Goodwill Outlet Store AKA "The Bins"

I visited a Goodwill Outlet store for the first time ever last week.  I had first read about these fabulous stores on CheapJap and was intrigued, to say the least.

When it comes to the life cycle of a donated piece of clothing, the thrift store is not the last stop on the line.  (Goodwill is one of many charities that works tirelessly to keep articles of clothing out of the landfills – and happens to be my favorite charity when it comes to donating my used clothing!)  Items of clothing that are donated to charities such as Goodwill are first sorted through; those that have minimal tears/stains/rips etc. go out on the selling floor, and those that are deemed less-than-worthy are sold to recycling companies such as Trans-America.  Such companies will recycle the garments into rags for industrial usage, or insulation, auto sound dampening, or carpet padding (source) – at the rate of about 260 tons annually.  Other articles of clothing are sold to developing countries at about 25-50 cents per pound.  In all, about 2.5 billion pounds of clothing a year is processed by such companies and sold abroad.  Imagine: that t-shirt made in a factory in China…could end up in a rural province not far from its origin someday.

However, each Goodwill chapter is at liberty to determine its own policies, so there’s no guarantee the clothing you donate will see those eventual end uses.  After a certain time at the regular Goodwill retail store, many items have not been sold, and it is then that they arrive at the Goodwill Outlet Store.  (There is a great photo essay here about how a garment travels through the Goodwill system of sorting and management, if you are particularly interested.)

The Goodwill Outlet Store is the last stop along the line in the life cycle of your average garment – if it fails to sell here, it is compacted by the baler and sold to the rag trade.  The idea of rescuing perfectly-usable items that would otherwise be thoughtlessly discarded appeals to me greatly, so I’ve been wanting to stop by and see how I could help (and how creative I could get with the results!)  Why the heck don’t they have a Project Runway episode with the designers scavenging their raw material from here???  I think that would be fabulous!

I love going to Goodwill (the Salvation Army “boutique shops” near me are ridiculously overpriced and have few pieces to pick through, Buffalo Exchange is fabulous but quite pricey, and I dislike going to “vintage stores” since the prices are usually enough to scare me out the door as soon as I glance at a tag).  But Goodwill is consistently a source of great pieces…the problem is that you just have to look.  (I’m not one for combing vintage stores for a great find; I usually find it insanely tedious.  But the fabled DOLLAR A POUND for clothing was way too good a lure to pass up.  I mean, even at fabric stores here in Portland I have never found fabric for a dollar a yard, so even if I found some cool sheets or something that I could use as raw materials I would be saving money.  [Okay, you New Yorkers – I know $1/yd of fabric is nothing new to you…but here in Portland it’s a bit revolutionary – rarely seen even from the jobbers that pass thru here from time to time.])  Now that Lil Tot is in school more and I am still technically unemployed, I have a lot more free time, and so I decided to spend one early afternoon braving The Bins.  Perhaps I would even find something with a designer label on it – the Holy Grail of shopping vintage.

CheapJap offers some great tips for visiting one of these places, and for sorting through everything (except I could only find one of my rubber gloves before leaving the house – I’m not sure where the left one went), so I spent about 2 hours sorting one-handed through more than 30 dumpster-sized bins in this gigantic warehouse.  People were looking at me strangely (for the single glove, I suppose), but when I saw that the workers there were wearing face masks, I didn’t feel so ridiculous.  There were some dirty clothes in there, man.  I was also surprised at how many families were there – parents and their numerous children were also combing through everything, spreading out and moving from bin to bin en masse.  The people with their carts the fullest were likely those who were trying to re-sell the clothes…one woman I talked to had a shop on Etsy where she made her living (re-)selling vintage pieces.

There were TVs too!

As I was going through everything, my head was just spinning with possibilities.  There were so many fabrics, so many ways I could give new life to these clothes – so many possible alterations…

Of course, most knit fabrics (i.e., t-shirts) were pretty much there for a reason: stained, hideously pilled, or worn.  There wasn’t much reuse potential there, I found.

But polyester garments had, on the whole, fared pretty well in The Bins; leather pieces had a lovely, beaten-up quality to them (though there were some in close-to-pristine condition); cotton items ran the gamut, tho most were crumpled (but could probably be restored with a good washing and pressing).  I focused mostly on wovens or synthetic fabrics, in large sizes so I had a lot of fabric to work with.  There were of course items in excellent, near-perfect salable condition with nary a stain in sight, as well as the odd designer label peeking out here and there.

