Decluttering for a Cause: Goodwill Up-Cycles Your Donations into Employment and Job Training Programs throughout the Triad

At Triad Goodwill’s Outlet Store, shoppers rummage for products to purchase by the pound. Some gather bin-loads of shoes in bulk for charity. Others pick and choose carefully, waiting around for the next delivery of goods, hoping it will bring that one-of-a-kind treasure. The Outlet, just next door to Goodwill’s retail shop on S. Eugene Street, is a haven for crafty recyclers and up-cyclers too.

Spring brings out the gardeners in search of worn-out shoes or blue jeans, says Jeremy Rohrs, store manager. They’ll apply an acrylic or other hardening compound to transform them into fun, funky garden art and planters.

“You see a lot of that this time of year,” he says.

“A lot of creative millennials love the Outlet Store, adds Teresa Smith, director of marketing. “The ‘buy second-hand first’ mantra is really catching on with that generation. Halloween is one of our busiest times.”


Spring cleaning, combined with the Marie Condo’s hit Netflix de-cluttering show, is having an impact at Goodwill. Condo has popularized the idea of deciding what should stay and what should go by keeping items that “spark joy.” Keep anything that makes you happy. Donate items that don’t.

“You hear people donating, and saying, ‘Maybe this will spark joy for someone else,’” says Christine Gillies, marketing specialist for Triad Goodwill.  

Over in the sorting center, a different type of up-cycling is taking place. The sorting center serves Goodwill’s Work Experience Program, for adults who have encountered barriers to employment.

“When you donate stuff to Goodwill, you’re doing it with the idea that you’re turning it into something good and positive. We’re doing that with people,” says Tony Jonas, logistics and facilities director.

Donations serve an eco purpose too, he adds. Last year alone, more than 9 million pounds were diverted from area landfills. Unsold merchandise is bought by vendors who resell or give items for use as its intended purpose. Metal and electronic waste is sent to recycling companies. Computers are disassembled, sorted and sold to recyclers or recovery businesses that adhere to environmentally safe practices.

Jason Norris credits Goodwill with his newfound hope. A combination of bad luck and bad decisions in his teens and 20s added up to poor prospects for finding employment he said. So, in 2016, he turned to Goodwill, and the organization helped him find meaningful work.

Today, he is the coordinator of Goodwill’s Burlington Career Center, where he helps create opportunities for others like him.

“I love seeing people win. Whatever I can do to facilitate that makes my day,” Jason says.


Clutter carries a lot of baggage, both positive and negative, which is one reason we often find it so hard to sort and discard. Here are tips the experts advise to make the job easier:

  • Tackle one room or one area at a time. Start with the one that seems the most problematic, such as the kitchen or the dining room table.
  • Use several bins or boxes and sort items according to category: put away, donate, recycle, trash. Start with obvious trash first.
  • For clothes, sort one category at a time. For instance, start with shoes, then move on to jeans, then  T-shirts, etc.
  • Keep only as many hangers as your closet can accommodate. When you run out of hangers, you’ll know it’s time to clear out the garments you never wear. The same for spaces in your shoe rack.
  • Once your space is in the clear again, establish a program for regular decluttering.


When you shop at Goodwill, your dollars stay local and transform lives. In the past year alone, 1.5 million Triad Goodwill shoppers made it possible for the nonprofit to provide 65,000 job training hours for 14,000 job seekers and 2,700 new job placements.

In addition to its 22 retail stores, in five counties, Goodwill also provides these opportunities to make your donations—and shopping dollars—count:

  • – An online auction site. Shoppers can bid on higher-value donated goods, including furs, evening wear, collectibles and fine jewelry. People donating such exclusive items enjoy knowing that it can fetch top dollar for the greater good of the community, Christine says.
  • Edgar’s Bargain Books – An online used bookstore, named for Edgar J. Helms, the Methodist minister who founded Goodwill in Boston in 1902. 
  • Willows – A pop-up boutique for fabulous finds on new or gently used designer clothing, accessories and housewares. All items are hand-selected for your shopping experience!        

Ditch the Dumpster

Goodwill makes it easy for homeowners or businesses to recycle. Here’s how:

Free Home Pickup

  • All items must be clean and in salable condition—no furniture that is covered in animal hair, broken, torn, stained or missing parts.
  • Any items that require disassembly to be moved must be disassembled before the pickup team arrives.
  • All items should, if possible, be in one, easy-to-access, centralized location.
  • Small items should be boxed or bagged, and any breakables properly packed.

Community Cares and Corporate Donation Drives

Goodwill can help your organization’s decluttering drives by dropping off donation bins for pickup at a later time.

Goodwill does not accept the following:

  • Mattresses and box springs
  • Hazardous, flammable or toxic materials
  • Baby items (except for clothing and shoes)
  • Items that have been recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission
  • Non-flatscreen TVs