Written by: Brittany Anas
The last rental I lived in had a surprisingly spacious bathroom, but it was a wee short on storage. (I was bamboozled by those darn false drawer fronts!) So, I hit up Goodwill and found a $30 vintage record player cabinet with beautiful brass latches. It fit just right in my bathroom and was a glam storage piece that stashed my hair dryer and curling irons and other doo-dads. Bonus: No assembly required!
Goodwill stores, I learned, are basically treasure troves for renters, filled with items that can help solve your rental woes. Plus, thrifting is gentle on the budget (and great for the environment!), which is especially welcome if you’re cash-strapped after putting down a deposit and first month’s rent, and hired movers, and replaced all your groceries and … you get the idea.
I recently perused the Goodwill by my suburban Denver home (it has a dedicated home store — woot!) and talked with Marla Eby, director of marketing and media relations for Goodwill Southern California to find out what these thrift shops have in store for renters. OK, yes, the inventory at one store is completely different than that of another and it’s ever-evolving — but there are definitely some commonalities among stores.
Ready? Let’s go Goodwill hunting, renter-style.
1. Curtain rods
Maybe you need some more privacy or perhaps you cringe at the sight of cheap, stark white vinyl blinds that are ubiquitous in apartments. In addition to donated items, Goodwill sells a number of new items, too, Eby says, curtain rods being among them. You may even be able to find donated curtains and sheers in stores, too. It’s amazing how adding drapes can take a home from standard rental to “this feels like home.”
2. Kitchen utensils
For those who are renting their first apartment and need to stock a kitchen, Goodwill stores have a ton of kitchen items. This doesn’t mean you need to have a mish-mash of items, either. For example, the Goodwill by my house has a partnership with Target, so the shop gets a bunch of unused clearance items or discontinued items. I found a whole stash of kitchen goods — measuring cups, measuring spoons, spatulas, oven mitts — that I recognized from Target’s home section in fun, punchy colors.
Beige carpet in the living room and linoleum floors in the kitchen and bath are pretty much the formula for many cookie-cutter rentals. The fix: Pop in some patterns and textures with rugs and mats, which are also common in the “new, never been used” inventory at Goodwill stores, Eby says. If you’re buying a rug that’s been gently used, though, here’s how you can give it a deep clean.
4. Floor and table lamps
Ideally, your rental has a good mix of natural and artificial lighting. But, if you do need to call in back-up, re-wiring the place so there’s more overhead lighting isn’t exactly an option in a temporary living space. Enter: floor and table lamps. There were a bunch of them hanging out in my local store, craning their necks like flamingos. Some were dated (or is it vintage charm?) but swapping out the lampshade is a simple solution. Savvy thrift store shoppers know to give them a test run by plugging them into the outlets to make sure they work. (It’s also a good idea to carry batteries to test out any other appliances).
5. Wall art
Boring white walls, be gone! Artwork and frames (!) are abundant at Goodwill stores, Eby says. This is where the scavenger hunt that is thrifting comes into play. You might find the obscure (i.e. someone’s personal art project from a canvas and cocktails type of class). Or you might find a bona fide treasure, like an abstract piece that you’ll want to build your apartment’s color scheme around.
But, here’s a trick: If you want to score awesome art, your intuition is probably leading you to the Goodwill stores near affluent neighborhoods. But, my friends who are real deal thrifters say they love hitting up small town Goodwills, too, with a theory that inventory gets dispersed to stores that may not have a high volume of donations pouring in.
My Goodwill (really taking some ownership here) has lots of beautiful, woven baskets that are perfect for storage and were under $5 — and less if you go on a day when home goods are 50 percent off. I love baskets to group items and keep closets streamlined. When I was renting I had a grab-and-go basket of winter hats and gloves in my tiny hall closet and baskets to corral belts and flip flops in my bedroom closet. On my most recent trip, I was also majorly impressed with the pretty vases that could be used for anything from umbrella storage to palm fronds.
This post recently ran on TheKitchn, on 10/5/2021, see it there: Best Finds at Goodwill for Renters
This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: The 6 Most Underrated Items at Goodwill for Renters.