How You Can Use Thrift Stores to Help Yourself and Your Community
Most people already know that MERS Goodwill is a positive force in their community, but they often do not know the full extent of just how much Goodwill does. What’s more is that they often don’t know all of the ways they can use their local Goodwill to help themselves, as well as others around them.
When most people think about Goodwill and its services, they think of it as simply a resale shop for donated items, where people can get used clothing and housewares for much cheaper than they could if they were to buy things new. It hasn’t been until recent years that thrift shopping has gained in popularity and become trendy, and Goodwill has traditionally been thought of as a place where wealthier people donate their used items, and in turn, those less fortunate purchase them at a discount. While this structure still holds true, it is just a small slice of Goodwill’s place in the community.
For the Family
It’s no secret that kids grow FAST. It can be incredibly frustrating to buy your child nice new clothes only to have their wrists and ankles showing a couple months later. A great alternative to sinking even more cash into outfits for those little money pits we love so much is buying their clothing second hand. Given how quickly kids grow, the children’s clothing section at your local Goodwill likely has gently used clothing that is currently in style – and when your child grows out of it, you can donate it back, giving it another life with another kid. This is not only easier on your wallet, but also cuts back on waste and allows children who are less fortunate to dress in a way that makes them feel stylish and confident. Have extra clothes lying around that your kids have outgrown? Donate th
em today! They’ll do a lot more good at your Goodwill store than they will in a box in the back of your closet.
The Ultimate Dress-Up Box
For every great deal on a fashionable item at your local thrift shop, we all know there’s an equally unfashionable one. We won’t pretend that everything on our shelves is chic, fashionable, and has a designer label, but we’d argue that those are some of our best-hidden gems. What does every kid want in their dress-up box? The ridiculous, the dated, and the out of style. After all, what’s funnier than a seven-year-old in an oversized Hawaiian shirt, a velvet hat, and a fake mustache?
At some point, kids and teens want a space for them and their friends to be able to hang out in. Whether that’s the basement, the attic, or another unused space, it’s going to need furniture – and if your kids are like most kids, they won’t have a lot of respect for expensive couches or tables, let alone carefully and promptly cleaning snack-stained upholstery or being sure to have their friends always use a coaster. In addition, the last thing a kid wants in “their space” is a parent nagging them to take better care of it – isn’t that the whole point of them having this space in the first place? A great solution for this is thrift shop furniture! Especially if you don’t mind a slightly mismatched look in your basement (and we guarantee your kids won’t mind!), you can put together a comfortable hangout space quickly and at a fraction of the cost that a new set of furniture would cost. Possibly even more valuable than the monetary savings is knowing that it won’t make your heart sink with disappointment when you inevitably see ketchup stains on the couch, water rings on the table, or any of the other wear and tear that kids and teens tend to cause with their general tomfoolery.
For the Young Adult
Young professionals and recent graduates are often caught in this pickle – they’ve moved out or are trying to move out of their parents’ homes, but with most millennials graduating with crippling student debt into a job market with low entry-level wages, it’s a struggle to pay for rent, let alone pay for the furniture and home goods that go into the space. Luckily, Goodwill can ease this burden quite a bit! A smart thrift store shopper can piece together a set of furnishings for a surprisingly low cost, especially if they’re willing to put a little elbow grease equity into things, whether it be with a fresh coat of paint, stripping old coatings, sanding and refinishing surfaces, or new hardware and drawer pulls. Much of the furniture found at thrift shops is high-quality and solid, but a little rough around the edges. If you’re willing to fix things up a little bit, you could end up with a unique collection of furniture that you can customize to your style, not to mention how much money you’ll save compared to buying things new! Remember – never, ever underestimate the power of a good sanding followed by a fresh coat of paint!
Furniture isn’t the only thing for your new place that you can save money – how about cookware, silverware, dishes, and decor? Much of the kitchen items donated to Goodwill are in pretty good shape, and after a spin through the dishwasher, they’ll be perfect for stocking your cabinets and drawers. As far as decor goes, the possibilities are as endless as your imagination. Buy vintage records to use as wall art or purchase donated art – even if it’s only for the frame! As we all know, fashion and trends tend to be cyclical – chances are there are plenty of vintage items that match your modern style because the trend has come full circle!
When you do score your first professional job, you’re often in a tough space. Naturally, you want to dress the part, both for interviews and for the work week, but you haven’t started the job yet, so money for these (often very expensive clothes) can be scarce. Goodwill is here to save the day once again! Business attire is fairly timeless, so the odds are good that you will be able to build a good, solid base of professional wear. Whether it’s blazers, pants, or button-downs, you’re likely to score big in the wardrobe department.
