Me, I pack up water, cash, and a small snack and then I hit the road; for just a few hours I then become a modern day pirate in search of lost treasures. My hunting ground? I go to the Goodwill Outlet stores.
For those not familiar, Portland has dozens of Goodwills throughout the area, but my favorites are what locals call The Bins. They are given this moniker because everything is put in large trough-like rolling bins (organized only by a couple categories such as clothing, computers, shoes, books, and then everything else) and it’s up to you to dig through them and see if there is anything that catches your fancy.
Most of what appears before you has spent some time on a regular Goodwill shelf but for some reason it hasn’t sold yet — could be that it was priced too high, or that the condition was only fair, or it just hadn’t made a love connection at its first go-around.
Everything but books and glass is sold between .89 to $1.59 a pound, depending on how much you get, with a slight price break at the 10# mark and then cheapest at #25 plus. Books are one dollar for soft cover, double that for hard, and all glass — be it an enormous chandelier or a tiny espresso cup — is just 39 cents a pound.
I have been to various Goodwill Outlet Stores over a hundred times. Sometimes I just walk out with something small — a couple plates, a dress for my daughter — but many a time I have hit that 25 pound mark, enabling me to get everything for under a dollar a pound. For clothes or lighter items, it’s such a bargain that it’s worth getting something even if it doesn’t work out — I just give it to a friend, repurpose the fabric into something else, or donate it back to the clothing closet for kids in need in Portland schools. If it’s non-clothes, I just donate it back to Goodwill. The circle of thrift continues.
Often times much of what you find at the bins is newer items in fair – good condition, but occasionally I find brand new items or really interesting vintage things, some big, but usually small. Rummaging through these bins in a huge football field of a room looking for just one treasure is a hoot, a kick, and when you find something great, an adrenaline high.
Here is just a partial list of some of the things I have picked up over the years:
vintage bric a brac, cashmere sweaters, tissue paper, clothes for my entire family, 50’s Christmas stickers, gobs of fabric, backpacks, vintage plates, cast-iron skillet, Coach wallet, Legos, beads and glitter and so many craft supplies, puzzles, Barbie dolls and clothes, Tupperware, cookbooks, pans, muffin liners, stuffed animals for my dog, duvet covers, old and new jars, vintage greeting cards, wool socks, 50’s kitchen gadgets, Pokemon card collections, old stationery, vintage Christmas paper houses, marble pastry board, jelly jars with tin lids…
The Bins are not for everyone; they are daunting in size and haphazardness, goods can be dirty, wet or mildewed (though the staff does a good job of keeping most of that out), and some of the people who shop there are just downright rude (usually the professional pickers who are trying to make a living from their scores are the worst). Many a time I have come out of there with just so-so finds — stuff useful but not thrilling.
But when you find that thing — be it a pan, a sweater, an old Christmas decoration, whatever you were looking for or something that just plain found you –all’s right with the world. And it’s that very remembrance of finding gold that has magpies like me coming back again and again.