Secondhand: A Book Review and Ideas to Try

This is a repost of my January 2021 article in the Mueller neighborhood newsletter, The Front Porch Flyer.

In the world of zero waste, one of the big books is Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale by Adam Minter. The book does a great job of balancing what’s going on in the world – both inspiring you and describing the painful reality of the lifecycle of objects. Minter’s book is full of fascinating statistics and information on furnishings and textiles, as well as terrific ideas for reducing our load on the planet. Two of Minter’s biggest  ideas can help us reduce the number of objects we crowd into our lives this new year.

First, rehome objects now. According to Minter, “The [secondhand process] is made even more difficult by changing tastes. ‘Oh, my kids will take it.’ No they won’t. It’s not their identity.” When you read Secondhand, you’ll find out that what you expect to happen to your belongings isn’t always what happens. 

If you have ever thought “I want the things to go to people who will use them,” then while your items are still in good condition, repairable because they’re still in production, or repair parts are still available, begin today to rehome the things you don’t use or want. You’ll have time now to get help and to find the most local and appropriate  organization or individual who can use those items today, and not in the future when they might not be suitable.

  • Mueller has its own Mueller Marketplace on Facebook to give, sell, or buy items. 
  • Parents of Mueller, also on Facebook, is a great resource for children’s things.
  • Mueller participates in the Buy Nothing Project, a local Facebook economy to give and receive favors, praise, and items. 
  • If you support local charities and businesses, those in need today can take your donations immediately instead of letting them sit in storage.
  • You can also give away items using the Craigslist For Sale – Free section 

If you do not live in Mueller, search your local neighborhood resources and area for similar opportunities. If you need help, see if you have a neighborhood group, association or block captains. If you want more assistance, please reach out to me.

Second, quality matters. If you find or buy quality products, they last longer, so you’ll get your money’s worth and they’ll hold up for more use in the life stream of objects. Things that are not in good condition can’t be sold to the second hand market.” 

When you buy something, consider the quality of material it’s made from, how you can care for it to prolong its life, and how long it will last. When you do donate or sell something, package and transport it carefully to maintain its value. The more local its next home is, the less energy and additional items are needed to transport it. 

If you get a chance to read Secondhand, you’ll discover many more great ideas, and be intrigued and inspired. In the meantime, have a great green new year!

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