I spotted: Banana Republic, DKNY, Tommy Hilfiger, Volcom, Barney’s New York, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Bebe, for instance.

There was a large amount of Jones New York, Talbots, Metro7, Isaac Mizrahi, Liz Claiborne, Worthington, Levi’s, and Old Navy…which I think says a lot about the things people get rid of and that which is in excessive supply in the marketplace.  Private label companies for mass merchandisers…are you listening???

I piled up my shopping cart (and I mean – PILED up, so mountainous I could barely navigate turning it), and then at the end, dumped it all out and went meticulously through it, chanting to myself “$1 a pound, $1 a pound!” I eliminated many of the gigantic leather jackets I found since they were quite heavy, as well as the denim.  Light poly, chiffon, and lace stuff got a pass since it would work out to pretty much nothing at the register.

Okay, Carly…I think that’s enough.  Greedy girl!!

Despite my best efforts, when the lady at the register rolled my cart onto the scale, she read out “48 pounds.”  I almost died.  FORTY-EIGHT POUNDS OF CLOTHES!!  Say it to yourself.  Forty-eight pounds of clothing.  It’s unreal.

I was trying to save these clothes from ending up in a landfill – the ultimate result of excessive consumption – and as a result, I am excessively consuming them in bringing them home in the first place.  Ironic.

Here’s what I bought:

*2 leather jackets
*1 pair of shoes
*1 pair of jeans
*1 bikini top
*1 pair of rabbit ears
*1 nightgown
*2 blazers
*1 lace negligee
*5 tops
*5 pillowcases
*2 t-shirts
*2 pairs of pants
*3 dresses
*1 fitted sheet
*1 trenchcoat
*7 button-down shirts
*1 pile of fabric remnants
*1 kid’s pajama bottoms

And what cost did all this work out to?

Leave your best guess in the comments;-).  (It wasn’t $1 a pound, I can tell you that much!)

Edit 4/12: Great guesses, guys!  But…no one got it right.  Here is the proof of the pudding:

$25…for 48 POUNDS OF CLOTHING (+ a pair of shoes).

Isn’t that just PHENOMENAL???  Apparently, the more you buy at the Goodwill Outlet the more you save.  It’s $1/pound until 25 pounds, above that $0.95/pound, and then above 40 lbs. it’s 89 cents/pound.  I really worked for it tho! (See my dirty glove?:-)

Though I now have all this great raw material to work with….it’s now a question of when I’m going to get around to it.  I really need two of me to deal with this!;-)  But from here on out it’s a sewing and DIY extravaganza…and I can’t wait to share the results!

Have any of you ever been to a Goodwill Outlet store?


40 Comments on Goodwill Outlet Store AKA "The Bins"

  1. Anonymous
    4.09.2010 at 8:02 am (5 years ago)

    Can't wait to see what creations you come up with! :-)

    • Anonymous
      2.19.2015 at 11:26 am (6 months ago)

      I know this is 5 years old but she only bought 28.4 pounds of clothes not 48 pounds. The total of the receipt is $28.25. Divide that by $0.89 per pound and you get 28.4 pounds. The actual pounds are also listed on the receipt.

      • Gen Eric
        7.18.2015 at 6:29 am (1 month ago)

        Yes, that was the first thing I noticed too! She must have mis-heard the cashier when she said 28, and thought it was 48.

        I found a by-the-pound thrift shop, not a Goodwill, in Jacksonville FL recently. They had some of their older stuff by the door already baled up and ready to load/ship to wherever you want. The guy in the store said that a lot of times church groups will buy them for their “missions.”

        • carlyjcais
          7.30.2015 at 3:52 pm (1 month ago)

          Perhaps I did, it was pretty noisy in there. But still, 28 lbs. is a heck of a lot! They’ve come in handy for many projects over the years, as originals to alter, or as raw materials to make something entirely new. That’s so neat you found a by-the-pound-thrift-shop, I wish I could be so lucky!! :-)

  2. roughmetaphors
    4.09.2010 at 8:51 am (5 years ago)

    My guess: $60?

    Thanks for this very informative post. I'm very envious of those of you who have access to Goodwill stores as the charity shops here in Australia pale in comparison.

  3. marisa
    4.09.2010 at 2:34 pm (5 years ago)

    awesome! they did do a Project Runway Canada episode about that. But they got their raw materials from the warehouse they use to make the Preloved clothes. Preloved reconstructs clothes into unique items that are sold in their stores. I think it's based out of Montreal.

