The Mystery Thrift-Off, round one!

The Mystery Thrift-Off, round one!

Today is the day! The first ever Mystery Thrift-Off is underway! I’m so excited! I’m so excited!! I’m so … SCARED!

mystery thrift-off logo copy


I’m not really scared. Just EXCITED!

In case you are new here, here’s a quick rundown:

I’ve always thought it would be hilariously fun to find the most random and hopeless items from the thrift-store and send them to people, and then have those people give them makeovers, while I giggled maniacally in the background.  Goodwill thought this idea sounded fun too, so they agreed to partner up with me and The Mystery Thrift-Off was born!

To begin, I needed to find out if anyone actually wanted in on this party, so I created a little online application looking for participants and was stunned to have over 250 people apply! It was super  tough to narrow it down, but I eventually did, to twelve participants.

Then, the fun part: shopping! And it was fun! And also waaaaaaay harder than I expected. I needed to find 12 makeover-worthy items, small enough to ship, tragically awesome but not too tragic. I didn’t want to like, send someone a bag of hair or something. That actually almost happened. Pickin’s started getting slim, and that bag of wigs in the corner started to seem like maybe a good idea?

After several days of hunting, and hundreds of laps around my local Goodwill stores, and carefully assessing the potential of every single oddball item I came across, I was very much losing my mind and starting to scare the other shoppers. No one wanted to upset the crazy lady fiercely staring down the clown figurines and muttering to herself.

me at goodwill going crazy

But I think I ended up with a good mix. The items in the contest range from quirky to mundane to what-the-heck-is-this? I lovingly packaged them up and sent them off to meet their fates.

me shipping packages for the mystery thrift off

The rules for each participant were simple.

1. Take your mystery item.

2. Give it a makeover.

That’s it. I didn’t care if they completely dismantled their item and created something entirely unrecognizable. No rules! Just makeover magic.

Today I am showing you four projects, then four more tomorrow, then the last four on Wednesday, then we’ll have a big vote on Thursday and announce the winner on Friday!


So let’s not wait any longer!!! Without further ado, here is our first Mystery Thrift-Off project from Brittany, aka Pretty Handy Girl. I knew she could handle anything I threw her way, so I threw this:

before christmas village

I think it’s a Christmas decoration. Honestly, if it had been left to me, I would have created maybe a slightly nicer looking Christmas decoration. Not Brittany.


handy lemonade sign




handy welcome basket


handy octopus playhouse 2

She made THREE projects! First, she took the center piece of the decoration and created this adorable arrow sign for a lemonade stand. (Funny story, she actually posted the arrow sign picture to Instagram immediately after posting a picture of the before decoration, and no one spotted it!)

The second item is a housewarming gift caddy made from the right piece, brilliant. Then she let her son paint the left piece, which he made into a little house for his stuffed octopus, and oh my gosh my heart wants to explode from the cuteness and happiness that it brings me.


Moving on to the next Mystery Item, two very exciting bags of craft sticks.  These were the very last items I purchased, when I was starting to get desperate and crazy and truly deciding between this and the bag-o-hair.

I knew Mary at Sweetwater Style would have a vision however, even if I didn’t.

before popsicle sticks


popsicle sticks growth cha copy


popsicle sticks after

It’s a growth chart! It took me a minute to spot the sticks! They turned out to be the perfect size for making increments on a growth chart, which Mary was planning to create for her cutie-pie grandson anyway. Good thing a couple bags of craft sticks just happened to drop into her life!


This next items needs no explanation. Only because I don’t know what it is. Some kind of decorative relic. It’s similar to a dream-catcher, only covered in stiffened twine, pinecone pieces, and a thick layer of dust. So, not really a dream-catcher at all. More of a sneeze-causer.

Let’s find out what Tracy at General Splendour did with it …

before wooden wheel


wagon wheel tray 2

circle tray makeover

How cute is that? Not only is it an adorable little tray with adorable little feet, she made the inner layer interchangeable, so she can use it to decorate for the seasons. She’s a smart one, that Tracy.

Tracy also sent me some pretty hilarious outtake photos of this project on its journey to completion. Check out her link above to see for yourself!


