Used clothes used to freak me out. Oh sure, I could buy "vintage" pieces and wear them, but I never bought thrift store clothes -- they gave me the heebie jeebies. Don't know why, probably it was just my strictly middle class upbringing.
But lately I've become a tightwad's tightwad, and have fallen in love with The Bins. For those not in the Portland loop, the Bins are where Goodwill items go to die. In other words, all the stuff that doesn't sell at Goodwill stores around the Portland area, goes to this facility just south of Portland. There, it's put into these big rolling bins in a room roughly the size of a football field.
The stuff is roughly categorized -- books on the back wall, clothing on the west side of the building -- but a casual glance into any bin will reveal a whole world of cast off goods. You might see a naked Barbie doll, some lidless Tupperware, a box of holiday ornaments, a puzzle, some jagged pieces of broken glassware (tip: wear gloves while rummaging through the bins), a cigarette lighter, a few stuffed animals... Most of the stuff is pure junk, and looking at it all makes my head spin. I feel our society floating away on a toxic river of cheap consumer goods. You just know that most of this stuff is going to end up in the landfill.
But the stuff that isn't junk ... Well that's what keeps me coming back. Some finds have included an almost brand-new pink raincoat for my daughter just when the rainy season was about to begin; lots of pairs of jeans in my size (including the pair pictured, which actually had a $5 bill in the pocket, meaning I actually MADE MONEY on the deal); the exact Playmobil set my daughter had asked for the week before; some leaded crystal wine glasses. At the bins, you pay $1.39 a pound for almost everything, except books, which are a buck for hardcovers and 50 cents for paperbacks.
A lot of people go to the bins strictly to find things for resale. There are those that go though all the clothing bins for stuff to sell at Buffalo Exchange or other clothing stores. There are people who grab all the books they can, then use their cell phone to check the ISBNs on Amazon.
The bins are addictive. You just get ready to leave, thinking there's no way I'm going to find anyting valuable today, and suddenly they're wheeling out a new bin and everyone is lining up to get first crack at the stuff inside. It's a crapshoot, with the spoils going to the patient, the aggressive, and the cheap.