Author of three books: "Three of Cups," "Jaybird's Song," a southern novel that debuted in Feb 2017; and "You've Got a Wedgie Cha Cha Cha," a compilation of favorite columns from the Dunwoody Crier newspaper. Both are available via Amazon.com.
More: Commercial Writer, Graphic Designer, Realtor, 16-year columnist in the Dunwoody Crier, candlestick maker, mother, daughter, wife, sister, friend
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Do you see the vibe I’m going for here? The bathroom off my laundry room is my current playground, and before minds go in a weird direction, I’m talking about filling my walls with all that’s interesting, colorful and mindful of tropical places I’d rather be.
Goodwill, of course, is my second choice of places to be, and I’m uncovering all kinds of fabulous finds amongst its aisles to fit the Low-Latitude Kitsch vibe.
Weird thing is, I’ve never been much of a souvenir person (lest it be a cool pair of earrings or something completely functional) but somehow other people’s castoff bring-home-from-the-tropics stuff has me twitterpated.
All of it: Mexican Train*… The Goodwill Project… Life…
The Goodwill Project is a game that I play with myself. The self-imposed procedures I have inflicted for this year-long adventure include how I maneuver each section of the store, how much I can spend, sections of the store that completely avoid, and aisles that I make a selection from almost every time.
The toughest part, of course, is the unwritten reality that only I police the rules. So avoiding buying things I don’t need requires a whole new set of adjunct rules that are multiplying just as quickly as they are being ignored.
No more baby clothes unless they are tagged with the color of the week.**
A “do-I -really-need-it?” narrative forced through my head in triplicate and confirmed with an audible, “I do.”
Double points if it’s teal.
Teal is kind of a new game in itself: I’ve always been a warm-color girl and my house has been filled that way, but I’m playing a little game to see if I can introduce teal into as many rooms as I can. Not only does it add a little precocious fun to my decor, but it gives me a whole new category to search for at the Goodwill store.
More Goodwill fun: I’ve added two new ideas to my list of future blogs. Stay tuned and I’ll tell you about Goodwill’s color of the week** and the Mexican Train* dominos set I found.
Big changes are coming my direction and I’m prepping in all kinds of ways.
The summer that my youngest daughter was 10, she went somewhere for a week and Tom and I completely redid her room. She adored it and I’ve had little inspiration to change it since she flew off after college.
Then I learned about Baby Jolly and his October ETA.
Our first grandchild and the first great-grandchild on his maternal side, this baby was the catalyst for The Goodwill Project in many ways. My earliest thoughts after learning the news: 1. I need books to read him. 2. I need a proper place to change his diaper. And 3. Am I really old enough to do this?
So naturally, I colored my roots and headed to Goodwill. Somewhere along the way came an inspiration for a year-long adventure with Goodwill and a total room re-do.
Quite shockingly, I got Tom to join me in a Saturday morning circuit of six Goodwill stores last month and we came upon a tattered dresser with a $29.99 price tag that we knew we could transform. A little sanding and painting and we ditched the glass top and instead inserted a base where we laid penny tile. After it’s grouted, we will add a front rail and a cushion. When it’s not a changing table, it will serve as a cute dresser in the newly designed room.
My library is now stocked. The room inspiration is well on its way. And I’m not getting any younger as I count down the weeks. Looks like I’m well on my way to Kiki-dom.
These rectangular glass plates are easy and fun to find at all the second-hand spots, and even more fun to use when throwing a wedding or baby shower, or hosting high tea when one of the royals gets married. (Or dies. God rest your soul, Prince Phillip).
They are the perfect size for carrying as you mingle and chat, and they have sections for your sundry hors d’oeuvres and a rimmed section for holding your punch cup.
You can tell they are from the ’60s because there is also a slot to hold your cigarette. And what’s more Betty and Don Draper than to have a cigarette burning a little hydrogen cyanide, benzene and arsenic into your your petit four and Modhouse punch as you flit about at a party?
I picked up a set of four, complete with the punch cups, for $5.99 at the Goodwill Store and I think I’ll collect them for a while for a couple of the girls in my world.
Pro tip: They work pretty well too for holding pigs in a blanket, a cheese log, Spam squares and olives, or a big glop of pistachio salad when you want to binge an early season of Mad Men. Rat your hair, put on your pearls and pumps, and it’s just like you’re on Madison Avenue.
