Sourcing Clothing by the POUND?! Your Guide to Goodwill Outlets (PART 1)

If you’re looking for a way to source LOTS of clothing for cheap, the Goodwill Outlets might be the place for you! You’ll find warehouses full to the brim with big blue bins, all filled with diamonds in the rough just waiting for YOU to snatch them up. And what’s more, you don’t pay for each item individually – at the end of your shopping spree, they weight it all for you and charge you by the pound!

But Goodwill Outlets – or “The Bins”, as they’re known by grizzled veterans – are not for the faint of heart. In many ways Goodwill Outlets are like the wild west: lawless (not really), dangerous (only sometimes), and filled with the promise of the American Dream (too dramatic? We don’t think so).

We’ve got you covered though! Read on to learn tips and tricks about shopping Goodwill Outlets and braving the Bins. We’ll take you through what to expect, how to prepare, and the best ways to make the most of your adventure!

Survival Guide for the Goodwill Outlets

You never forget your first visit to The Bins. But you don't have to go in unprepared! We've got a TWO PART blog here to get you ready for success at the Goodwill Outlets.

  • 1) Manage Your Expectations

  • Shopping at Goodwill Outlets is a very different experience than going to your local thrift store. Here are some of the biggest things you should be aware of before sourcing clothing this way:

    • No clothing racks. As you’ve probably guessed, Goodwill Outlets are called “The Bins” for a reason. All clothing is rolled out in big blue plastic bins that can hold a TON of items. To find your gems, you’ll need to search through these bins, which means a lot of bending over, pushing clothing around, and lifting them up. Consider it your workout for the day!
    • Cleanliness is not a given. The bins at Goodwill Outlets are filled with items that haven’t been cleaned or washed, so if someone donated clothing that is dirty, smelly, or just plain gross, that’s what you’re going to get
    • There is no rhyme or reason. Unlike at a thrift store, most of the items you’ll find in the Bins are unsorted. Sure, you probably won’t find clothing mixed in with books and mason jars, but if you’re hoping to grab as many sweaters as you can find you’re going to have to hunt!

    PRO TIP: If the possibility of touching someone’s used undies freaks you out (we’re not joking), consider wearing gloves and maybe even bringing a facemask to help you feel safer from germs!

    2) Pack Light

    You’re not going camping, and you’re going to regret lugging around a tote bag or nice purse (especially if someone thinks it’s a great find and walks away with it!).

    Treat a visit to The Bins like you’re running a 10k – only carry the essentials with you! A fanny pack or backpack is your best friend, to carry your car keys, wallet, and phone. That’s the basics of all you really need! 

    Not only will carrying more exhaust you, but it’s easy for things to get lost in the bins. A phone set on the corner for “just a second” becomes a frantic 30 minute search in the blink of an eye!

    3) Don’t Expect a Quick Visit

    If you’re hoping to “pop in” and grab some great stuff, Goodwill Outlets might not be for you. It’s just like a visit to IKEA – not really something you can do in under an hour!

    Plan to spend an hour at Goodwill Outlets at absolute minimum. Sorting through huge bins in a warehouse is time consuming, and you’ll want to make sure you stay for the “bin rotation” when they bring out a new row of fresh bins. That’s when you can really find the good stuff!

    4) Keep Your Eyes Peeled for…Cash?

    That’s right! Ever forgotten a dollar or two in your clothes and accidentally sent them through the laundry? Imagine accidentally donating your old jeans with five bucks inside!

    If you’re looking for clothing items it can be hard to spot money floating around, but if you bring the kids along they might help spot cash or coins!

    A few tricks for snagging some cash:

    • Check the bottoms of bins for coins that have slipped out of pockets
    • Look inside item pockets and bags
    • Keep your ears open for crinkling bills or jingling coins
    • If you find credit cards or IDs, be sure to turn them in at the desk! Someone is probably desperately looking for them.

    5) Get With the Pricing

    Although every Goodwill Outlet is different, there are a few things you can expect generally from their pricing systems.

    One way to get the most bang for your buck is actually by buying more! Many Goodwill Outlets give out bigger and bigger discounts the more you buy. The price per pound goes down the more pounds you purchase. Just like wholesale food!

    If you find an item that is quite heavy, check to see if the location you’re at has a fixed price for items over a certain weight. This can really save you money on things like heavy winter coats!

    When you’re ready to head to the cashier, make sure that you separate all your clothes into categories for checkout. The cashier is NOT going to sort through your items for you to look for YOUR deals, so if you have something you think shouldn’t be included in the per pound price, have it separate and ready!


    We’ve got a ton more tips and tricks for you – make sure you check out our next blog to learn all about the best shopping strategy at Goodwill Outlets, how weighing for pricing works, and...

    ...a sneaky secret that might leave you in a pickle if you’re not prepared!!