5 Thrift Store Classroom Projects You’ll Want to Try

It’s easy to find classroom treasures if you know where to look.

Elementary teachers are creative, resourceful, and they have can-do attitudes! Of course, this often means working with a strict budget and doing a little DIY classroom decoration.

Like many teachers, I love to scour my local Goodwill and yard sales for deals that could work in the classroom. Plus, I might have also inherited my Dad’s penchant for trash picking!

With a little paint, ingenuity, and elbow grease, you really can turn trash into treasure. Here are five before and after DIY projects anyone can do!


1. File Cabinet Makeover

Metal file cabinets are a must for any teacher, but they are so ugly! I found a 2-drawer similar to the one on the left, at Goodwill for $3.00, and after a little spray paint and stick-on decals, I had a whole new look. This is going to be perfect for holding student folders. Total Cost: $13.00. Get more file cabinet decorating ideas.

 File Cabinet Makeover - DIY Classroom Decoration



2. iPad Work Station

I like to have a separate work station for my iPads so I can use it as a stand-alone math station, or just as a quiet work space for my kiddos. I found this table on the side of the road, completely free! Then I painted it with Dixie Belle chalk paint, glued meter sticks as the top (which my local hardware store gave to me for free), added some stain and polyurethane, and that’s it.  Total Cost: $15.00.

iPad Work Station - DIY Classroom Decoration


3. Mobile Chess

This was my favorite project of the summer! Learning how to play chess is an integral part of my classroom. We use it to practice counting money, fractions, and of course, strategy! I found this old typewriter table at a local shop for $20. I taped it off, painted a chessboard on the top, and now I have a mobile chess table that not only can be easily moved around the room, but also can stay in play! Kids hate having to clean up in the middle of a match.  Total Cost: $36.00.

Mobile Chess - DIY Classroom Decoration


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4. Rocking Chair Redo

This year I am transitioning from a general classroom teacher to a Gifted & Talented Teacher. My classroom setup is very different, however, I still need a reading nook!  I found this rocking chair at a yard sale for $5.00.  I had the cushion from a previous chair, so I simply painted it with Dixie Belle chalk paint. It is completely transformed. Total Cost: $14.00.

Rocking Chair Redo - DIY Classroom Decoration


5. Instant Bookshelf

My final project of the summer also goes in my reading nook. I found this book rack at Goodwill for $15. I painted it with Dixie Belle chalk paint, washed the canvas, and added new baskets from the Dollar Store. My classroom is a work in progress but in this last picture you can see it starting to take shape! Total Cost: $25.

Instant Bookshelf - DIY Classroom Decoration

I get many of my ideas from Pinterest, Etsy, other teachers, or sometimes just as I am poking around a flea market. Doing these projects gets me excited to go back!  Happy hunting!  I can’t wait to see what YOU come up with!