A baby boy this way cometh, and this girl, this family, this set of new grands is over the moon.
Upon learning this news early in the new year/early in the process, I was immediately hushed from sharing. Instead I’ve spent the last couple of months secretly celebrating each week’s growth via updates from my daughter’s Cute Fruit pregnancy app as He-Who-Has-Yet-To-Be-Named has grown from the size of a raspberry to a lemon to an avocado and a mango.
And I assessed my readiness.
An early valuation determined a shortfall in my library. Outside of cuddling and changing and feeding and burping, I realized that reading books to my new grandson will be one of the first things I can do with him, but my tendency to clear the clutter so that I can bring more in had depleated my stash. And despite a long-time goal and earnest determination to make “Mr. Pine’s Mixed Up Signs” a third-generation favorite, I knew I’d need some variety and replenishment.
So I went to Goodwill.
Now the secret is a secret no longer, and I can admit at long last, that indeed, the pursuit of a well-stocked children’s library was the impetus behind this project and newly-found Goodwill passion of mine. And in just a few months’ time, I’ve collected quite a nice bounty.
Hardback children’s books are just $1.51, and paper ones are 77 cents at Goodwill. Early on I had to establish rules for book buying: One selection per visit. Double points if it was a favorite of my own children. Highest consideration to hardbacks with no writing inside. When I get home, I disinfect each with Lysol wipes and practice a few pages out loud for my October debut.
So my secret is out and I think I’m gonna rock this new role.
And for Mr. Pine : I predict a full-on resurgence.
I find that looking for Goodwill finds can be broken down into three categories.
First are the sought-afters: I’d like to replace a deck chair or two. I collect Candlewick dishware. I’m redoing a bedroom and will need a new lamp.
I always have my eyes peeled for the sought-afters when I scour the aisles of the Goodwill stores I frequent. Fair warning: Arguably the best part of Goodwill shopping, finding a sought-after is both brilliant and dispiriting at the same time. It’s best to always have another seek-out idea in your back pocket and always maintain a robust sought-after list to keep the thrill-of-the-hunt sizzling.
Next are the delights: Delights might be things you never thought you’d see. Like some oddball thing you can’t imagine dropping off for donation because who in their right mind would want it? (Someone always does, BTW. See previous blog regarding seashell collection in a chocolate covered raisin tub.) Delights can also be things that bring back memories. Like the tattered Mystery Date board game, or the ceramic hobo toothpick holder just like my grandmother helped me make.
No question, delights are be the best part of Goodwill shopping.
And then there’re the unsullied hole-fillers: The answers to questions you never knew you had. The missing piece you never knew was missing. The thing that makes the whole so much grander than its parts.
Unsullied hole-fillers can whack you in the head at any time with the perfect thing you never knew existed, and yet it perfectly fills a hole that opens up the moment you see it.
I never knew there was more to the set, but I found a little brown bowl that matches a brown ceramic serving tray I’ve had for many years. The bowl completes an ensemble that opens up a whole new list of things to serve: Now I can add olives to a cheese tray, salsa to a plate of chips, or even soy sauce packs to a tray of sushi rolls. Suddenly the brown tray with matching bowl is complete, and now my first-in-line go-to.
My Jerry McGuire found a Dorothy Boyd.
Unsullied hole-fillers: The best part of Goodwill shopping.
And I’ve looked for it ten thousand times or more over the past few years.
A yardstick is something all homes had when I was growing up. In particular, I remember Grandma McClish using hers for a million things; whether she was separating tomato plants, calculating position as she taught me how to hang wallpaper, or was measuring a grandchild’s summer growth spurt.
I misplaced my yardstick and I’ve missed it. I suppose yardsticks are readily found at the right place; maybe Ace Hardware or even Home Depot. But it’s never been a top-of-mind priority when I’ve been there. So instead, I’ve spent a half-dozen years or more looking for my yardstick and wishing it was available when I needed it.
And then The Goodwill Project happened. Someone’s discarded, means-nothing donation found its way to a Goodwill Store I happened upon and my happiness multiplied with a single 99-cent purchase.
