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The Oddness of Estate Sales

The Oddness of Estate Sales

Old 04-18-2011, 07:53 AM
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Given the preponderance of successful fabric finds at garage/yard sales and estate sales, I thought I'd try attending estate sales. I'd never attended one before, although I am the periodic drive-by garage/yard sale participant.

In a yard sale, the owners are there, usually, and alive. As you peruse their stuff, as odd as it may be, there is explicit permission from the owner of the items. They're sitting there, they've chosen this stuff to sell, they want to get rid of it, they want to make room in their lives for something else (including cash).

At an estate sale, it is usually INSIDE a person's home, that person is deceased or in a nursing home, but in either case, NOT present, and may have had little to any choice about the disposition of their belongings (unless they had a strong last will and testament).

Depending on who is running the estate sale, the "presence" of the owner is stronger or weaker. At a clearly professional sale we attended a week ago, the rooms had been re-arranged as "boutiques" in a way. The sense that the person had lived there was minimized-- all books were in one room, all clothes in another, all kitchen items in another. The house had been transformed into a store of sorts.

At the estate sale I attended yesterday, the organizers were clearly not professional or experienced (in large part by having only one person at the check-out, resulting in a LONG line of people holding one or two items in their arms).

They had "organized" (or not) each room by what was already IN that room, and as I went from room to room, the previous tenant's "presence" was still very much alive. I felt like a sneak, a voyeur, pawing through her closet of clothes, her desk drawers. In the pocket of one of her jackets was a used tissue and a tube of chapstick. I felt like she would walk in at any moment and ask "What are you doing wearing my jacket?"

Worse: the garage-- the "store" for the exercise equipment and tools, etc. was also the storage place of this woman's business life. Cardboard filing boxes were grouped in one area, some without lids and one could glimpse the titles on the files and notebooks. Her career-- successful or otherwise-- loaded into boxes.

It was then I had to leave. I came home quite disturbed at the state of our house. If we died together tomorrow, WHO would unload this stuff, and what would we have done to make it easier for them? Would someone peruse my home, my rooms, go through my drawers and decide, oh yeah, my husband would enjoy seeing me in THIS!?

What would happen to my photo albums, and the trunk of journals I'd kept from age 9 to 39? What about my portfolios of drawings and paintings going back to high school, and some as recent as a few months ago?


Anyway, I probably won't stop going to estate sales-- the finds you promote here are too tempting to ignore. But I sure am learning about what sort of emotional armor I need to don as soon as I walk onto the property...

-- Jillaine
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Old 04-18-2011, 07:55 AM
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Estate sales totally depress me.
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Old 04-18-2011, 07:57 AM
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Interesting thoughts. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 04-18-2011, 08:01 AM
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I totally understand what you mean. I got some fabric and quilt tops at an estate sale. I can't help but think of the person who did all the lovely work on them. They are just tops - not quilted yet. I did complete one recently - added borders and did the quilting on my long arm. I think of the person who put all those hours into this quilt top and hope I have done her justice in the completion.
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Old 04-18-2011, 08:06 AM
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WHO would unload this stuff, and what would we have done to make it easier for them? Would someone peruse my home, my rooms, go through my drawers?
Yeah, that's what I've been thinking these last 4 years since DH passed away. I've been reading Flylady and for 15 minutes at a time, going through my stuff, one drawer at a time. And donating a lot, sent a lot of lovely (but unused for years) nice wool coats to our local women's place. Gave masses to the kids but they won't accept much more. Have to actually LOOK at things and decide..it's amazing how little I really need to live comfortably. And I even gave 3 boxes of worthless fabric (fabric not cottons for quilts) to a family group who makes dolls.
And tools..I've finally admitted that no way do I need 9 hammers, including the one I glued (accidently) to the garage floor years ago and managed to pry up. I find it hard to get rid of things, but it's easier after seeing those "Hoarder" programs on a friend's TV. I don't "Hoard" fabrics, even though I have a bookcase wall half full of them. Just makes it easier to find what I want.
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Old 04-18-2011, 08:06 AM
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it has crossed my mind and weird, I have started to get rid of UFO's I will never do. LOL, cleaning out patterns, etc. I'm not that decrepid but getting there
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Old 04-18-2011, 08:08 AM
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A friend of mine runs some...It bothers me a little. When I am helping price, I feel like I am invading privacy.
If I am just walking in off the street, it isn't too bad.
I feel that I am giving whatever I get a good home so, it depends on how you look at it.
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Old 04-18-2011, 08:13 AM
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I feel much the same way you do. It is much easier when things are arranged by like items into distinct areas...and like you, I will still go, trying to keep in mind that the previous owner has no earthly care about these things anymore. I say a little prayer for them and find a connection with them in some of the things they treasured. And also like you, I have thought about my own home, and have tried to clear out anything I dont use or really care about anymore....and made lists of items that have family stories and history.
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Old 04-18-2011, 09:15 AM
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Very interesting and well written thoughts. I've never been to an estate sale and after reading your thoughts, I don't know if I would.

I find the same thoughts about 'stuff' in my house and who would handle it. I've said to 2 friends that I'm leaving them in charge - they think I'm joking - but I'm not.

I've been trying to identify my sewing things (i.e. what goes with which machine...what's expensive...etc.)
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Old 04-18-2011, 09:21 AM
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I love your writing style, and agree with you totally. When I was younger, my parents took me to farm auctions. I felt so sad for the people standing their watching their prized possessions go to the highest bidder. I feel the same about estate sales. I get the idea that the things aren't needed anymore, but like you, I don't want to glimpse into that person's life. The plan to group like items in different rooms seems somehow more humane??
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