.

  • I love collecting vintage pieces! Great tips and lovely post! 🙂


  • I definitely suffer from the fixer-upper mindset. To help, I usually wait to buy it for 10 minutes to give myself time to think if I will actually DIY it or not. Usually its a not!

  • often if i really want something but don’t actually *need* it, like a certain sweet little fabric-lined straw tote last fall, i tell myself that if it’s there when i come back next time i will buy it. that gives the universe time to let someone else buy it, and me time to think it over. a couple weeks later, the bag was still there and now i can’t wait for summer picnics every time i see it 🙂

  • Great list! It’s important not to buy things just cause. One way ticket to becoming a hoarder! Have a great weekend.


  • Oh my gosh GREAT tips. I am so guilty of buying everything that is “pretty cute” and it’s SUCH a problem. As in, I could be on Hoarders soon. BUT, this is life changing. I am going to make an effort to just buy the truly unique things that I LOVE. Thanks for sharing!

  • I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again Springfield has the best flea markets and antique shops. Its my favorite part of visiting my in-laws in Springfield!

  • these are great tips! as a homeschooling mommy, i’m not very good about keeping a regular shopping schedule so i was definitely encouraged to make it a bit more regular. and i love your first suggestion about looking for things that are really special. that’s what i’m really trying to do in our new (to us) house. yeah, we don’t have much for art yet, and there are a couple rooms lacking some furniture pieces, but it’s ok cuz i know that we are going to love the end result if we can just hold out for those things that we really love! thanks for this post!

  • There are so many cute things on these photos!! xx


  • love this. there are so many good thrift shops around the twin cities, and i need to get better about frequenting to find the things i need there.

  • Saying no to “pretty cute” items is a big one for me. There are so many appealing items in thrift shops but that doesn’t mean we need to own them all, right?
    This post made me want to de-clutter my bedroom, and perhaps pick up some new, unique finds? It’s my weekend mission! You girls are always inspiring me.


  • Love this! Definitely agree on the restyle point. I’ve done that way too many times to count!



  • Thanks for this! I love to thrift as a hobby/time-killer but when I tried to do it more purposefully last year (when I was looking for things for my wedding), it was really stressful at times. What are some of your favorite Springfield area stores?



  • Great tips! I’ve had to tell myself to stop buying clothing that I think I’m going to revamp. I agree with splurging on very special items and to not be a hoarder…. all that vintage goodness can consume one’s self. Love your blog…you girls are very inspirational.
    Nothing but a Pigeon

  • It can be so tempting to break these simple rules- but they are very reasonable guidelines for the most exciting kind of shopping! I think the hardest thing is limiting the “fixer upper” purchases.

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