Category Archives: The Goodwill Project

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.

The Goodwill Project: Self- imposed rules that are destined to change

I recently described myself as a “one-good-pattern-deserves-eight-or-ten-more” kind of girl. Subtlety has never been a gift; more-is-more and all that.

Here’s the thing though: While overplay may have defined my first handful of decades, it’s not so much true any more. These days, I’m yenning in a more subtract-simplify-streamline direction. A trendier tie-in to the whole leave-no-footprint thing, it might beg the questions, “Why The Goodwill Project?” “Why a manic forage through other people’s junk?” “Why shopping for things you really don’t need?” “Why now?”

The answer is in The Goodwill Project’s rules of the game:

  1. Wander each store on the circuit in the same defined pattern: Start back left slowly moving along each aisle to back right of store; finish with a few pop-ins on the miles of clothing, handbag and shoe racks.
  2. Fill your cart with things that really intrigue you; take pictures of those that closely tempt or totally confuse you.
  3. Edit your cart to what you can buy for $9 or less.
  4. Travel the route in reverse to return all that doesn’t fit within Rule No. 3 with a careful eye toward treasures you might have missed.

Only the $9 rule can be broken:

  • Items that fit with long-term-goal finds (a future blog)
  • Big ticket items you simply can’t resist
  • Finds such as the Hope Diamond II, a previously-unknown Vermeer, or something similar

I broke the $9 rule this weekend with the purchase of a desk chair justified as a big ticket item that I simply couldn’t resist. It turns out to be way more fun and comfortable than the dining room chair I’ve been spending hours at a time on since the work-from-home pandemic days. I snagged it for $9.99 at the store on Buford Highway near Clairmont.

This desk chair is in perfect condition. I bought it for $9.99 at the Goodwill in Northeast Plaza. The store is in the same location that Pogos and Packets was oh-so-many years ago. I experienced the distinct taste sensation of my first and last Singapore Sling when I walked through the door.

The Goodwill Project: The logic—and lack thereof— behind the plan

Circuit shopping is the brainchild behind my plan for The Goodwill Project. There are five or more Goodwill Thrift Stores within a 10- or 15-minute drive from my house. I plan to shop one every other day or so for the next year in a methodical—or perfectly arbitrary—rotation. Just like the rest of life, I expect I’ll be five minutes late for the find of the century one day, and unearthing amazing treasure the next.

The thrill of the hunt has always been what stirs me, and I’ve been junking long before junking was cool. My Rodeo Drive is a flea market, garage sale or antique shop, and the junkier it is, the better I like it. I’ve popped in Goodwill stores a few times when I’m staging a house and have always had good luck, but oddly enough, its really never been on my radar until a few weeks ago.

The shelter-in-place months got me started. I sorted closets, re-thought clutter and filled my car 15 times or more for a dropoffs at Goodwill. About midway through those trips I started venturing inside to see what new clutter I might be missing out on.

What I found surprised me.

All Goodwill Thrift Stores are merchandised in the same way: clothes and shoes are in the front; furniture, lamps and art are in the back left corner; and aisles from left to right across the back are adeptly organized with glassware, dishes and serving plates, plastic things, baskets, holiday items, toys, books and videos.

Each row’s endcaps are merchandised by color. It’s adorable. Some stores do it better than others, but you’ll find a charming display of only purple items on the end of one aisle, only red items on another, and so on.

The prices are awesome—way better than you can find at a flea market or antique mall these days. Small furniture items can be as low as $7.99 and rarely more than $39.99. All books are under $3 and knicknacks can range from under a dollar to rarely over $5.

Even cooler? Music from their own Goodwill Radio plays throughout the store while you shop. I can always be certain to get my fix of Maroon Five while I peruse others’ castoffs, and that’s good because Adam Levine also stirs me.

I’m a newbie Goodwill groupie. And in my quest for a new project to stimulate the senses, I’m laying plans for The Goodwill Project. Next up, I’ll fill you in on the rules and the list of ultimate finds. Come along with me, y’all. Let’s see what we can ferret out.

The Goodwill Project begins: Think “Julie and Julia,” only with junk.

In “Julie and Julia,” Amy Adams plays the role of Julie Powell, a woman who sets out to cook all 524 recipes in Julia Child’s cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” She spends a year experimenting with each recipe and blogs about each dish along the way. Meryl Streep plays Julia Child, though the movie’s portion of her story is set nearly four decades earlier when Child is living in France and perfecting her recipes in preparation of publication of the now-famous book. The true stories of the two women intertwine, though they never actually meet.

My newest venture, the Goodwill Project, is like that. Except it’s completely different.

I’ve missed writing, and I love rooting through other people’s castoffs, so I’m going to combine the two into something new to keep me busy. Like Julie, I intend to make The Goodwill Project a year-long experiment, and like Julie I have outlined a crafty set of rules for myself along the way. But instead of cooking, my plan is to circuit shop the six-or-so Goodwill stores that are a reasonable distance from my house, hitting several each week.

And like Julie, I’ll blog about my adventures along the way.

What am I looking for? Where did this idea come from? What are the rules of the game? Never fear, dear readers, all will unfold as the project embarks in the coming days. Mask up and come along for the ride with me. It’s barely started and I’m already having the most fun I’ve had since before COVID-19!