All posts by Kathy Wilson Florence

About Kathy Wilson Florence

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 More: Commercial Writer, Graphic Designer, Realtor, 16-year columnist in the Dunwoody Crier, candlestick maker, mother, daughter, wife, sister, friend

The Goodwill Project: Channeling my former Mad Men obsession

Do you know about these?

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.

Light up and get your plates, everyone. Punch and hors ‘doevres are served!

I’ve been harboring a secret about The Goodwill Project

It’s a good one though.

Turns out, I’m going to be a grandmother.

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.

In addition to tons of great books, I found these board puzzles for $1.99 each at Goodwill. The top one makes farm animal sounds when you drop in the correct puzzle piece. Doesn’t that just look like something a grandmother should have?

You complete me: Matchmaking at Goodwill

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.

I use my brown rectangular tray for almost every party. But it was never anything too special until I found a matching bowl. The $1.99 add opens up a whole new world of hors d’oeuvres that will work on on the set: Salsa and chips, dip and crackers, even soy sauce packets in a weak stretch.

Even in The Goodwill Project: The tiniest joys mean the most.

I used to have a yardstick.

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.

It’s the little things, y’all. I love this folding yardstick. And I love The Goodwill Project. I’m having a ball.

Goodwill, if you’re listening: I’ve got a few beefs

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?

This Goodwill Project project rocks (if style comes back in style)

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.

Like a true steel magnolia, I DIY’d this Goodwill Project into a means for organizing my abundance of costume jewels. I added hooks and Tom’s tie bar to this $4.99 frame and mounted it to the back of my bedroom door. Clairee’s gonna love it.

A bad buy at any price.

Judgment has no place in The Goodwill Project.

But there is an exception to every rule.

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?

The Goodwill Project: It’s a shell game.

Kind of, anyway. You’re never sure what you’ll find when you lift up the cup. And with “circuit shopping” — my self-imposed strategy for hitting up one or two of the half-dozen Goodwill Stores near my house each week— you never know if you’re headed in a lucky, treasure-filled direction or not.

And therein lies the fun.

I have some look-fors on my list: I’ll reveal them when I find them. And I have a small collection I’m working to enhance, but that too, I’ll tell you about in good time. Otherwise, I have a budget of $9 per store to find that which I like or need— or that which I’ve never even imagined— among the aisles of other people’s castoffs in this game I call The Goodwill Project.

I wasn’t looking for someone else’s seashell collection when I went to the Goodwill Store in Roswell. And had I been, I don’t think I’d ever thought to find it in a jar that formerly held chocolate-covered raisins, but indeed, there it was. A 99 cent price tag on the bottom got my imagination stirring.

My once-brilliant idea to create a seashell garden along the path around my house had gone way to the first rain, later defiled with pine straw, gumballs, dried leaves and neglect. But it’s Spring and the perfect time for reawakening, so I popped the jar into my cart and headed for checkout.

A fresh bag of play sand on the way home and my seashell garden is back and ready for more rain, falling debris and inevitable neglect.

Garden passersby might think I’m a particularly lucky beachcomber. I’ll pass the seashell garden with perfect contentment that junk is my genius.

Ninety-nine cents fills a seashell garden quite nicely. Might have missed out on the waves and sand, but I’ll save my raisin container just in case I can wrangle a beach trip this summer.

The Goodwill Project: Following my own ‘mom preach’ advice

“If you bring home shopping bags, fill them with clothes or other items you no longer need or want for donation before you put the new stuff away.”

That was just one “mom preach” of mine that worked a small portion of the time. The concept is a good one, though, especially if you happen to be living in a filled-to-the-brim home that is now bigger than you need and yet you can’t resist the thrill of the hunt in this game you’ve dredged up called The Goodwill Project.

Perhaps my attempt at “Fulfillment in the Time of Corona,” The Goodwill Project is proving to work for me. I’m having a lot of fun perusing through junk and energizing my life with the spoils. I justify it with something I call “conscientious editing.”

It’s simple: Identify that which you don’t love or has run its course, and replace it with something you do. Conscientious editing can work in reverse, too: Find something you love, and take away something you don’t.

I found this charming little piece of original art likely painted by someone in a country I’ll never get a chance to visit. A brightly colored agrarian scene, its canvas looks to be a reed or dried leaf of some kind. It had been crookedly mounted on a piece of cardboard and placed in an all-wrong gold frame. I snatched it up at the Goodwill near Perimeter Mall for $2.99.

I brought it home and switched out the frame to one I had in a closet and headed to the room in my house with the brightest colors: the bathroom off the laundry room. It’s small and it’s covered with things I love and with things I didn’t even realize I didn’t.

A quick perusal and I hit upon a set of three iron insect things that had been hanging over the hand towel ring for longer than I can remember. They were cool enough when I hung them there, but a heedful look with Marie Kondo eyes and I realized they were bringing me no pleasure at all.

I popped them off the wall, pulled out the bottom two nails and hung my new piece of art on the top nail. Now I smile at it every time I wash my hands in that bathroom.

And the iron insect things are in a bag in my trunk to drop off at my next visit on the Goodwill circuit. Right next to the all-wrong gold frame.

Conscientious editing makes this spot much more pleasant to me now. (Disregard that messy paint blotch on the wall. I forgot what happened there, but I’ve chosen to keep it as a reminder of that flaws can be beautiful too. Especially when you don’t want to repaint.)

Goodwill Hunting: Why didn’t I think of that before?

The Goodwill Project is scoring big with unexpected and “what-can-I-turn-it-into” finds, but I’m feeling a little off my game that I didn’t think of “Goodwill Hunting” for the name of the operation before I kicked it off. That idea came from my ever-punny sister.

A little after-the-fact, of course, so I’m feeling like it’s best to chalk it up to that which I will impart upon you as the biggest and most important lesson of bargain hunting: “You snooze, you lose,” also known as “Late to the party, ain’t no party,” or “He who hesitates, suffocates.” Point being, the heartaches are as plentiful in Goodwill Hunting as the jubilations. The only thing worse than a “just-miss” is a “can’t decide-then-return-to-find-out-it’s-gone.”

I’ll stick with my plan and the name of my project, but know that if I were as punny and quick as Linda, the whole thing would have a better name.

I am open, however, to changing the rules when I neeed to. As you know from my previous blog, the rules for this circuit shopping of Goodwill stores game of mine include a methodical sweep starting at the back left of the store moving clockwise, a no-hesitation collection of that which intrigues, and a strict (with exceptions) cart edit and final purchase limit of $9 per store.

I had to make up a new rule for the Bunny Bowl.

Just two days before Easter I found the pewter stand for $2.99. Three rabbits positioned around a base to hold something up, so I figured it must be for a glass bowl of some kind, but there was none in sight. I scooted over to the aisle with the glassware and tried out every bowl. The one I landed on couldn’t be the intended because I think the design would have had it fitting closer to the bunnies’ outstretched hands, but I liked the way it looked anyway. The leaded glass bowl was $6.99, so together 98 cents over the limit.

As any true bargain buccaneer knows, while I might not have ever found a lone pewter bunny stand again, another leaded glass bowl could easily be scored at another visit on another day, but it was a holiday find after all and I was feeling frisky. I made a new rule that the $9 limit could be broken when two unrelated items were unearthed in the same store and the whole was better than the sum of its parts. I wheeled to the checkout counter and bought the Bunny Bowl.

The Bunny Bowl would probably really be pretty filled with a colorful salad, but sausage ball appetizers also worked.