It’s not a full-on yardstick; rather it’s three tri-colored 12-inch rulers that unfold to a full 36 inches. It must have been a giveaway because it’s branded with “Johnston’s Home Furnishings, 5441 Buford Highway” marks and I love it even better than the yardstick I lost. It fits in my kitchen drawer and it has a lot more history and charm than any yardstick I might have remembered to put on a shopping list.
I googled the address for the apparently long-gone Johnston’s and it’s on the east side of Buford Highway just inside the perimeter. I’ve been around long enough that I wish I remembered Johnston’s Home Furnishings, but I don’t. But the memory lives on and I offer this to whomever might know of, be part of, remember, shopped at, or loved Johnston’s Home Furnishings: My new unfoldable yardstick will be a part of my home forever. A promise made and committed hereforth on April 25, 2021 by Kathy Wilson Florence, Goodwill groupie and yardstick aficionado.
A little more than four weeks into The Goodwill Project and I have a few beefs.
1. Your price tags often cover up the deets.
I’m a sucker for china dishes, for example. “Mismatched” is my middle name, so perhaps it shouldn’t matter, but I’m stymied every time by the natural inclination to turn over the dish or the bowl to learn the brand and pattern name only to find the details covered with the price tag. Could you askew the sticker?
2. The system for big ticket and heavy items raises my blood pressure.
It’s brilliant in theory: If you see something you want, you simply tear off the bottom of a perforated tag, take it to the sales counter and pay, then someone helps you bring the item out of the store and put it into your car.
But what about the eager buyer with a mind-change? They’ve left with the sales slip wadded in their fist. Or maybe nonchalantly slipped it into a Big Gulp cup on the plastics aisle, or tossed it in the trashcan on their way out the door.
Shopper B comes along, spots the item, beelines to it with heart racing, only to be then crushed to find the botttom half of the sticker gone. Being five minutes late to the party is part of the game, so you shake it off and move on in search of the next exciting find.
Again, brilliant in theory, but what about Shopper B’s natural inclination to stalk all the other customers for signs of who might be headed to the sales counter to finalize the purchase? And weirdly fantasizing about what’s in their pocket?
That’s how it happened at the Holcomb Bridge store. The bottom half of the sticker was gone and absolutely no one in the store seemed as excited about the deck chair find as I was.
It’s been weeks, and I still feel a spike in blood pressure when I think about Adirondacks.
Goodwill, what can you do to help out a Shopper B?
I wear earrings, makeup and shoes almost every day. But since the dawn of C-19, I haven’t been out of my house wearing a necklace.
No Book Club, no Birthday Club dinners, no concerts, no plays. I’ve only been to my office a dozen-or-more times in the last dozen-or-more months.
The makeup and earrings keep me on-the-ready for a Zoom or a knock on the front door. I add the shoes for a trip to Goodwill or Kroger.
But I’ve had no need for a necklace.
Thanks to a $4.99 Goodwill find, though, I’m on-the-ready should a little style come back in style. I picked up this distressed wooden frame that held a backer board that someone had been painted black. Kind of like a thin gypsum board, it was easy to drill holes and add some hooks from Home Depot. The screws that came with the hooks were too long, so I had to go back for shorter ones, and I added nuts to the back. Then I mounted Tom’s tie rack to the bottom and bolted the whole thing to the back of my bedroom door. (Tom did that part. CYA should he read this someday and call me out.)
My good friend Clairee Belcher always says, “The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize.”
I subscribe to the same mantra, and Clairee and I always over-accessorize when we get together. I see TBS has her a couple of times this week, so I’m picking out my necklace(s) and planning my snacks.
I love a cute beach bag as much as the next girl, but I think this one might have been better left on the ship.
While it’s possible that the heat-transfered sentiments on this beach bag refer to a boat ride before a cross-country move to Colorado, I think it’s more likely a well-meaning maid of honor’s attempt at clever rhyme. Likely a last-blast bachelorette cruise complete with keepsake beach bags that went south with a gold-emblazed grammar gaffe.
At $4.99, this one’s no bargain. Even if it were to come with a veil.
This one’s a grammar nerd’s nightmare. I did look for it on a return trip to the store though, and didn’t see it. Surely it went to someone Vail-bound, right? Are there beaches in Colorado?