916 Springdale Road
Austin, TX 78702
Mon-Sun: 8:00am - 8:00pm
I have not always been a great thrift shopper. I started thrifting in high school, but I had a much different attitude about it then than I do now. Then, it was about getting more clothes for cheaper, and about finding the kind of clothes I couldn't find in "regular" stores (sadly, I was a more creative dresser in high school and early in college than I am now). At a size 10 or 12, thrifting was easy, and I never had to get particularly good at it.
As I got a little bit older and a lot fatter, thrifting for clothes for myself became more difficult, but I never stopped liking to thrift, and in fact got more into it in college and after. This was for two reasons. The first is that, being on my own, I started seeing the value in thrifting for non clothes--for a long time, when I was most frustrated with my body, I thrifted only for books and housewares, and a large percentage of what is in my house is thrifted. The second thing, though, was that I started to really like to thrift for thrift's sake--going through other people's old stuff was just fun, regardless of whether I find something that works for me or not. And that, I think, is what makes me a good thrifter.
And my mind, the way you know a good thrifter is by what she can do at the bins.
To walk down memory lane again, I grew up with good thrift mentors. My mom isn't much of a secondhand shopper, just because she isn't much of a shopper of any kind and she lacks patience and willingness to spend hours going through stuff. My mom's next eldest sister, however, is a master. She calls it junking, rather than thrifting, and no store is too nasty, too crowded, or too full of crap for her. So, of course, it was with her that I went to Portland's bins.
The bins, for those who aren't familiar with the terms, are the place where the stuff that doesn't sell or isn't deemed salable from a chain of thrift stores (Goodwill or Salvation Army, in my experience) goes to die. The term "bins" comes from the fact that the stuff isn't sorted or on shelves or racks, but rather just dumped on large tables or in "bins" for patrons to sort through. In the case of the one I went to with my aunt in Portland, said stuff is then sold by the pound.
And y'all, I couldn't handle it. It was early in college when I went, and I was overwhelmed, grossed out, and scared that I'd reach into a bin and pull out a hypodermic needle or something. I just couldn't do it. And I haven't been to a bins store since then.
In Austin, the Goodwill bins is called the Blue Hanger Discount Store. Stuff there isn't sold by the pound, but it's significantly cheaper than regular Goodwill prices (for example, clothes are $1.25 per item, books are $.50, etc.). The layout is just like I remember the store in Portland being--a big warehouse room of tables piled high with stuff. Not really sorted, other than clothes in one area, books in a second, and everything else in a third, and not very clean. Sorta smelly and questionable.
In all that silt, though, there is gold.
At left, you will see my haul. Total spent? A bit less than $20 (cat not included). For real.
This is what you're seeing in the picture:
A brand new cat scratching post, $3
A beautiful wicker sewing basket, $2
A stuffed snake (my dogs LOVE them), $1
Two wide mouth mason jars (I use them to hold bath salts, scrub, etc.), $.25 each
A burlap, plastic-lined reusable grocery bag with an organic coffee logo, $2
2 pairs of Banana Republic slacks for Mark, both in good shape, $1.25 each
A cool old-fashioned style bandana, $.25
A velvet bolero jacket/shrug/fancy cover up thing from Lane Bryant, $1.25
A red flowered Gap cami with built in bra, $1.25
A gorgeous black embroidered blouse from Lane Bryant, $1.25
Two pairs of capris for me, one Tommy Hilfiger, one Gap, $1.25 each
A fully lined black Le Suit suit skirt for me, $1.25 (which doesn't fit, unfortunately)
TOTAL: $18.75 plus tax
So, needless to say, I am LOVING the Blue Hanger Discount Store.
However, there is a caveat: if you don't actually like to thrift, don't bother with the bins. Seriously, it's not worth it. The prices are great, but this is a thrifting marathon. You have to dig through A LOT of shit to get to the good stuff. And some of it is nasty. I'm not just talking about seeing other people's old underwear, here, either--I'm talking about seeing other people's old potty chairs, vibrators, dentures, and syringes, and none of it being clean. And having to dig through it with your own two hands. It ain't pretty. I saw one woman there with gloves on, and she clearly had the right idea. There are no dressing rooms, but I wouldn't try this stuff on without washing it even if there were. There are no returns or exchanges, either--you buy it, it's yours.
Also, if you have a lack of patience, don't bother with the bins. This trip took me about two and a half hours. The stuff there is 90% crap, at least, and you have to get through it all to find the good stuff. It takes time.
If you are a small size, though (anything below a 12 I'd say) and have a good bit of patience and a strong stomach, you could practically re-outfit yourself here for not much money at all. And don't skip the non-clothes, either--I found some wonderful stuff in the junk bins, and if I had kids to buy for, I'd have really been in heaven. The only real loser section is the books, and I might just be thinking that because I had to see books thrown around in bins like that.
All in all, the Blue Hanger has to be the most rewarding thrift experience I've had in Austin. It's going to be my new go-to store.