Gallery Frames: Before Pictures

It’s been a while since I’ve shared updates for the home improvement projects I’ve been working on. If you would like to know what our house looks like, I’ll tell you:

My house looks like an estate sale.

I’ve been buying frames at garage sales and thrift stores to decorate a few blank walls, and I finally started hanging them.

Not counting the smaller frames which I’ve had for ages, I gradually accumulated about twenty or so large frames that can hold at least an 8×10 photo, but most are even bigger.

I don’t often shop at garage sales, but if I happen to spot some frames as we drive by, I make Doug slow down to a rolling stop while I jump out and buy all the frames. Then I jump back into the car, and we continue on our way to Chipotle.

Garage sales are the cheapest place to find frames, but Goodwill had some amazing frames as well in the $3 to $6 price range, and that was so much less than trying to buy them at IKEA, which I also considered. (I didn’t want them to all match, anyway.)

After buying them and letting them pile up in the closet and garage for many months, I realized it was time to make decisions about hanging them. I had enough frames to make two full gallery walls plus a few extra to hang in other rooms.

I did hang them, but I still haven’t put new pictures in them yet.

Now the kitchen, living room, hallway, and two bedrooms all display mass-produced art prints from the seventies and eighties. What really gives the estate sale look are the $1, $3, and $5 price stickers in bright blue and pink.

estate sale frames

This week my goal is to order new prints.

I have so many projects that are almost finished, I’d really like to finish one a week, ideally.

I usually do a focus post on a decluttering topic every week, but during this time of year I’m thinking more about projects I would like to finish before the holidays get here. My house will surely become more simplified if I can finish a few projects. Thanksgiving is in seven weeks, and I am not even kidding about that.

Do you have any projects to wrap up before the holiday season starts?
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. Call me ambitious, but I would like to remove the large pile of empty cardboard boxes from my dining room and living room and get a table and a couch. Eating dinner on an exercise ball is getting sort of old.

    • “Eating dinner on an exercise ball is getting sort of old.”
      Jessica, You made me laugh out loud on that one. On the upside it’s great that we adapt so well to our environment. :)

    • On the other hand, research has shown that sitting on an exercise ball instead of a chair improves posture and concentration! ;)

      • It really is comfortable. It’s the only thing that I can sit on for long periods without my back hurting, and it’s awesome for stretching. I can see the concentration thing, especially since my foster dog learned to jump into my lap this morning. I am concentrating pretty hard on not falling off or knocking him off as I stabilize myself! :-D

    • I had fun imagining your plate balanced on an exercise ball. It’s early here.

  2. Robin from Frugal Family Times says:

    I love a god before and after, Rachel, I know yours will be great! For me, finishing projects is a great way to declutter! I often have supplies hanging around waiting for me to finally finish the last little thing of any project. When I finally finish, I can put the stuff away, physically and mentally.
    Robin from Frugal Family Times´s last post…Hard, Sweaty, Fun: Organize Your Day for YOUR Happiness!

  3. Those walls must look really creative right now!
    I would love to figure out how to decorate my home seasonally, without the decorations turning into clutter. There are a few spots I have in mind, and a few things I really would want to use, but I must work that out.

    • vermontmommy says:

      You know I have struggled with this. I am slowly finding a way to decorate for each season that works.

      For fall I have mums, pumpkins, a wreath for the door, and a garland around the door frame. I took a picture last year so I would know exactly what I had done last year. Oh, and I have a chalkboard that I have hanging on our porch. Each season or holiday I write a quote to go with it.
      Inside I have 5 white mini pumpkins on my fireplace mantle. I made a garland for the mantle out of burlap. I also have a little platter on my coffee table with 5 mini orange pumpkins and a few candles.
      It might sound like a lot but it really is simple. I only store the wreath and the two garlands. The rest are all able to go in my compost barrels (pumpkins and mums).
      What I like is everything fits and I don’t have to redecorate or store any items that we have the rest of the year.

