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Why You Should Shop at Goodwill Outlet (If You Sew or Craft)

Wondering what is a Goodwill Outlet! It’s different than a regular Goodwill store; you fill your cart, wheel it onto a scale, and pay per pound. There are often larger items up by the front priced separately (like tables, chairs, gigantic picture frames). The difference between a Goodwill Outlet and regular Goodwill makes things like sewing notions dirt cheap since they are so light! It’s also a great spot to get garments for upcycling.

Tips for thrifting! If you want to refashion or upcycle clothes, you'll want to read this. There are photo examples for what to consider while you shop!

Check out these other posts!

If you’ve never been before and are feeling overwhelmed, check out my tips for shopping to upcycle before you go.

I acknowledge these pictures are not awesome. I have been meaning to write this post taking pretty pictures of shopping hauls, but every time I forget and it gets toted downstairs or redistributed by my toddler son before I get a chance to bust out the DSLR. Please forgive me!

Already convinced? Find out if you have a local Goodwill outlet with their store locator! If you love shopping secondhand for the environmental aspect in addition to saving money, check out this post about upcycling/recycling toys too!

Des Moines Goodwill Outlet

This is what a Goodwill Outlet looks like! Lots of bins. This is where stuff goes when it isn’t sold in Goodwill stores after a certain amount of time. The bins are changed out throughout the day, with a warning given before over the loudspeaker.

It can be chaotic! There are lots of folks who make a full-time living “picking” and reselling on Ebay (it’s fascinating, really, I dabbled in it during a year of ‘creative’ employment in between jobs) and they come prepared with gloves and pointy elbows. I take my son with a snack and he is amused to choose one thing out (he changes his mind as we travel and has to weigh his options) but if he were too big to fit in the cart I think I’d wait until I could go alone!


I am most excited about this giant white board – it would be perfect as a brainstorming board in my sewing room! Alas, it is an unfinished space with insulation for walls. So it will be a drawing board in the playroom. So many stickers, stencils, and play-doh toys. The vintage purse notions are intriguing, I need to do more research on how they’re used.

Let me be clear, you have to like digging. Stuff is THROWN in and around by other shoppers. I love digging! It’s so fun to catch the corner of a sewing pattern and dig around deeper to find a ton of notions.

Obviously every outlet is going to be different, and every day (or even morning to afternoon!) is completely different. With that being said, I’ve been many times and never left without seeing (or buying) craft/sewing supplies like markers, stickers, stencils, fabric, and bias tape.

I also stocked up on knit shirts for upcycling, can’t beat paying for clothes by the pound!


Are you convinced yet? Most people I mention it to say that they’ve never heard of them – and they’re not in all areas. I’d love to hear what you’ve scored, if you go!






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Saturday 15th of June 2024

Your photo of the bin store looks much cleaner than the 2 I've been to!

Gloves are a must, but I suggest work gloves rather than nitrile, etc.* Heck- anyone who shops at Goodwill outlets and their ilk should consider always keeping gloves, hand wipes, sanitizer, scissors, and maybe even a clean shirt in their car. Most, if not all, cars even have a designated spot for gloves. ** Even after my kids grew up, I didn't stop carrying wipes like Huggies. They last for years, even though I sometimes need to remoisten them.

* Never use latex gloves where you'll touch something another person might come into contact with. For people with latex allergies, it can be life-threatening or increase our immunological response to where it becomes so. I'm shocked latex gloves are still sold and don't come with a warning for the next of us. It’s bad enough that “latex” is sometimes used rather generically.

** uh, your glove compartment or glove box. 😉

Stephanie - Swoodson Says

Saturday 22nd of June 2024

Oh really! I've been to probably... 5 different locations by now (this post is very old) and the only one that felt really grody was in South Carolina. I've never thought of a glove box as being for gloves LOL that does make sense though huh.


Monday 3rd of July 2023

Goodwill Outlet Worlds are the best!!! When I first moved to Colorado, I filled a shopping cart to the brim (& beyond) to outfit my apartment - all for $45!

K. Allbritton

Thursday 12th of March 2020

I discovered one of the Goodwill bin stores in Portland about 20 years ago when visiting my daughter. At the time I lived about 1700 miles away from Portland, so I bought BIG suitcases and took my ‘finds’ home. I continued to do this up until we finally retired to Oregon.. Now I go to the bins almost every time we drive into town. Still finding it irresistible. Also I really like your blog. Thanks

Stephanie - Swoodson Says

Sunday 19th of April 2020

I'm glad you've found the bin love too, and thanks for reading :D


Thursday 20th of September 2018

I went to an Goodwill outlet on a whim, in Portland, OR; after driving by it for years, I was curious. It was a bit scary to tell you the truth. People RAN to new bins being rolled into the room— it was a sight to see, for sure. I had to ‘adopt’ a Snoopy doll—couldn’t bear the thought of him being discarded—I love ❤️ Snoopy so much! I also bought a very large LL Bean tote bag—it was dirty, but after a good washing, it looks great! Score! Would I go back? Not sure—it just wasn’t for ME, digging into bins of unknown items—-you need to decide for yourself—-so I urge you to try it.

Stephanie - Swoodson Says

Saturday 22nd of September 2018

Definitely something people either love or hate, and you have to go to know! Glad you found a few gems at least :)


Thursday 13th of September 2018

I really enjoyed the one we used to have here, but they closed it and now there is just a store. I found my family clothes, toys, brand new shoes, and craft items for a reasonable price. Miss the outlet store. Great way to get out of the house for a bit.

Stephanie - Swoodson Says

Saturday 22nd of September 2018

I'm sorry you lost yours, hopefully next time you take a trip there will be one nearby :)

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