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Guest Post: How to shop Goodwill

March 4, 2011

Every time I blog about something I’ve found at Goodwill for my home, I always get this response from several different people: “I never find anything there!  What am I doing wrong?”

While shopping at Goodwill (or any thrift store) can certainly be hit and miss, it’s more about thinking/planning/imagining while you’re shopping. I certainly don’t find an incredible treasure each and every time I go, but I usually find something (big or small) to be excited about.

I usually hit the same areas of the store in the same order and try to keep an open mind all the while. Here’s a little rundown of a recent trip to my local Goodwill and what I found. . .

First stop–furniture. I usually scan the big items first since they’re the most obvious. If something really great is sitting out in plain view, I want to be sure I see it first. On this particular day, I found this great pharmacy style floor lamp sitting amongst the chairs and tables. Price tag? Just $6!
They’re used in all kinds of rooms–from modern to traditional, from formal to casual–and make excellent task lighting:

Almost without fail, you can find a random dining chair floating around the furniture section. I found one very similar to this style while I was there.  Although it may have lost its mates, it can be instantly updated with some paint and used for a fun office chair.

Next, I take a quick look through the dishes. I’m always on the lookout for pretty plates, saucers and bowls. On this particular day, I found this silver serving set that would be great to display on a buffet or console table.

I also always check out the art selection. I found this fun canvas painting, which would be a great addition to an existing gallery wall. I also keep an eye out for pretty frames that can be painted.

entrances/foyers - blue walls eclectic art gallery black banister white spindles  Graham Moss  blue walls paint color and eclectic art gallery

When I shop the lamps at Goodwill, I’m always tempted if there’s a pair.

Old ginger jar lamps are pretty abundant and can be painted to look way more expensive. I found a pair of these and imagine them in a bright color with a modern shade.

And finally, our Goodwill always has shelves full of glassware and old vases. By itself, one of these vases may not have much appeal, but several of them grouped together can become a pretty centerpiece or a creative way to display family photos.
Better Homes & Gardens

Hope you’ve enjoyed shopping around the store with me. If you’ve scored a great Goodwill find lately, we’d love to see. Upload it to the Goodwill Hunting group on Flickr and show us what you’ve found!
-Emily A. Clark

Stop by our Contributors page for more about Emily, or or read her other posts here.
15 Comments leave one →
  1. March 4, 2011 9:23 am

    I agree you have to keep an open mind when it comes thrift shopping. What might not look like much can be a hidden gem if you use a little imagination & elbow grease.

  2. March 4, 2011 9:37 am

    Love that first lamp!!!! Did you buy it? Which Goodwill was it at?

    • March 4, 2011 10:04 am

      Britt, it looks like Emily may have been shopping in our Franklin Square store (, but we’ll confirm that and let you know for sure!

      • March 4, 2011 12:12 pm

        Sorry–should’ve included that. Yes, it was the Franklin Square store. And, I didn’t buy them (I have 10 too many lamps already!) but there was a pair in great condition.

      • March 4, 2011 2:58 pm

        Thanks. I have been living in Charlotte for going on 14 years and I have never heard of Lowell!

      • March 4, 2011 3:02 pm

        P.S. I am going tomorrow morning. Cross your fingers those lamps are still there!

      • March 4, 2011 3:08 pm

        Good luck, Britt!

        ~Aleigh at Goodwill

  3. March 4, 2011 2:42 pm

    Emily, You shop just like I do and I agree it can be hit or miss, but I always find something fun that I can use or would look great in someone’s home. Great post!! Great guidelines to show the possibilities, KS

  4. March 4, 2011 3:37 pm

    Great entry! I have a very similar method. It’s still so hit and miss, so I tend to only stop in when I’m in the area, since there isn’t one super close by. Love the finds that you highlighted here!

  5. March 4, 2011 4:24 pm

    Great advice. I live near several goodwill stores (Salinas/Seaside CA area)and have a hard time finding “treasures”. I guess I need to keep looking. I have been thinking of getting some cool lamps for my bedroom.

  6. March 4, 2011 8:07 pm

    I do the same routine and have found that certain stores have better selection/pricing than others. I’m sure we all have our favorites.

  7. March 4, 2011 10:23 pm

    Excellent tips Emily!! I loved your trip through the Goodwill!

    Art by Karena

  8. March 5, 2011 7:14 pm

    The art and frames section are always our first stop! There’s nothing that makes us happier than finding something unique. We use thrift store frames (mostly from Goodwill) exclusively in our original mixed media artwork. It’s amazing what a coat of paint can do to a tired worn out frame! Here’s how we do it, and what we look for in a frame:

  9. March 7, 2011 1:46 pm

    Great post…will have to share this on Facebook, as I get so many comments from people as well saying they never find anything good either!

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