I don't watch a lot of television. When I am working, cooking, or doing chores, I typically listen to National Public Radio. I enjoy the variety of topics, and usually learn something.
One day, I caught an episode of "Fresh Air," with guest Adam Minter, author. All it took was five minutes of listening and I had requested both of his books from the library (if I bought every book I was interested in reading, I WOULD be on an episode of Hoarders.)
Minter's book Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale was published in 2019. It took me five days to finish, and many more to digest its contents.
I could write a dozen blogs on what I learned. For an organizer who is opposed to waste, it was filled with feel-good stories of reuse and recycling. It was also teeming with hard facts on the state of secondhand goods, some very dire.
I spent a lot of time thinking how to make this book palatable and relevant to my audience. This isn't because the information is not valuable to all, there is just a lot of it. I boiled it all down to these three components...
1. KNOW YOURSELF.
Think of how you'd answer the following questions:
*Do you often save buttons, handled shopping bags, or rubber bands from produce, for example?
*Do you have the time and grit necessary to do repairs?
*Do you like to update your home and clothing regularly?
*Are you someone who moves frequently, or prefers to stay in one home?
2. KNOW THE FACTS
We are all consumers, of goods and services, food, of information and news. The more intelligent and aware you are of your consumption, the less of a price you will pay for your choices. Spend more (time and effort) in research, so you can spend less (in money and frustration).
*Fun fact, infant car seats do NOT expire. Car seat manufacturers perpetuated the idea that used car seats were unsafe, assuming people would not do the research, guaranteeing new purchases. Research what you are buying, and why.
*Legislation exists that bans some product repair by anyone who is not considered a "certified" institution. Apple is one example. Support legislation that makes this illegal. Know this BEFORE you buy a product.
*Secondhand good importation is illegal in some parts of the world. This ban is largely difficult to enforce, but also limits accessibility to durable used goods by some of the world's neediest people. Research where you drop your goods for donation.
*Planned obsolescence does exist, and until consumers demand transparency and higher-quality products, this will continue. This article (here), published this year, has some great information.
*"Durability" labels have been suggested to manufacturer's to provide valuable information to consumers. Research it, then request it.
3. PROCEED ACCORDINGLY
*If you find yourself saving lots of things, but not using them, save yourself the stress, and pass things on immediately, before they become a problem.
*If you do enjoy repairing things, iFixit offers thousands of home repair directions, and parts! I fixed a relatively new Samsung television with $10 worth of parts and a soldering iron, which saved us a lot of money, and a trip to the recycler. If you are not, pay more upfront for a more durable product or an extended warranty, or be prepared to hire help. (Consequently, this issue was just addressed in our local Holmen Courier, link here).
*If you enjoy updating your home or your wardrobe regularly, shop at Poshmark and home decor consignment businesses to save money.
*If you move a lot, consider shopping secondhand. IKEA makes cool furniture, but it is not always considered good quality past its first use. Take a couch, for example. Look on Facebook marketplace, or at a secondhand store for something sturdy, and purchase a washable couch cover in a fabric you love that is easy to launder..
*In the market for something that you'll keep longer? Research durability, wear, repairability, and manufacture. Spend as much as you possibly can on something that is well made. If you pass it on later, it is better for recipients, too.
*Finally, don't make decisions on how you WANT to be. Make decisions on how you ARE. I have a lot of clients with really good intentions, but very little follow through. It will save you time and money when you are realistic.
The truth is, "Secondhand goods clothe, educate, and entertain billions of people around the world. And all this is accomplished using less energy and far fewer raw materials than what's required for new goods. However, because governments tend to focus on the value of things made and sold new, the value of used things" is generally invisible. (Secondhand, page xvi).
I hope you picked up some valuable tips and information. I'd be happy to share more. Give me a call.