Finally, Sage and Naomi, the gals from Plaster and Disaster received one of my favorite items in the contest: this plastic cactus. You should have seen the terrified look on my husband’s face when I came bounding down the aisle at Goodwill, triumphantly waving it overhead.


before cactus

It was so funky up-close. Not in a good way.

before cactus close up


Mystery Thirft Off  - After Alone - Plaster & Disaster

Mystery Thirft Off - After - Plaster & Disaster


As you can see, they painstakingly scraped off that layer of glued-on sawdust and turned this thing into a side table! I mean. Look at that. It’s simply genius. I’m so proud of that funky little cactus and how far it has come.

Just watch, now we are going to start seeing cactus end tables showing up in all the decor magazines before you know it. Mark my words. Better trademark this thing Naomi and Sage!


What did you think? I can’t wait to hear your thoughts.   And be sure to check out the next group of projects in round two! (Remember, voting won’t happen until Thursday, after we’ve seen them all).



Redesign By Goodwill - Peoria 7-26-12


Huge thanks to Goodwill for making The Mystery Thrift-Off possible!



  1. June 8, 2015 / 6:07 AM


    Those transformations were mindblowing. Especially the first one with the house. I don’t think I could ever have that much creativity.

    This project seems like so much fun!
    I can’t wait to see the rest!

  2. just justin
    June 8, 2015 / 6:23 AM

    AMAZING! These are just AMAZING! I love them all. 🙂

  3. June 8, 2015 / 6:32 AM

    Oh my goodness, the competition is fierce already and it’s just Day One! We’ll distract ourselves from the nervous jitters by getting the paperwork started on our trademark application for cactus side tables.

  4. Jessica H
    June 8, 2015 / 6:42 AM

    Wow. I tried to think of what I would do with the things before scrolling down to see the makeover. All of these are WAY better than what I came up with. I love that all of these became functional useful items. Great recycling!

  5. June 8, 2015 / 6:45 AM

    Contestants, you rock!!!! So delighted with the makeovers, I am nearly speechless. Lindsey, excellent item choices – evil yet not demonic. Well, maybe the cactus had a whiff of Satan.

  6. June 8, 2015 / 6:48 AM

    Seriously amazing. All of them. I’m so excited for the rest of the week! And everyone is even styled so well. Great job, contestants! 🙂

  7. June 8, 2015 / 7:13 AM

    WOW!!!! This is so much fun!! I love these SO much!!!

  8. Barbara Bray
    June 8, 2015 / 7:34 AM

    When I looked at the “before” picture, I thought, Man that Lindsey is MEAN! Nobody could come up with something cute and useful with that stuff! I was completely blown away! I loved them all! Can’t wait until tomorrow!

  9. Helen
    June 8, 2015 / 8:04 AM

    Contestants? No.


  10. June 8, 2015 / 8:21 AM

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this feature! Makes one think outside the box when thrifting ..and adds a new meaning to One mans trash becomes another’s Treasure!
    Looking forward to seeing the other MYSTERY Thrift-Off posts.

  11. Lisa E
    June 8, 2015 / 8:28 AM

    Over from Pretty Handy Girl. What a fantastic idea and such creativity shown! I definitely don’t have that gene, yet I’m good at copying. Reading stuff like this might have been looking at things differently and help me along!

  12. Ann
    June 8, 2015 / 8:41 AM

    Brilliant makeovers!

  13. June 8, 2015 / 9:21 AM

    So many creatives out there!!! I love how each contestant did a little thinking outside the box and came up with some fantastic makeovers. I seriously want a cactus side table now!!!!

  14. June 8, 2015 / 9:35 AM

    The creativity is unbelievable! I adore the growth chart and cactus table. How in the world do you expect us to choose just 1!!!!!

  15. AnnieO
    June 8, 2015 / 9:57 AM

    I think I would cried if I’d opened the dream catcher one. I KNOW I’d have been totally stumped by all of these! Excellent work, all!

  16. Amie haroldsen
    June 8, 2015 / 9:57 AM

    Wow, these are all so great, so creative! It’s going to be hard to judge!

  17. June 8, 2015 / 10:12 AM

    This is a really fun way to push creativity for reusing old items. Thanks for sharing!

  18. Dharma
    June 8, 2015 / 10:13 AM

    From downright CRUEL to upcycled CREATIVE! Way to go contestants…

  19. Hil
    June 8, 2015 / 10:50 AM

    Wow, they all did a great job with the ‘special’ items you picked 😉 I love the cactus table!

  20. June 8, 2015 / 11:17 AM

    These are incredible! Especially the cactus table, I bet they sell that already at West Elm. I have to go now and google “cactus table”……………..

