Collection: Reuse and Repair


Reminiscence and Recompense: Reuse and the Garage Sale



Among the mix of motivations that inspire people to sell and shop at garage sales is the desire to prevent the disposal of still usable goods. Sales can be so effective for redistributing consumer goods and reducing waste that numerous municipalities, such as Sunnyvale, California and Sydney, Australia, promote their sales through a community-wide staging. Lengthy corridor sales in the U.S., like that held annually on Route 127 (the “World’s Longest Yard Sale”), serve the same function, drawing positive media attention and promoting civic pride. But unlike the mundane act of recycling used papers and cans at the curb, making goods available for reuse at garage sales is an action loaded with personal sentiment. Second-hand purchases are often imbued with “sticky” emotional orientations (Ahmed 2010) and reminiscences. This article therefore examines the garage sale as a site for redistributing goods with emotions and histories attached. Participants derive some small recompense in the form of money made, the acquisition of inexpensive goods, and the self-satisfaction associated with reducing waste, but shoppers and sellers are also allied in a tug of war against the landfill to claim the future of goods, especially the storied items adopted by shoppers. Beneath their goal of cleaning out the garage, garnering some extra cash, or obtaining a bargain, participants assert that the reuse of and care for still serviceable goods is meritorious and morally praiseworthy. In the process of reuse, they enhance their moral selves and perform a good deed, however minor, by preserving both the stories of these objects and the embattled earth.


garage salesyard salesreuserecycling communityaffect
  • Year: 2019
  • Volume: 2 Issue: 1
  • Page/Article: 4
  • DOI: 10.5334/wwwj.12
  • Submitted on 27 Feb 2018
  • Accepted on 13 Nov 2018
  • Published on 25 Jan 2019
  • Peer Reviewed