  4. Cathryn
    4.09.2010 at 5:09 pm (5 years ago)

    WOW! I've never heard of a goodwill outlet store, but that looks like FUN! My mum and I love antiques shopping and yard sales, so going through bins of stuff would be great fun to us. I probably wouldn't be brave enough to go in without gloves, though…

    That HUGE pile would probably still cost around $150 at a Goodwill here if you were lucky…

    My guess: $40

  5. Kayla
    4.09.2010 at 6:21 pm (5 years ago)

    First of all, this post was so great! Not only that, but now I'm searching for an outlet near me. If I know the goodwill you probably got a steal. I can't belive how much great stuff you found. I am also so excited to see your upcoming projects. I love your DIY's!!

  6. Salon Mystique
    4.09.2010 at 7:11 pm (5 years ago)

    The Bins? I love the Bins! Whenever I venture up to Portland I always have to make a stop there. Looks like you made out like a bandit! <3

  7. Anonymous
    4.10.2010 at 4:53 pm (5 years ago)

    I have purchased garments from Goodwill just for the vintage, expensive, or unique buttons! Buttons are expensive now! i just recently replaced the buttons on a sweater that had lost one with the cutest new-old ones from Goodwill!

  8. Fashion Momma
    4.12.2010 at 3:30 pm (5 years ago)

    So, how much were they?!?!

  9. eva
    4.15.2010 at 6:43 pm (5 years ago)

    I've been to the one in San Louis Obispo…It was amazing! Scored retro puma roller skates circa 1970 for $1…but you made out like a bandit!!


  10. Fia
    4.15.2010 at 8:46 pm (5 years ago)

    So fascinating! Thanks for writing your experience. It makes me want to go see what treasures I can dig up. Oh, and good thinking on the glove.

  11. Style it You
    4.16.2010 at 2:12 am (5 years ago)

    WOW! This was so interesting. I know where there is a Goodwill in NYC and I'm going this weekend! I hope I can score some interesting pieces :) I've written a couple of posts on ShopGoodwill by featuring some of their items they have for bidding on my blog. Have you ever checked out their website?

  12. Pj
    4.16.2010 at 4:28 pm (5 years ago)

    Good deal! I've been “thrifting” (shopping Goodwill's SA's, etc.) since high school (I'm now in my early 50's) but have never lived near a GW outlet. A few weeks ago I overheard a woman in a thrift shop say, “I don't know why anyone ever shops retail”. She's spot on. Except for shoes and under garments, it's the way to go. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  13. Janine
    4.17.2010 at 9:50 am (5 years ago)

    I can't believe I haven't been there yet! Totally drooling over the pics of your haul.

  14. Ashe Mischief
    4.19.2010 at 7:24 pm (5 years ago)

    It's amazing all the places that that old shirt can go to! I rather love the idea of it becoming rags, insulation, or carpet padding–even though I'm sure the processes aren't, it's really upcying, recycling, and reusing to a great degree…

    What an amazing score you found, too! It'll be great to see what comes from the goods..

  15. Empress
    4.19.2010 at 10:54 pm (5 years ago)

    Wow, thats more than crazy I need to get to Goodwill ASAP. The amount of new clothes you can make right now is off the chart. I will be back to see these result!

  16. Empress
    4.19.2010 at 10:54 pm (5 years ago)

    Wow, thats more than crazy I need to get to Goodwill ASAP. The amount of new clothes you can make right now is off the chart. I will be back to see these result!

  17. Krista
    4.24.2010 at 3:42 am (5 years ago)

    Wow, you just made my day. Imagine my surprise when I saw MY Goodwill Outlet on your blog! Well, it's not mine, but it's in my town. Thanks for brightening my day.

  18. Kjrsten
    4.28.2010 at 5:47 am (5 years ago)

    So funny that you have the recipt in a rubber glove, I have often wanted to peruse their stuff in rubber gloves!

    SO I am recently saw this store (I am from portland) and wondered what it was like in there… thanks for the in depth summary!


