Living the Goodwill Life: An Interview with Beautiful Existence

Beautiful Existence has quite a name, and she’s managed to more than live up to it. For a full year, Beautiful is buying everything (except food & medicine) at Goodwill – and, not only that, she’s documenting her journey (along with Total Savings tallies) all along the way.

Beautiful proves that giving back to the community and providing for yourself can be one in the same. Now that's what we call a beautiful existence!

We first covered Beautiful Existence’s incredible, inspirational challenge back in March. This past weekend, we got the chance to check-in with this thrift champion and see how Living the Goodwill Life has treated her so far. Hope you enjoy!:

For those who may not be lucky enough to have discovered Living the Goodwill Life yet, what’s your favorite way to sum up your project and why it matters to you? 

The Living the Goodwill Life challenge started initially to see if I (as a life-long thrifter) could purchase everything we needed from a thrift store.  But very quickly after I started the challenge a bigger concept sprung up of inspiring others to save money, reduce their environmental footprint and inform themselves on the joys of the thrifting community.  All I can hope is that this challenge will keep entertaining and educating myself and others on the wonderful world of Thrifting and of course the Goodwill Industries!

What’s been the toughest part of living the Goodwill life? 

Shoes!  I -HEART- shoes (especially cute and comfortable/eco lines!) and adore looking at the new styles from all my favorite lines (such as: Timberland, Sofft, Dansko, Born, etc.) so… I’ve received a couple of pairs of shoes from family members for my Birthday/Holidays because they support my challenge and know I can’t buy them for myself but I continue to search for a pair!  Of course there are those odd items (like my school nursing uniform in a Caribbean blue, or the 16′ gauge wire for a DIY project, or the liquor for this Dad’s day gift) but I just go and buy those things when i know they are not at a Goodwill.  The shoes… that has definitely been the hard part so far.

What’s been the least-foreseeable benefit of Living the Goodwill Life? 

I had no idea how amazing of a Thrift community there is out there!  I’ve met so many people that dig this challenge and are avid thrifters themselves.  It’s AWESOME to hear the thrifting stories from all over the country, to meet the people that love to thrift or that own thrift stores or vintage shops.  I honestly wish more people would write in and share their stories and pictures!  I’ve done two video interviews with thrifters and had images sent in from a lady’s wedding reception where most of the items were from the Seattle Dearborn Goodwill.  The Thrift-public is a LOT bigger than I ever knew and I’ve just loved meeting and getting to know all these people and hearing their stories!

Why did you choose to focus on Goodwill? 

I choose Goodwill for a couple of different reasons… 1.) The Seattle/Tacoma Goodwill Industries in Western Washington ROCK!  I can go from north to south from west to east in my state and be able to find a Goodwill.  If I would of tried to do this with another thrift store I would of been pretty limited.  2.)  I work with nonprofits and have volunteered with nonprofits since middle school.  I really believe in giving back and I was ONLY going to support a thrift store that gives back to the community, a.k.a. is a nonprofit themselves.  Yeah, I get a lot of people asking me about some for-profit stores and I’ve shopped them in the past but I ask you… if you have $20 bucks to spend at a thrift store why not spend it giving back to your community instead of somebody/stockholders pocketbook?  Thrifting encourages the environmental cycle, why not encourage the community cycle along with it?

What do your friends and family think of the project and the press you’ve gotten from it? 

My immediate family supports the challenge because they not only taught me to thrift, but live frugal lives themselves.  I grew up on a farm and on a farm you see the life-cycle first hand… a cycle of nurturing and supporting to reap a reward.  This challenge is aligned with how they all live, so it’s a no-brainer for them. 

Now friends, they see things differently.  I’ve run the gamut of conversations with my friends over this challenge… mostly because my friends are pretty diverse in career, neighborhood, etc. and I feel that lends to their preferences for shopping/fashion.  I have friends that have NEVER thrifted and only shop Nordstrom (this is Nordstrom country after all), I have friends that shop discount stores like the RACK or Ross but haven’t stepped foot into a thrift store for awhile and I have those friends that go to the thrift store all the time. 

I have definitely raised some eyebrows by showing the non-thrift store shoppers the brand-new designer items I get at great prices and a couple of my friends tell me I can only get those deals because I have the “Goodwill Golden Touch” but I insist that they come with me and find out for themselves. 

I’m still planning those private-Thrift-shopping days with a couple of friends but I think there is definitely a market for it.  In fact, your last GoodwillNyNj’s Style Icon (Looking Fly on a Dime‘s Patrice J. Williams) has had TWO such private-THRIFT-shopping days with followers in NY!

Ready to book your next thrift adventure? Go for it! Who knows… You might become such a fan you’ll start Living the Goodwill Life yourself. Enjoy the challenge, dear thrifters – and don’t forget to check in next week for Part Two of our interview with Beautiful Existence. In the meantime, come share what you like to shop for at Goodwill. Visit us on Twitter and Facebook – we love hearing from you!


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