Theme Party Jackpot
Whether it’s for a Halloween costume or for a theme party, Goodwill is THE place to get costume supplies. With such a wide variety of people donating, you’re bound to find the style you’re looking for. If you get creative, you can find even more. Looking for a vest? Sounds like a jacket with the sleeves cut off to me! Why spend a ton of money on a costume you’ll wear for one night when you could compile your own for a huge discount? Perhaps more importantly, I think we can all agree that the best costumes are the ones that involve the most creativity and innovation, not the ones that cost the most. Not to mention how much more fun they are to put together than ones you simply buy.
Take New Styles for a Test Run
We’ve all been there – you see someone wearing something and you think “wow, that’s cool…but I wonder if I could pull it off”. Take your new look for a test run before you commit fully with your wallet. There are not many worse feelings than cleaning out your closet and deciding it’s finally time to get rid of a shirt you bought when you were feeling adventurous but never wore. That only feels worse when you realize that the tag is still on it. So donate that stuff to Goodwill, then while you’re there, browse for things that are a little out of your comfort zone. If it doesn’t work out, you’ll feel a lot less guilt when you donate it back. And if it does, you can be much more confident in your future purchases!
For the Environment
We all know that we use and dispose of more things than we should and that the environmental cost stacks up quickly, probably even more quickly than most realize. Take, for example, the traditional lifespan of a shirt.
First, the shirt is designed, perhaps in the US. From there, it is assembled, likely in Asia, and then shipped back to the states. Even if you disregard the materials used to make the shirt, the shipping of the materials and finished products produces a huge amount of greenhouse gasses. Next, once the shirt arrives back at the processing center in the US, it, along with all the others, is tagged, packaged, and shipped once again, this time either to the end user if bought online, or to the store it will be sold at. The user wears it (or maybe never does!), and eventually throws it away, at which point it will be transported one final time to a landfill.
Pretty wasteful, right? Although we won’t claim that Goodwill solves every problem along the supply chain, we can certainly say that giving a piece of clothing multiple lives certainly reduces that piece of clothing’s overall impact on the environment! Imagine how much good we could all do if we reduced, reused, and THEN recycled!
In addition to this, MERS Goodwill ensures that our own processes generate as little waste as possible. When the community donates items to our stores, they are sorted through to decide what is sellable and what isn’t. We recycle as many of the unsellable items as possible. Some donations which are leftover from what’s sold at the Goodwill retail stores, too bulky to be sold at the stores, or otherwise deemed unfit for the retail stores will go to the Goodwill Outlet, where the items are sold by the pound in a streamlined, efficient method. From the Outlet, whatever doesn’t sell is then recycled as much as possible. We take our responsibility to care for the environment very seriously and do our best to limit our impact on our planet.
For the Community
Goodwill isn’t just about all of us finding great deals on everyday items. Its true mission is right in its name: Goodwill! Chances are, you don’t know about all the wonderful things that MERS Goodwill is doing in your community every day. Here are just a few of the services that MERS Goodwill provides the Saint Louis area with:
- Autism Employment Program
- Career Counseling
- Services for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing
- Services for individuals with Developmental Disabilities
- Education and Literacy Programs
- Programs for Ex-Offenders
- Senior Services
- Youth Programs
- Programs for Veterans
- Employment Opportunities
- Childcare and Preschool Programs
- And Many More!
MERS Goodwill provides these life-changing services each day, with great success. Our dedicated staff ensures that those who enter our program can expect to be treated with the respect they deserve, receive the training they need, and reach their fullest potential. From working on people skills and time management to building self-esteem and confidence, our staff helps people every step of the way. Our clients have gone on to do wonderful things, and have gained the skills they need to be successful in the workplace and in life. To read some of our client success stories, click here.
MERS Goodwill is proud to help everyone in the area! From frugal shoppers to quirky item-seekers, to collectors, to furniture refurbishers, to those who declutter their basements, to the individuals who participate in our programs, we take pride in our work every step of the way. Consider helping your local Goodwill today by donating, shopping, volunteering, and spreading the word. Visit our Donation Guide to find out what you can give to your community the next time you clean out your basement, attic, or closet. Please refer to this page to see a list of items we cannot accept. Unless your item is on that list, we will happily take it off your hands! If we can’t use it or sell it, we will recycle it.