  21. Kelly P
    June 8, 2015 / 11:19 AM

    OMG – I really really want that cactus side table!!!! These transformations are so impressive!

  22. Eunice
    June 8, 2015 / 12:14 PM

    You selected the the perfect people to do these! Absolutely amazing!

  23. June 8, 2015 / 12:23 PM

    OMG Lindsey. This is SUCH a great idea. I wish I had thought of it myself! These projects turned out amaaaazing. THAT CACTUS! Ok and let’s be honest, everything about her staging in that pic… UGH! Yummy!

  24. June 8, 2015 / 1:53 PM

    I want the cactus table – brilliant! The other two are also great; I would have had no idea what to do with the dream catcher or christmas ornament.

  25. Mumzy
    June 8, 2015 / 2:10 PM

    UNBELIEVABLE!!!!! I can’t believe the cute ideas!!!!

  26. andria
    June 8, 2015 / 2:16 PM

    I’ve been so excited for this and am thrilled that it’s started off so awesome! Enjoy all these and am so inspired!

  27. Kimberly
    June 8, 2015 / 3:13 PM

    I’m so impressed with the creativity of each and every one of these! Wow! Great ideas all around!

  28. June 8, 2015 / 3:25 PM

    As I scrolled to see each reveal, my words were WOW, WOW and WOW. What great ideas. Whodathunk that dream catcher looking thing could become something chic and useful? The carrying box is a perfect gift for a housewarming or hostess and I love that Brittany involved her boy. The cactus table? well, I’d just repeating what everyone else has said and is thinking. 😉 The growth chart is pretty genius, too.

    These gals did an awesome job. I cannot wait to see the next 3 pieces.

  29. June 8, 2015 / 5:38 PM

    oops, I mean, ‘the next four pieces’

  30. June 8, 2015 / 5:44 PM

    Can’t believe the reveal day is finally here – all your readers have been so excited to see the items you chose and the “betterafters”. These makeovers are SO awesome and super fun! Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this! Cannot wait to see the remaining eight items!

  31. LeeAnn
    June 8, 2015 / 6:14 PM

    Just awesome! Can you post Tuesday’s now? Like right now? This is so fun!

  32. June 8, 2015 / 6:53 PM

    Crazy levels of creativity!

  33. Nikki Moshier
    June 8, 2015 / 7:15 PM

    Those are just wonderful. There are some super creative people are out there!

  34. June 8, 2015 / 8:30 PM

    Ummm .. I LOVE that cactus table. And I don’t generally care for cactus. Seriously adorable! Makes me want to find something to turn into an awesome side table like that!

  35. Maria from Oz
    June 8, 2015 / 8:44 PM

    I know exactly how these contestants got their creative ideas. They sucked up tons of cactus juice…fermented that is! You can see each one has a homage to it in each photo, the ‘lemonade’, the ‘wine’ in the basket…Ok, the kid has the evidence stashed in his basket by the end of the cot (granny took it back out later), and the cactus is all the evidence we need in the end photo. One of those sneaky ovbvious nods to good ol’ ‘creative juices’

  36. Elizabeth
    June 8, 2015 / 8:56 PM

    These are all so amazing and creative! What a fun project, and what great participants! Bravo!

  37. staci
    June 8, 2015 / 9:24 PM

    This is such a fun idea! Love them all, but the cactus table really is the most surprising redo because it turned out so good (and was so awful before 🙂

  38. June 8, 2015 / 11:35 PM

    I love the cactus side table! All of these are wonderful! Yay for people!

  39. Cheryl Buchanan
    June 9, 2015 / 9:21 AM

    Absolutely Love Goodwill “junk”! This looks like so much fun and I’m enjoying seeing all the neat projects the ladies have put together for us. Can’t wait to vote!

  40. Amy U
    June 9, 2015 / 2:39 PM

    That tray is a miracle! I thought maybe just firewood, but even then I wasn’t sure.
    Totally off topic but I recall someone whining in the comment section about all the ads on your site and thought hmmm. Doesn’t seem so bad. Fast-forward to now: Now there are more ads than content. Just sayin.

  41. June 9, 2015 / 6:43 PM

    This is such a fabulous idea! Great makeovers. I’m loving that tray.

    Stephanie @ The Styled Soul

  42. Patty
    June 9, 2015 / 9:26 PM

    Oh my! I love that cactus table. I so wanted a cactus in my yard when I moved to AZ and that would be perfect. Now I’m going to have to keep a look out for plastic cactus of my own.

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