The Joy of Shopping at Goodwill

Credits: Photo - Anonymous, Styling - Sarah G. Schmidt, Location - Banff Avenue, Banff


This past weekend, I went to my local Goodwill, just off Shaganappi in the NW, to drop off some household donations. I decided to pop into the store and see what I could find.

Second-hand shopping is a lot like discount department store shopping. They both have a bunch of items continuously rolling in and out, so you never know what will be in the store that day. It’s a treasure hunt! You need to dive in: rack by rack and, sometimes, item by item to be sure you’ve seen it all. Honestly, you can never see it all but at least you put a thorough dent in that pile of second-hand clothes. The clothing items are so densely packed, it’s a workout just holding your over-loaded basket, throwing your hip into the rack so you can create room to schoosh the items on hangers across the metal racks. It’s hell for some. A delight for me.

I often choose the Goodwill as they are both a social enterprise (which provides meaningful work for persons with disabilities) and a thrift retailer (in 2012, over 4 million kilos of household items avoided the Albertan landfills). I am fond of this particular Goodwill I because I know the layout and it’s a close drive from my home. It’s familiar and comfortable. This trip was a remarkable one for me. I found so many steals I had a mega retail high while driving home.

Not only did I find items for me (hint: I always find something), I helped a lady in her decision whether a suit would fit her husband or not. The size labels were missing so we tried it on and made a best guess.

I also helped another fellow who appeared to be shopping only for known brands. I must have had a determined, professional look in my eyes because he asked me for my opinion. (I guess I just look like someone who shops a lot…) He held up a women’s’ winter parka and asked me if it was a high-end brand. After a quick read of the label I told him that it wasn’t a high brand but a mid to low level brand. He shrugged and put it back on the rack. Later he came back and asked about a snowboard jacket from a well-known brand. I told him what I knew about it and he thanked me and I could see the pride in his hunting. Later, while I was digging in the women’s jacket section, I heard him say, while pointing at me, “Ask her, she’s good.” I was more than happy to help.

I found some glorious pieces in my search. I lost my mind a bit when I saw leather Danier knee-length shorts in black leather. I thought I had won the lottery when I found a similar pair in white leather, also Danier. I came across a Yves Saint Laurent (YSL) grey tie with a subtle, smokey blue stripe while perusing the men’s suiting section. And this dapper creature was marked as $5! To borrow from Carrie Bradshaw, I thought I had died and went to retail heaven.

I also snagged a mustard yellow wool jacket with a military inspired lapel and fit and flare waist. This label I didn’t recognize but it didn’t matter. It was beautiful. Nor did the unknown label matter when I found a cobalt blue pencil skirt in some of the softest, most buttery feeling leather my hands had graced. The goods were there, hidden away. All I had to do was find them.

The items aside, I enjoy thrift shopping because, like the YSL tie, you never know what quality items you are going to find in a store, just around the corner. I also like to daydream about who wore the items before me and how much they must have enjoyed them. I like to think of the women or man who lived their life in these amazing clothes. I am talking specifically about the leather shorts because they are so rad.

Like people, I try to give worthy items a second chance. If it’s not for you, with one flick of the wrist, you can simply schoosh that hanger out of sight.

Do you like to thrift shop?