    • I think you just have to be intentional about it. Picture the kind of look you want and stay true to that. I’ll add one piece at a time. Every time I walk by, I reevaluate, shift things around, add or subtract something, until I get it just right.
      Bridget´s last post…Financial Peace

  4. Growing up in a home filled with family photos – on surfaces all over the house – it is so much easier to clean when you have the art and photos on the walls rather than on every flat surface! Now with my own place, I look upon framed photos as less is more, unless they are wall art! ;) So I only have five special photos that are individually framed on a bookcase / nightstand. The rest are on the walls. Photos and art really make a house feel like a home.


    • Maria,
      I feel the same way about photo frames or anything else that has to be moved for dusting/cleaning — especially places that are cleaned often, like countertops. It’s so much easier to clean when you don’t have to move a lot of stuff.
      Bridget´s last post…Financial Peace

    • I don’t have any photos on flat surfaces, I have a “hall of fame” of our family (immediate and extended), which I add my pictures to as we get them. They aren’t hung in any order or neatly, just a bit all over the place with at least 4″ between them. Makes it fun when the cousins come to see where they are hanging.

  5. I’m excited to see the results! This is very different from how we approach hanging things on our walls (which are rather sparse).

    My one gallery wall is growing organically. Every time I’m near Michael’s or AC Moore with a coupon, I get a glass clip frame and they come out to $1-4 with the coupon. Then I add family photos. Here’s my blog post on that:
    Margo, Thrift at Home´s last post…Yogurt in Glass Half-Pints

    • Margo, I love the idea of growing a wall organically, though I haven’t tried it yet. I’m toying with the idea of doing an in process wall collage on a section of wall in the Master Bath (I figure I’ll start my experiment somewhere less public).
      Bridget´s last post…Financial Peace

    • I have an “organic” gallery growing up one side of my staircase, with an interesting mix of frames containing pages from once-loved books that have fallen apart, photos, prints i like, original paintings, smaller versions of movie posters, postcards; as well as decorative plates, all in frames that complement the piece they contain rather than each other or the wall colour. I also place tiny ornaments, toys etc on the tops of the frames if i want to display them as it keeps them out of the way of my precious empty worktops!

      It’s a bit higgledy-piggledy and very uncoordinated, but the space neutral enough decor-wise, and people don’t tend to spend hours on the stairs anyway!

      If i find a frame i like but have nothing to put in it, i crack open the drawer in which i stash the lovely things that i can’t quite bear to dispose of but can’t think what to do with – kid’s pictures, birthday cards, origami paper, a photo of my cat, and use that as a placemarker until something better turns up. Visitors usually spend a couple of minutes checking out what’s changed every time they come :)

  6. Oh, I so need to do this. I’ve been wanting to do a gallery wall for YEARS, but there are so many different sizes to choose from when it comes to frames, and zillions of pictures to weed through, and I get paralyzed by perfectionism. (Anyone? I know I can’t be alone on this!)

    Thanks for the inspiration to actually tackle it. I’d love to get it done before the holidays, and there’s definitely still time!
    Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy´s last post…5 Books That Make Me Feel Like I’m Not Crazy

    • I’m the same way. I went ahead and decided that I liked the look of 1″ thick black wood frames with a white matte around the picture. It provided some stability for my perfectionism but still allowed me to be creative. Our photo wall is a bunch of different, but matching, black frames… they’re hung up in such a way that it still looks nice and polished but creative. It was truly the only way to get past my paralysis, but I enjoy the finished product :) good luck!