  19. titanium jewelry
    12.06.2010 at 6:20 am (5 years ago)

    The Bins? I love the Bins! Whenever I venture up to Portland I always have to make a stop there. Looks like

  20. evening dresses
    12.21.2010 at 7:18 am (5 years ago)

    thank you very much I never heard it before

  21. Designer Clothes
    3.23.2011 at 4:04 am (4 years ago)

    Goodwill Outlet Stores have a cash-and-carry policy, meaning you’ll need to have a way to haul that big couch home as soon as you buy it
    All items are sold as-is, and cannot be returned or exhanged

  22. Online Pharmacy
    3.23.2011 at 4:06 am (4 years ago)

    The Seattle Goodwill Outlet is perhaps one of the best kept secrets among avid thrift store shoppers. It is one of several outlet stores operated by Goodwill in cities all across the country

  23. honey
    5.24.2011 at 3:31 am (4 years ago)

    So funny that you have the recipt in a rubber glove, I have often wanted to peruse their stuff in rubber gloves! Christian Louboutin discoun
    honey recently posted..Christian Louboutin Simple 100 mm

  24. talbots coupon
    6.14.2011 at 11:40 am (4 years ago)

    Thanks a great deal for the wonderful information here! I have bookmarked the page

  25. Victoria
    7.06.2011 at 5:14 am (4 years ago)

    I started going to the one in Lakeland, FL its not as pretty as the picture you have above everything is in Laundry Bins but I have managed to get namebrand clothes the 1st 2x I’ve gone, Ann Taylor, Banana Republic and much more check out my vid on youtube for pictures

  26. Carla Easley
    10.20.2012 at 8:38 am (3 years ago)

    You did great! I hope that I find some really nice things at the Goodwill outlet in my area.

  27. Holly Holbrook
    11.02.2012 at 3:30 am (3 years ago)

    I LOVE the Goodwill Outlet, and so do my children! When I actually showed my teenagers how much the Guy Harvey Shirts and Hollister jeans cost new, then pulled similar ones out of the bins at Goodwill, they were amazed! They now want to go all of the time! Here in Florida, the price is 1.39 a pound, but still CHEAP! I found an Army issued arctic sleeping bag for $3 and an entire king size sheet set, with like brand new, also $3. Great deals for people with families and not alot of money to spend. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to shop at the “diggin’ store”, my family refers to it as.

    • carlyjcais
      11.02.2012 at 7:26 am (3 years ago)

      I know – it’s just like a treasure hunt!! You can find the most amazing things there, and you’re truly helping keep perfectly usable items out of landfills or being shipped off to the developing world. Plus it’s the perfect place to source materials and fabrics for waaaaaay cheaper than Jo-Ann’s fabrics – just to DIY or upcycle into something even better!! Thanks for your comment!

  28. Michael L
    12.22.2012 at 12:13 am (3 years ago)

    Great haul from the Goodwill outlet store. However, you read the lbs wrong on the receipt it was 28.4 lbs for $25.28 at $.89 a lb not 48 lbs you thought(you transposed the digits lol)

  29. The Goodwill Gal
    1.29.2013 at 7:57 am (3 years ago)

    Great article! I’ll be sharing this one on my fb!

    Have a lovely day!


  30. Kathy Hogan
    3.09.2013 at 4:58 am (2 years ago)

    Look at your bins–they are full!!! Ours in Kansas City all look nearly empty on the day I decided to visit==not the selection you have. You must be prepared to walk to get to the entrance and inside, I found it quite interesting.Quality and selection was minimal. I went looking for items that I could use for my disabled, disadvantaged bingo group and for $10.00, I did OK. I also brought my own little cart. I spent three hours in an attempt to find items that could be used or made into gifts (purses, greenery, plastic vase, candle holder, big black tub, walking parrot). Also I managed to find some like new t-shirts (Harley, Godfather, Hard Rock in pink), Apt 9 dress, green top, and bright orange belt.Also it was a very, very long drive.
    Your outlet looks like fun!!!

    • jessica
      4.06.2015 at 7:42 am (5 months ago)

      Went to KC outlet last week – must be new management. Tables were overflowing!

      • carlyjcais
        4.08.2015 at 4:34 pm (5 months ago)

        Ooh – I wish I could have seen that – it sounds awesome!! 😀


3Pingbacks & Trackbacks on Goodwill Outlet Store AKA "The Bins"

  1. […] Exhibit A, a dot-printed piece that I pulled out of my 48-lb. haul of clothing I sourced at my local Goodwill Outlet.  I was drawn to it because of the fabulous print – and I could only find one of them, so I […]

  2. […] found this amazing dress at the Goodwill Outlet back in May – since I bought 42 lbs. of clothing I was charged 89 cents a pound at the time…and since this […]

  3. […] down and dirty (some people even wear gloves!)! If you’re curious about one near you, I found this blog about a similar […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comment *

CommentLuv badge