5 Tips for Shopping at Goodwill

It’s no secret that I love shopping at Goodwill. You can be creative, not spend much and end up coming home with a bunch of new outfits. It’s a win-win. I also love that there are an alarming amount of work-appropriate clothes, which can’t be found at some of my favorite stores, who usually sell tiny tanks and cut-off shorts — think LF, Urban Outfitters and Nasty Gal.

Plus, when you donate or shop at Goodwill, you are supporting a good cause. See the below message from my local store:

The revenue from our stores supports the many programs and services we provide in our community. We spend ninety cents of every dollar we make on mission-related programming, aimed at helping people experiencing unemployment, underemployment and obstacles to job advancement overcome those challenges to find and maintain family-sustaining employment.

Here are my success tips for finding the best items and making them work for your wardrobe:

1. Go alone

You need a clear mind — I’m serious!

I highly recommend going alone for a few reasons. One of which is that the other person may rush you (see step 3). The other reason is because in order to really use your imagination, you will need a high amount of concentration. I find that when I shop with other people, I have a hard time because I get focused on the conversation and not the clothing. This goes especially for shopping at Goodwill where you need to think creatively while you shop (see steps 2 & 4).

2. Style it in your mind

One of the major differences between Goodwill and your typical retailer is that Goodwill does not have outfit ideas on display to inspire you.

Think about it: when you walk into Urban Outfitters, the mannequins are front and center with the newest items already paired perfectly together. Even if the items are not on mannequins, they are displayed in pretty ways that automatically help you spot your favorites. I know because I worked there and setting the merch out was my favorite part!

However, Goodwill is the opposite: the good, the bad and the ugly are all thrown in together on plastic hangers and shoved on too-small racks. The best way to get past this is to see the potential as you browse around. When something catches your eye, begin to picture it with your wardrobe: How will you style it? What will it match with? Where will you wear it? Picture it with your favorite pair of jeans or the new jacket you just bought. Example: a turquoise mom sweatshirt looks limp on the rack, but pulls together with a leopard faux fur jacket and black jeans.

3. Be patient

It can be really easy to get discouraged.

There are an overwhelming amount of options and many won’t be your style or size. You need to have some serious time no your hands to find the good stuff. The name of the game is patience.

I came across my favorite D.A.R.E. t-shirt after swiping through hundreds of men’s shirts in white, gray and then black. I literally wear that shirt at least once a week now (after some DIY — see step 4). Other times, my luck is worse. I recently found a gorgeous Donna Karan dress that was much to big to even alter. Don’t get down, keep looking!

4. See the potential

This may be the hardest one, but is by far my favorite part of shopping at Goodwill.

Don’t see the items for how they are now, but think about how you could make them into what you want. A kids’ sweatshirt becomes a crop top with five minutes and a pair of scissors. An oversized t-shirt can be distressed or you can cut the neck out. Jeans can be turned into shorts, bleached or destroyed. The list goes on — and you don’t even need to use a sewing machine. I personally have to examine each item and then picture it in my mind as it will be once I DIY it. Sometimes, I can’t do it in the store but I’ll come home and try it on to see what I think is right. Luckily, if you mess up or don’t like it, you’ve only lost a few bucks.

5. Grab the “maybes”

They’re only $3.99!

Usually, clothes are expensive and somewhat of an investment. At Goodwill, the shirts are $3.99, blazers are $4.99 and jeans are $5.99.

Usually when I shop, I usually think of items in three categories — yesses, nos and maybes — and I only buy the yesses. When I’m shopping at Goodwill, I have no trouble at all taking home some maybes too because the prices are so good. Sometimes they end up becoming one of my favorite items in my closet. For example, the Star Wars sweatshirt below, which I pretty much hated and loved at the same time when I bought it. I cut it into a crop and I wear it all the time.

Bonus Tips

Wash the clothes you bought as soon as you get home (and your hands). They do not wash the clothes prior to selling at Goodwill so you never know where they were last…

And don’t forget to donate! Swing by with a bag of clothes at their drop-off area before you even walk in the door.

Discuss! Have you shopped at Goodwill? What were your favorite finds?


  1. Lola
    February 27, 2019 / 2:43 am

    Loving your blog!! 😻

    • itsweedy
      March 16, 2019 / 9:24 pm

      Thanks, Aunt Leigh Anne!!

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