As the economy takes a spin around the drain, the idea of shopping at a thrift store might seem more appealing. I love the bargain hunting aspect of it and I rarely spend more than $20 when I visit one. (Unless I'm in there for furniture.) Thrift-store shopping is GREEN, too. Always has been!
As far as organizing goes--they are hit and miss for organizing items. They usually have a great selection of baskets and I always peruse that section for just the "right size" I need to contain something or use as a waste basket. And of course, these baskets are going to be between 50 cents and a couple dollars, so you will save scads of money as opposed to buying them new at an import or craft store. Vases are also wonderful organizing tools (and in plentiful supply). I use a little one with a wide mouth to hold my hair clips on my bathroom counter. Old plastic pitchers make great cat/dog food containers/pourers. Black plastic office stacking trays can usually be found for 25 cents or so.
A few caveats:
All will take cash, of course. Some take checks, others do not. Some take credit cards, others do not. Some are closed on Sundays. Many close early in the day or by 5 pm. (Since they are often staffed by volunteers, these folks are pretty good at shooing you out at closing time and locking those doors!) Worth it to call ahead if you plan to do any shopping on Sunday. Some might have "Half off days" each month or "Senior Discount Day" of the week.
They all tend to specialize in some areas. Some have a ton of furniture, others none. Some are well kept and well-lighted with clean items, others are quite dark and dirty. (Still might be some great bargains if you don't mind cleaning things.)
And of course their selections change daily.
And try this rule on for size...only shop in one if you are also bringing in at least one bag of stuff from your own house!
Resist buying stuff just because it is a great bargain. Know how you will use it and where it will go before you buy it. Clutter is still clutter whether you paid an arm and a leg or just a pinky!
Here is an annotated list of the stores I am familiar with. These are my own opinions and I'm sorry if I offend anybody! There are many more stores in the Sonoma County area, I just haven't been to all of them! (No, really, I haven't!)
The first two are on the frontage just west of the freeway.
Salvation Army-5701 Redwood Dr, (800) 728-7825
Update 5/09--Alas, this wonderful store is no more! One of my favorites–I can't imagine why they closed it.
St. Vincent De Paul Thrift Store
5671 Redwood Dr, Rohnert Park, CA 94928 (707) 584-1579
This one is not as nicely kept as the Salvation Army store. Darker, more "dank." They are just a couple of blocks from each other. Usually has some furniture. Worth a look, but Salvation Army is way better.
4 Padre Pkwy, Rohnert Park, CA 94928 Map
This is over off Commerce by Rohnert Park Expressway. (East of the freeway)
Another big store. Usually some big furniture. Their little stuff is usually overpriced, but I've never really paid attention to the prices on the furniture. The store is not as "nice" but not dark and dreary either.
Hospice Foundation & VNA Thrift Store
6350 Commerce Blvd, Rohnert Park, CA 94928 Map * (707) 588-8015
Tiny little store next to Safeway. Not usually big furniture. Maybe one piece at a time. Some books.
Goodwill Industries of The Redwood Empire, Outlet store
651 Yolanda Ave, Santa Rosa, CA 95404
This was a really yucky place the last time I was there. Major donation site. Very dirty and the "dregs" of stuff, I thought.
Goodwill Stores, http://www.gire.org/services/stores
680 Sebastopol Rd, Santa Rosa, CA 95407
This is way south in the "Roseland Area." In a distressed neighborhood, but this store is new, big, well-organized and well-kept. Great selection of clothes and household items. Furniture was so-so when I was there. But that might change day to day.
Forgotten Felines of Sonoma County
1701 Piner Rd, Santa Rosa, CA 95403* (707) 570-2590
Nice medium sized store. Not usually much furniture (sometimes now and then). Great glassware and household. OK for clothes. Lots of books.
The Salvation Army
1050 3rd St, Santa Rosa, CA 95404 * (707) 544-6766 (near Brookwood and Third)
Medium to large size store. The parking lot is a nightmare to get in and out of. Lots of clothes, lots of glassware. Usually some furniture. A few books, but not well organized. Fairly clean and well-kept.
V NA & Hospice Foundation Thrift Store
748 Gravenstein Ave, Sebastopol, CA 95472 * (707) 824-4712
"My" thrift store! Some furniture. Well kept, well organized. Nice glassware (they clean it), clothes. Lots of books. They take checks and charge cards. Open on Sunday.