  7. We just moved (ahem, two months ago) and we still have not hung a single thing on our walls. I keep saying “this weekend!’ but holy cow, Thanksgiving is in 7 weeks? We need to get on this!
    Ris´s last post…Book Review: Love, In Theory

    • Ris, two months? That’s nothing! I won’t tell you how long (okay, 2 years) I’ve had frames from the photo gallery in our old house in the attic. Rachel’s post has got me thinking about them again.
      Bridget´s last post…Financial Peace

  8. I love gallery walls. I love the ecclectic but cohesive style it gives a home. I also love the fact that the plantation picture in the last picture you posted is of Oak Alley plantation- only an hour from my home in New Orleans!

  9. I have so many hand craft projects (knitting, quilting, etc.) sitting around that I’m trying to keep only two projects running at a time – that way I can change projects if I’m bored, but having only two projects lets me see the progress. I’m wondering what miracle I would need to finish my two Christmas stockings (one done in cross stitch, the other quilted) by Christmas?

  10. I have a ton of frames that I need to find photos or prints for. These frames are currently sitting in boxes in my basement from our most recent move – 4 years ago. I started a photo gallery wall of family photos going up our stairs, but never finished it. Currently the most recent photos of my kids hanging there are from 8 years ago. I would like to get some more recent photos printed and hang them on the gallery stairs wall. Also, I’d like to paint my dining room. And paint the chandelier. Also, get rid of the carpet and put in hardwood. But maybe that’s too much to do in just 7 weeks.
    Anne´s last post…They Played With Angela

  11. I love gallery walls – I might have one in my near future so I am looking forward to seeing what you have up your sleeve.
    Emily´s last post…Get Organized in October

  12. Kathryn-Ann O'Brien says:

    I love the way you did this! I have photos & artwork, and I have frames. I have been thinking that I have to put the photos in the frames, then figure out how to hang them. I love that you looked at the frames – their styles, colors and sizes, and created the “windows” or “canvases” first. Then you fill them with art! This I can handle!! Thank you for this post!

    • I do this sometimes, and I’ve had a picture of the people that came with the frame on my wall for years. It still looks nice from afar. :D
      Bridget´s last post…Financial Peace

    • I was thinking the same thing, Kathryn-Ann. Sometimes it is good to live with part of the thing for awhile — in this case I think it would help me visualize what shots would look good in each frame, such as making sure the ones on the sides have photos of people facing slightly toward the center of the arrangement.
      Lori @ In My Kitchen, In My Life´s last post…Past Blast: Alley Cat

  13. Speaking of projects to complete before the holidays: I have several!
    I vowed that this year I will not be overly ambitious and plan twice as many as I can possibly complete. We’ll see how I do. I have found the key to success is to have my husband on board and make sure we are in synch about which things we will focus on.

    My big one is our master bedroom – we are going to strip the wallpaper from the previous owners (a festival of beige!), paint the ceiling, all the trim and windows and the walls, including pulling out the old shelving and hang bars in the closets and replacing with more functional organization systems, do a quick spruce up on the hardwood floors (fill the staple and nail holes from the old wall to wall carpet, a light sanding and then finish reviver), and then replace the missing base shoe. Whew! We are setting aside the next two weeks to focus on banging that out. At the moment our biggest dilemma is where to sleep ;)!

    Plus there are some one-day projects we are planning to get done between our regular fall fun such as trips to the pumpkin patch and apple picking. Those projects are: cleaning out the garage to get ready for winter (I live where it snows – cars go in the garage!), cleaning up/organizing the basement, sorting through and organizing the outgrown kids clothes, and I’m in the midst of a massive paring down and organizing of my own clothes – I’m still working on some baby weight from my 1 yr old so I have my “original” wardrobe which is still 2 sizes away plus the few clothes I’ve bought that fit now – that wardrobe “no man’s land” you go through after a baby… I am finishing that purge this week before we start the bedroom project (next week) as that will mean fewer clothes to relocate during the painting!

    There’s my list!

  14. Garage sales are a great place to find frames. It seems like every garage sales has at least one.
    Not sure where you’re going to order your art from – but has a great selection of hand made beautiful art. I love that site.

