The Do’s and Don’t’s of Goodwill Shopping – An Unofficial Guide

As an avid Goodwill shopper, I’m always getting this question:

“How do you find what you really want?”

It’s no secret – sometimes thrift stores can be a bit overwhelming. When shopping traditional retail, we’re conditioned to expect a much more narrow selection than what most thrift stores offer. However, with just a bit of planning and patience, you can make your next thrift shopping trip a fun treasure hunt.

So, first things first …

Before you even leave for your shopping trip, be sure to take a look around your home for items to donate. It can be anything you’re not using anymore: clothing, household items, electronics, etc. Goodwill happily accepts all of these, even if they can’t be sold in their stores.

Also, you want to come to Goodwill armed with plenty of style inspiration. I recommend cruising Pinterest, or even visiting high-fashion street style blogs like The Sartorialist, before you come out to shop.

Now, let’s get started!

DO: grab a cart

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You could consider thrift shopping kind of like a full-contact sport – which means you’re going to need both hands. So, grab a cart to hold your bag and all the great items you’re bound to find.

DO: get the lay of the land

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Q: How do you eat an elephant?

A: One bite at a time.

Goodwill has so much selection and inventory, you probably want to familiarize yourself before you begin to shop. So, take your cart and do a quick spin around the store. Remind yourself of what you’re looking for and note where to find it.

DON’T: overlook whites (if you’re handy with dye)

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Transforming garments with dye is one of my favorite wardrobe hacks. But, when you’re practicing on your first few projects, it’s best to start with something that’s white. Thankfully, Goodwill of Orange County stores organize their selection by color.

DON’T: pass up something great because it’s out of season

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Just because you don’t need a coat now doesn’t mean that you don’t need a good coat. And, at these prices, you definitely don’t want to pass on something just because it’s out of season.

DO: look for the unexpected

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One of my favorite reasons to shop at Goodwill is that you’ll always find something unique and unexpected. Go ahead, take a chance on something unusual.

DO: browse the denim

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When did jeans get so expensive?!

Two hundred dollars? I don’t think so.

At Goodwill of Orange County stores, all denim jeans are $7.99

DO: translate runway styles with vintage garments

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The 80s called. They said culottes are making a big comeback. Lucky for you, the good people of Orange County donate all their vintage fashions so you can get creative and actually wear the original “vintage” styles.

And, if you’re super-crafty, the most dated of the dated dresses can be refashioned into something truly unique.

DO: embrace classic patterns and motifs

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See the pattern on these jackets? It’s called houndstooth. There’s no doubt that these vintage 90s jackets are classics some stylish fashionista will wear to impress.

DO: try things on

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Goodwill doesn’t take clothing returns – so do your best to make sure you try on as much as you can to ensure proper fit.

DO: know your measurements and take a tape measure

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In the event you can’t get into a dressing room, take a tape measure and measure garments against your own measurements. Lie the garment flat (if possible) and measure at the waist. Double that number and make sure it’s at least the measurement of your waist – and so on with bust and hip measurements.

I carry a small tape measure with me in my bag so I’m always prepared.

DON’T: forget accessories

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A wardrobe just isn’t complete without accessories. So be sure to keep an eye out for everything from wallets and scarves to shoes and bags. Remember, the key here is to look for the unique and unusual!

Shopping your local Goodwill store isn’t just a fun experience – by doing so, you actually get to do a bit of good in your community. When you shop and donate, it helps real people overcome barriers to employment.

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