Charity Shops and the Imagined Futures of Objects: How Second-Hand Markets Influence Disposal Decisions when Emptying a Parent’s House


  • Melanie Lovatt University of Sheffield, UK



Affect, charity shops, consumption, disposition, family, material culture, obligation, older people


This article explores the processes whereby things are donated, or not donated, to charity shops. I draw on in-depth interviews conducted with adults who have sorted through the houses of older family members who have moved into residential accommodation, and in some cases subsequently died. The affective qualities of objects and the informants’ responsibilities to be ‘good’ family members by ensuring ‘safe passage’ for their parents’ possessions worked to ensure that many objects did not enter the second hand market, but were preserved within the family or wider social networks. Competing instincts to be ‘responsible consumers’ by not keeping things unnecessarily, worked to ‘move things along’ into charity shops, where informants believed the objects could come to be valued and singularised by other people. By providing an imagined future where goods can continue to be useful and have the opportunity to extend their biographical life, I argue that charity shops and other second-hand markets can help people to dispose of objects which they do not want to keep, but which they find difficult to throw away.


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How to Cite

Lovatt, M. (2015) “Charity Shops and the Imagined Futures of Objects: How Second-Hand Markets Influence Disposal Decisions when Emptying a Parent’s House”, Culture Unbound, 7(1), pp. 13–29. doi: 10.3384/cu.2000.1525.157113.



Theme: Circulating Stuff through Second-hand, Vintage and Retro Markets