We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

Success! You're on the list.

The Salvation Army has high standards. No, really, especially where home goods are concerned. It will not accept furniture with torn upholstery, broken legs, severe soiling, or any other sort of defect that would require the staff to do anything more than vacuum/dust off the item and stick it on the sales floor. Perhaps you’ve had the misfortune of hauling a sofa/mattress set/armoire out to a donation center on a Saturday morning only to be told that your castoffs don’t make the cut. At the Annandale, Va., branch of the Salvation Army, the guys who check in the goods are pretty eagle-eyed when it comes to the big items. But every once in a while, they take something that is deemed unfit for sale only after it has been dropped off. So, where does that stuff go? A Dumpster? Hell no—they need that space for all the soiled undies, pill bottles, and 2.5-inch floppy disks that people sneak into their donation boxes. The more-than-gently used furniture goes across the street to a big warehouse where the fixer-upper-inclined can buy it at deep, deep discount. If you can see past crusty exteriors, there are gems to be had. I recently nabbed a mid-century-ish dresser ($20) and a mid-century-ish dining room table ($10) and, although they were pretty scratched up, I just furniture-polished them, and they were good. Maybe not as good as new but definitely good enough to pass muster at the fancy Salvation Army sales center from which they were banished. There are also big appliances (washers, dryers, and refrigerators) that aren’t very pretty but are in good working order. And a lot of the stuff isn’t even damaged—just DIY projects of questionable taste gone wrong. If you’re willing to endure not only wear and tear but design elements such as puff-paint squiggles or decoupage Wiccan symbols, an entire showroom of goods is yours for the taking.