Buy (nearly) all you need at Goodwill for a year
May 31, 2011
By Katie Melton
A local resident has taken up a unique challenge this year: to shop only at Goodwill for everything she needs — except for things like food, hygiene items and prescriptions.
Beautiful Existence is what she calls herself, a representation of her life and dedication to humanity design, according to her blog. Her motivation for the challenge came from a childhood of shopping at thrift stores and learning to live in an environmentally friendly way. She grew up on a farm in Olympia, where she says her parents taught her the importance of conservation and living frugally.
“I was actually in a thrift store with my mom last year and I thought, ‘OK, all these people do all these challenges. I wonder if I could buy from a thrift store all year?’” she said.
She started her blog and garnered some unexpected media attention, boosting her followers from 75 to 200-plus followers a day, most of whom leave comments on the site thanking her for the inspiration.
“This blog has a lot of extremely helpful info on it!” Leslie Cash, a reader, posted. “Thanks for sharing it with me.”
As a self-proclaimed woman with the “Goodwill golden touch,” this so far hasn’t been too daunting of a task. Over the past four months, she has learned additional tricks to make the thrift store experience a good one.
“Definitely have lists. I have two on my phone, one for personal items and one for Goodwill,” she said. “The Goodwill at the Dearborn location (in Seattle) is like a Goodwill Mecca. But you have to go in with your list, with about one to two hours, and go (during) an off-time.”
For those readers who are not as savvy with thrift-store shopping, the off-times would be weekday evenings.
“Do not ever go on a weekend,” Existence said. “It’s so overwhelming. It’s almost like going to a Nordstrom store when there’s a sale. But I do want to give credit to the other Goodwill stores. They all have their little gem qualities about them.”
She also uses her blog to educate people about how to be more thrifty shoppers, and what to do if they find themselves in a bind.
“Birthdays are kind of hard, because I can’t always find exactly what I’m looking for,” she said. “I often go to DIY sites and find something to reuse again.”
Another bump in the road came when she started getting her medical training. Existence works with AmeriCorps as a Volunteer in Service to America, more commonly known as VISTA, and she chose to go back to school to receive more training.
“I needed medical equipment and was really hesitant to go look in Goodwill stores. But, I went to shopgoodwill.com and found the stethoscope I needed. And it works great,” she said.
After her dedication to purchasing only from Goodwill is over, she said she would like to visit other thrift stores. As a volunteer with Seattle Children’s, she said she would like to become more involved with their thrift stores.
“One reason I chose the Goodwill was because I wanted a thrift store with a nonprofit background,” she said. “So, not only are you buying reused items, but your money is going to a nonprofit and back to the community. It’s like this big cycle.”
Existence wants to continue with her blog and her advocacy for a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. Her blog boasts many compliments on her work and experiences, but she said she would like to become more involved.
Her readers are also people outside of Washington.
“Just wanted to give you a shout from the valley of the sun, great information,” one reader commented. “Much appreciated.”
“I want to inspire more people to go to thrift stores and enjoy the experience,” Existence said. “I’d like to get engaged with more readers and find out why they go, and write about other things and other people.”
Five great buys
1 — Diane von Furstenberg blue suede and white leather trim make-up luggage case from the Seattle Dearborn store for $5.99 and found something similar (couldn’t find that exact piece online) for more than $300
2 — BCBG dress for $9.99, only about three to five years old
3 — A long-board my son picked up during his Portland birthday trip. You never find items like that, especially since they can be put on ShopGoodwill.com now.
4 — Velcro. It was the first item I needed to probably buy somewhere else for a work project, but the Seattle Dearborn store had a role of it.
5 — Underwear. Yes, underwear. It was the only item I swore I would not be buying during this year. But I lost baby weight and after I found out that the only underwear Goodwill sells is brand new, I picked up my first pair from the Bellevue Goodwill.
Katie Melton is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.