One man’s journey into thrift-store compulsion
I’m a goodwill junkie.
It wasn’t always that way. During my first trip to Goodwill roughly three decades ago, I’m fairly certain I thought the place was a dump. I base this on my own children’s reactions when I announce that Dad’s “making a run to the ’Will”—my lame attempt to make my mecca seem a bit cooler.
“I don’t want to go,” my eight-year-old whines.
“Nooooo!” my five-year-old cries.
But I don’t care. I love Goodwill. I love it for the funky T-shirts. I love it for the inexpensive children’s books. I love it for the stuff I never knew I wanted until I saw it—those knickknacks stacked behind the Looney Toons salt-and-pepper shakers, but in front of the eBay-ready, unopened canister of 1970s Dunlop tennis balls. My house is practically bursting with discoveries: board games, snowsuits, picture frames, and even a life-size cardboard cutout of former baseball pro Ken Griffey Jr., because—what the heck?—it was $2.99.
Which brings me to this: I need help.
Back in 2008, I dropped into Goodwill for the first time in years to see what was inside. I wanted to know if my visceral childhood reaction to secondhand wares remained. I bought a couple of shirts and went home happy. As a married dad with a mortgage and two college tuitions on the horizon…what can I say? The idea of paying $4 for some other guy’s jacket no longer made me want to bathe in bleach. And in a way, that made me feel good about myself. I started making monthly trips to Goodwills around Denver. Like any good addict, I convinced myself it was totally recreational.
Soon I was dropping cash once a week and coming home with a jumbo plastic bag filled with what I considered to be pretty cool stuff. My daughter had every Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, and Roald Dahl book you could imagine. My son got two baseball bats and a helmet that he shared with his rec-league teammates. My wife thought it was cute. I swear.
That is, until I veered terribly off course. Sometime last year, I became a full-on thriftaholic. I ramped up my visits, hitting two or three Goodwills a week. Last summer, I did a grand tour: four Goodwills in one day. On trips outside the state, I’d pull up the address of the nearest store on my phone.
A few months ago, I finally admitted my obsession. But that was only after I ran out of closet space and my wife told me she had a big problem with that cardboard cutout. I’d placed it near a window in my son’s bedroom, and she said it looked like someone with a bat was stalking the cul-de-sac. Inexpensive home-security system, I argued. She won.
And she was right. I took inventory of the items I’d purchased. I had clothes I’d worn only once, books I’d vowed to read but hadn’t, photos I’d never had time to frame. In other words: I’d brought Goodwill home with me and never unpacked. I’d gone overboard with my love for the ’Will. I was buying simply to buy—functionality notwithstanding. It dawned on me that a deal isn’t a deal if the merchandise doesn’t hold value to begin with. You’re just spending money you wouldn’t otherwise spend. But for what? I needed to get things under control.
So I’m promising to curb my visits—for the closet space, for my family’s sanity, and maybe even a little for me. No more Tours de Goodwill. No more dragging my pleading kids along with me. Yes, this Goodwill junkie is going to change. Right after the next half-price sale.
Goodwill Denver—South Broadway
21 S. Broadway, 303-722-1440
Buy: men’s T-shirts and dress shirts, framed photos, knickknacks
Goodwill Denver—Cherry Creek
5000 Leetsdale Drive, 303-321-8798
Buy: children’s books
4160 S. Broadway, 303-781-8511
Buy: men’s coats and jackets, kids’ clothes
11000 S. Parker Road, 303-840-1004
Buy: books for all ages, men’s shirts, kids’ clothes