Travels in the New Global Garage Sale

Book - 2019
Average Rating:
Rate this:
In Secondhand, journalist Adam Minter takes us on an unexpected adventure into the often-hidden, multibillion-dollar industry of reuse: thrift stores in the American Southwest to vintage shops in Tokyo, flea markets in Southeast Asia to used-goods enterprises in Ghana, and more. Along the way, Minter meets the fascinating people who handle-and profit from-our rising tide of discarded stuff, and asks a pressing question: In a world that craves shiny and new, is there room for it all?
Publisher: New York : Bloomsbury Publishing, 2019.
ISBN: 9781635570106
Characteristics: xix, 299 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm.


From Library Staff

Downsizing. Decluttering. Discarding. Sooner or later, all of us are faced with things we no longer need or want. But when we drop our old clothes and other items off at a local donation center, where do they go? Sometimes across the country—or even halfway across the world—to people and places w... Read More »

From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Jan 28, 2021

Really easy to read and entertaining, and fascinating what happens to all the “stuff” in the world. I am going to get his other book too.

Jan 11, 2021

A little preachy. References not very complete. He has them in the notes and mentions a few names in the afterword. Book is not really helpful or inducing of enthusiasm about re-selling. Stories are interesting. He never really touches upon Antique Shops a harbor of repair and resell.

Dec 29, 2020

I found it got a bit dull after awhile, but it is an interesting book. It covers the global trade in secondhand goods and points out that as all parts of the world begin to develop there will be less of a market to fill with secondhand crap from the west. Maybe we will eventually be buried in our own excess.

IndyPL_JennyM Dec 04, 2020

I could not put this book down! What happens to all of our stuff we donate to the Salvation Army? Where do Grandma’s old knickknacks really end up? What happened to that sweater I wore a couple seasons ago that got a little hole in the sleeve and I dropped in a donation pile? Adam Minter uses his lifetime in salvaging and experience living all over the world to trace where our stuff goes after we read Marie Kondo. I hope and pray Minter’s honest look into where all our stuff goes inspires all of us to be more mindful of what happens when we “throw it away”...because “away” is not ever “gone.” I truly hope that our culture collectively embraces the reuse culture. I heartily recommend this book as an insightful launchpad.

Oct 03, 2020

Hugely insightful, interesting, eye-opening. A life-influencer.

Sep 11, 2020

Enjoyable read on how the global secondhand market functions. Quite interesting to learn where all that stuff sent to Goodwill goes, as well as other items disposed of in the first world.

Aug 29, 2020

The book secondhand is a really interesting book that delves into the world of secondhand items and donating to thrift stores. This book is a very interesting contrast of real-life experiences and research and the book overall flows really well. The Secondhand, in my opinion really shows how many people survive and live in their life conditions and how they utilize their everyday surrounding to purchase and give away. Will they eventually complete their mission to expand the goodwill community or will they dry up to the lack of randomness as their peers?

Mar 12, 2020

Fascinating and thought-provoking. Hopefully it'll also be action provoking!

Feb 08, 2020

This very readable non-fiction exploration of the world of reuse, repurpose and sharing is both meaningful and enjoyable. Want to know where that old iPhone you donated to Goodwill ended up? Find out here. Learn why importers in Ghana or India like Canadian fashion clothes better than American ones. See why well-intentioned laws pushed by Greenpeace actually harm the environment and are arguably racist. Discover the complexities of the rag business. I found it all fascinating. Minter writes well. He brings to life a number of colorful characters and reveals how some unlikely spots around the globe are important to the secondhand business, places like Missisauga, Ontario; Petaling Jaya, Malaysia; Newark, New Jersey; Lebanon, Tennessee; and Agbogbloshie, Ghana. Here you can learn the difference between an antique, a collectible, and junk. Find out the devious tricks manufacturers use to make it difficult or impossible to fix their products, thus forcing people to buy new ones, and how enterprising entrepreneurs are defeating those techniques.

Minter’s first book, Junkyard Planet, dealt with recycling and waste disposal. This does not, except a bit tangentially. It is all about how things after a first use can be, and often are, acquired and put to a second use, or even third and fourth and fifth. This book will appeal to those who are environmentally conscious and those who just like to learn new stuff not written about elsewhere.

Jan 25, 2020

I’m not a hoarder - maybe that’s why this book appealed to me? I love getting rid of things and I don’t love shopping so there isn’t much to get rid of. I have what I want and need and if I don’t have it, I don’t need it. And my relatives look in my closets and get mad. Where’s your stuff? They ask. I think they just want to justify their walk-in closet full of unworn items that don’t fit them, they never wear, but bought because they were a good deal. And because they have so much stuff, they can never find anything.

Meantime, I wear the same thing over and over again and probably look as poor as I am to them. So there are positives and negatives to being minimalist/poor vs. keeping the economy booming by hoarding.

Either way, there comes a time when everyone’s stuff is going somewhere else. Where does it go? When you move, when you die, when you move to a smaller place, what happens to those treasures and heirlooms you think are worth something?

This book is a beautiful journey following our stuff. The author comes in from a variety of angles into our lives, ultimately making you think about what you value and why. Even the most materialistic person is going to question why they have what they have, if “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” or if one man’s trash is just another man’s trash. The stories follow possessions and clothing, so much clothing, through their life cycle on the planet. It’s not just us consumer-obsessed Americans; it’s everyone who has more than enough who has, ultimately, too much.

Not only will you question your values, your purchases, your decisions, your choices, and your assumptions, but you will get to enjoy other people working hard jobs dealing with other people’s possessions. You get to see what happens to all that stuff you donate. You get to see what happens to stuff that is too useless in one country and yet valuable in another, and why. (Why? I will never understand the value of large heavy oak furniture, but maybe you will.)

It’s such a bright, fun read. And even if you’re not interested in stuff, or old furniture an clothing, you live here on earth. All that stuff goes somewhere. And more importantly, there are a lot of people who work incredibly hard to find value in that useless junk who don’t get paid enough to make the world a little less junky.

View All Comments


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at BPL

To Top