My 10 Rules for the ReStore

The Habitat for Humanity ReStore is an excellent DIYer and Maker resource for tools and materials at a good price – and for a good cause. They have locations across the country and I’m a frequent visitor. The selection’s different every time, and the merchandise reflects the region of each particular store.

My 10 Rules for the ReStore

You’ve seen my video about finding a vintage Craftsman drill at the ReStore.

I encourage you to check out these retail locations, and I offer up this guide to getting the most out of your excursion.

1 – Make a Shopping List – But Don’t Stick to It

If you know you need a door, you can go there for a door. Take the measurements you need and look for one that fits. But this isn’t the Home Depot. You may not find your door on the first try.


With larger items like doors, windows, cabinets and furniture there will almost always be a selection to choose from, but if you have something very specific in your head it might not be there. Be flexible.

2 – Don’t Make a List at All

For smaller items, think of the ReStore as a garage sale, tag sale, yard sale – whatever you call it where you are. You know the kinds of things you like, but keep your mind open. For some reason, there might be a whole bunch of pulleys that day, or oil pumps or a defunct propane heater.


If you have very specific shopping to do this may not be the place. It’s definitely the place if you go in with discoveries to make.

3 – Projects Inspire Finds

If you’re putting in a tile floor or backsplash, go see what kind of tile they have on hand. Usually, there are stacks and boxes of it, brand new, from overages on other jobs. Remember the “be flexible” rule. Of course, this doesn’t apply just to tile.

4 – Finds Inspire Projects

What if you’re not doing a tile job, but you find a box of interesting tiles? Maybe it’s time to make coasters or a mosaic tabletop. This is my favorite way to shop the ReStore. What’s there and what can I do with it? It’s a treasure hunt. There might be a bumper pool table with no base…

bumper pool

…or a banged up dolly that once held a stack of chairs (now absent). Both of these are now on my to do list.


If you see something like this, buy it.

yoni 2

5 – Jump at Opportunities

They were unloading this donated lightbox table from a truck and I happened to be there. It didn’t even have a price on it yet.

light table

I claimed it immediately and brought it home. Now it’s my bar.

bar 2

6 – Take Risks

I bought an 18 volt Ryobi battery for $10. Brought it home. Didn’t work. To me this was a better gamble than any money I ever lost in Vegas.

7 – But Don’t Buy Everything

Sometimes, you see something interesting, but you’re not sure what you’d do with it. No one has unlimited shop or storage space, so pass on things that you really have no use for, no matter how cool they seem.


8 – Unless…


Picture your future-self one week from now. Are you kicking yourself because you didn’t get that thing and you know it’s gone now?


You better get it.

If future-you forgot about it – pass.*

9 – Consider Where You’re Shopping

Upcycling is fun and even environmentally responsible. But it can also ruin a useful thing that can still perform it’s intended purpose. If you’re like me, you’re at the ReStore looking for your next project – that’s not to say that you or I have unlimited funds – but there are other people there because they can’t afford a new drill at Lowes. Consider if you’re taking something out of the hands of someone who can put it to better use. Or consider if you can apply the refurbished green motto, championed by my friend Carla Bruni – “Reduce – Reuse – Repair and put that tool back into useful shape.

Someone shopping the ReStore for an affordable drill could have bought the old Craftsman I did, but they’d be better off if they didn’t.

10 – Give Back

Finally, you’ve got some good deals and found some unique stuff at the ReStore. When the opportunity arrises, donate something to them – maybe the tool you repaired based on rule 9. When I moved out of my house, the ReStore got my couch, a bunch of chairs, two amoires, an elliptical trainer (practically untouched), an assortment of tools and a cable spool I never figured out what to do with.


*This rule also applies to junk shops, antique stores, abandoned furniture and dumpster finds.