Oh, What You’ll Find at Goodwill

Who doesn’t love a bargain? Since I was a kid, thrift stores have held the promise of trashy treasure. Sure, you’re not going to find “Action Comics #1,” but you could score a melodica or Pocket Trivial Pursuit. (Yep, I own both.)

If you’ve never been to Goodwill, it’s a giant, air-conditioned garage sale where everything is donated, semi-organized, and you don’t need to haggle. Here’s my five favorite finds.

Halloween Costumes

Yes, you can always get a thrift store sportscoat for a kid’s Frankenstein monster costume, but in October, most Goodwill shops open a whole Halloween section. There’s racks of new, bagged masks and hats and accessories. I’m guessing it’s stuff that Spirit Halloween donated last November instead of warehousing it all?

Grilling Tongs

Those big cookout tweezers are always a popular Christmas gift, and that means you can always find two or three castoffs at Goodwill. Right now, I’ve got a nice 18-inch set outside by my Weber grill. If they get rusty, I know I can always find another set for $3 when a family donates Uncle Jimmy’s stuff.


Everyone is getting their music from downloads or vinyl – but used CDs are objectively the best deal. I mean, you get a whole CD for a dollar, less than the cost of an iTunes single. (I know streaming is even cheaper, but I like to *own* music.) No, you can’t get the latest artists, but recent Goodwill hunts have scored me Bell Biv Davoe, Junior Brown, and The Lightning Seeds. Somehow, every Goodwill will have lots of Christmas albums, Contemporary Christian Music, REM, and one copy of Merril Bainbridge’s “The Garden.”

Random Plates

You want to give your neighbor a bunch of cookies, but not lose a Tupperware container. You got a new houseplant and need something to catch water coming out the bottom. Just go buy a weird orphan dish or saucer from Goodwill. There’s always going to be a red plate that looks like poinsettias because someone else got Christmas cookies on it, kept it for a couple years, and eventually donated it.

Amateur Paintings

This one isn’t for everyone, but I have a dozen Goodwill landscape paintings hanging in one corner of my bedroom. I think of them as adoptions. A budding artist worked hard on this Italian village or mountainside, and even if it turned out C+, it was loved at some point. Sure, the forest has chipmunks the size of bulldogs, but that’s part of the charm. I don’t hang amateur portraits though. I bought a couple through the years, and they are just haunting.