  15. Rachel, You’ve inspired me to put up my own photo gallery (the framed photos have been sitting in our attic since we moved two years ago).

    I love your arrangement and the mix of photos and art. Do you update your photos or just add newer ones in different frames?
    Bridget´s last post…Financial Peace

  16. So funny – I just posted on my blog yesterday about my obsession with gallery/collage walls! I love them because they are inexpensive, take up a lot of wall space (in a good way), and you can display multiple meaningful items in one place.

    I have a few projects I’d love to finish before the holidays. One is painting our Study, but with all the books and desks and stuff in there, the real challenge is just getting everything out of the room so we can actually paint!
    Kristin´s last post…The fact is…

  17. That is a reminder to work on the photowall that I started last fall after we moved…I need to have photos of my hubby’s family printed to hang up.

    Before the holidays, I need to hem the sheers and drapes in the dining room & living room (moved last year and it took until last month to decide which length they should be, so now it’s time to sew… I also promised i’d recover the dr chair seats (9) which are awful….buying the fabric on friday yay! those are the big things to do…I have some deep cleaning and organizing to do and sort through decorations, continue to organize and weed out things but I am actually feeling pretty good about how I’m situated this year, and i’m excited about making new decorations…we’ll see how that works out!

    oh…and there’s a ton of garden work to do but once that ends in november it will be focus on inside work!

  18. Tricia Sykes says:

    YES!! We are currently remodeling our kitchen and it definitely needs to be done before the holidays. Hopefully before the end of this month since my daugher’s 1st Birthday will be coming up soon after. I too have been gathering old frames from garage sales. I found a large 18×20 or so frame that I hung on my wall with 5 clip frames inside. GREAT way to make modern meet vintage, I have had several compliments.

    Next project is using two old curtain rods from the 30’s to hang pictures from and display on a wall.

  19. I love your honesty and sense of humour – it makes me feel a little less like a failure and a little gentler with myself :) Thank you.

  20. I typically go to Ikea for cheap frames, but this is a useful reminder to source garage sales.

    Also, “anyways” isn’t a word. It’s “anyway.”

  21. Funny….I just picked up 3 x large frames and 4 x smaller frames from an opportunity shop today. I couldn’t pass them up at $2 and $1 per frame.

    I am looking forward to seeing how your frames look after it is all finished. I need some inspiration.

    I am thinking of painting them. Since it will be my first step into painting, I am a bit apprehensive about getting all the “right” gear….so I’m really hoping that my frames won’t end up gathering dust because I put it in the “too hard” basket.

  22. I love that you haven’t waited to ‘finish’ the frames before getting them up. I suffer perfectionist leanings and with kids it’s impossible to think that way. I’m learning to live with what works rather than yearning for what will never be.

    I want to finish the cushions I started making in spring, the one that did get finished is lonely and the mismatched look bothers me, especially as they are not similar colour schemes, and to find bedding for the big bed in the toddler’s room to suit his new curtains.

  23. Your posts are always inspiring! I’ve had a picture hanging project long over do!
    It probably would help if I purchased the frames!!

  24. Our twin daughters are SUPPOSED to be born the day before Thanksgiving, but as I’m writing this in labor and delivery, it looks like they’ll be making their appearance sometime next week. I’ve been in serious nesting/decluttering mode for weeks now, and I have 2 projects left: our bathroom and the laundry room. Knowing that I’m SO close to being finished is driving me insane. Since they’re sending me home tomorrow and I’ll be on strict bedrest, my husband and I are Skyping tonight so he can show everything to me and I can make decisions about it. He also did the laundry and vacuumed our cars for us. That’s love, people haha

  25. I have been trying to clean out our garage so we can actually park the car in there!!! Not so much a “before the holidays” as a “before the weather turns really cold” project. (And time is running out fast!) :)

  26. It’s not frames that are the expensive part of pictures, it’s the mats. That’s what I wish I knew how to do!