Sunday, March 25, 2007

Life Is a Yard Sale

March 25, 2007

Okay, maybe life isn't a yard sale, but I liked the sound of that, and I just organized a nice big yard sale yesterday and sold about $200 worth of stuff I needed to get rid of, including three chairs, some pots and pans, and lots of old dishes. The leftovers are sitting on my front porch waiting for me to take them off to the Thrift Shop as a donation.

Sometimes you just look at your stuff and you say, "Why?" which may be one of the ways life is a yard sale. Somebody gave you something you didn't really love, but your love for the giver caused you to hold on to the object. Years went by and the giver went out of your life but the object stayed. For a while it was nice to have a reminder..."I'll never forget that afternoon when you gave me this little teapot," or, "That costume jewelry was my mother's," or "I'm glad that bastard is out of my life, but at least I still have this wine-bottle-holder." In time the memory fades, or perhaps sours, and the object becomes just one more item in a carton of unused stuff in the garage. When yard sale time comes, the whole box goes on the market.

Some items remain in the storage locker of your life, no matter how many yard sales you have. You take them out every time and decide you're not ready to cut them out. But eventually almost every little thing has to go.

My sister and I have the big one to plan when we finally clean out our mother's house for the last time. Do we keep the rose plates our grandmother treasured, even though we never even knew our grandmother? Already we've begun dividing the mementos Mama always called "family pieces." Some of them we actually want to hold onto. Some are almost a guilt trip. For the final analysis we'll call in a professional estate planner who will tell us if any of the things is really worth anything, and then we'll decide which to keep and which to part with.

When the yard sale is in progress, buyers always haggle to get your prices down, and you have to be prepared for that. They always begin to show up at least two hours before the appointed time of the sale, to get you off guard and possibly to get the price lowered for the best items. We learned yesterday not to allow any early viewers; you must have time to put a sale plan into action. And when somebody makes an offer of a dollar for something you have put at $10 tag on, it's useless to say, "But I paid $50 for that!" Either go down to eight, or forget it. It doesn't matter how much you originally paid for anything. After the sale, it's going to the thrift shop or to the dump anyway.

After a little practice, giving a yard sale gets to be fun, like life. Know what to expect, get over your sentimental attachments, and put your stuff out on a table. Then see what happens.


sinjap said...

what a great blog today! was actually planning to have a yard sale of my own in the near future, to help jump start a move...and have been pondering just about the same things as you this weekend...but i have to admit, sometimes after a bad experience i end up selling off everything that reminds me of that experience...somehow hoping that will cleanse me of any bad memories so i can have a fresh start...only a little later down the road i regret that i got rid of this or that...but you're right, there are certain things so important that they're always put aside, never to be yard sale material, because the memories they invoke are the fondest...for me it's anything that has to do with my ex-husband (generally good experience), anything travel related (always a good experience)and anything of my grandmother's

mellow drama said...

Having been fortunate enough to have actually spent time in your clutter, I realize we have nothing in common when it comes to holding on to things. While in our own heads the process may seem similar, the outcomes are vastly different. I remember once asking you for a quarter to use as a spacer (for tiling a countertop) and you were gone so long I got worried the grout would dry. Seeing my frustration upon your return you remarked defensively, "I don't keep change lying around. I get rid of it." I always marvel at that. Your house, and your life, seem to possess an order that is both sensible and whimsical, and shouts "Emotionally Balanced!" to anyone who listens. That mix is what I personally shoot for, and did achieve once or twice before I had the money to accumulate heavier things. Most of us here need the same things to live well: a functional kitchen & bath, a couch with a chair opposite, music, books, and photographs of what we love, who and where we've been. All the rest is just decoration, and you are damn good at it. Anything past that is clutter. Kids, well, kids require new rules. That's all I can say.

I am good at creating "time bombs" for myself...boxes that, finally too full for confrontation, receive a lid and a promise, and then the box is cast adrift on my own sea of possessions, to become lost among the flotsam and jetsam for...years perhaps. Until one day a tradewind spills a box at my feet and I open it to discover the old pipes belonging to my girlfriend's (now married, just not to me) father (now dead, who liked me) lying on top of a never-concluded real estate deal, vital tax information for a year now long past, children's artwork, the a/c dongle to some hundred-dollar recording appartatus I've long since boxed since I couldn't power it up, and a collection of coasters picked up and dated from a night in New Orleans so memorable I can't even remember it.

Oh to concern myself with old & unwanted dishes, other than to load and unload them from the dishwasher. Now you know why I didn't come to your yardsale.

mellow drama said...

...and sinjap, I relate to your emotional ties. I have discovered that the heart has a limit to what it can hold dear, that I have to toss things I love just to make room for more. It's not the world's worst problem really, and the older I get the more I realize that the things themselves are not the thing worth keeping at all.

jon said...

Yard sales provide potential for something totally new. Sure there is the relief of unloading white elephants on others while getting pocket change for the effort. But,
in the mind of a 'doer-of things' attending yard sales, items provide fuel for future activities. Or, the items may fill a 'space' in the mind of an attendee, resolving curiosity or relieving a yen for possession. As for me, I would store all the crap I can find if the means were available. Being able to fill a need in a creative assemblage endeavor requires lots of options and time would be saved by having warehouses full of trivial discards sorted by type and era.
I see the potential of solving in a creative dilemma with these things.
Heirlooms and other pieces which are kept and kept are those that say who you are. To have none of these is to say that you are still looking to be. If a place is uncluttered, then, neatness is the person, or if expensive items are about, money is the person. Pets:care and control...and so forth.
There are many reasons for going to yardsales. Reasons for conducting them are fewer.

Bert said...

Yard sales are like Ebay, but without a monitor. Which makes Ebay the world's biggest yard sale.

What I like about yard sales is that there is almost no security, no surveillance cameras and no changing room.