What I learned from estate sales

Frankie_in_zone_7September 17, 2007

I've learned some helpful things about de-cluttering and purging from estate sales.

(I know--I shouldn't even be there!)

One thing--it's not just the amount of stuff--though, a visit to an estate sale can stimulate a general, omigosh, my ___ looks like this and I want to clear it out RIGHT NOW). Because reasons for having a sale (death or whatever) might have occurred for folks who had been living full lives with lots of hobbies, visiting grandchildren, fashion sense, and everything--not all are nursing home-bound. All that can take a lot of stuff. Plus, if you empty every cabinet, drawer, closet, etc to diplay, there will be a lot of stuff in an active household. So Stuff per se is not the problem.

What gets your attention more is the unused or unloved-appearing stuff. Stuff that you're pretty sure was never much wanted or used. Stuff still in box. Stuff that can't be used at all in its current condition. Stuff where you can tell they've moved on to another style, color or whatever, but saved the old stuff. Pretty sure a lot was given as gifts--the ever-present need to give something that has no use or value. PLUS the way too much stuff.

"Old" is not necessarily a good way to judge, since everything looks "old" to young people, and also, cool vintage stuff is in. Things that right now I really like from some decades ago, my daughters would just pick up and go "huh?"--so I don't expect them to like or value my "stuff".

So this has helped me develop more of a method to my de-cluttering.

I went through linens and eliminated 12 tablecloths--colors, patterns, fabric no longer "right." I had kind of changed color schemes some time back. Now was able to "see" that these were no longer useful.

Christmas decorations--out with those not well-loved and used.

That's a subject--I know some people have a real Christmas decorating thing going, but at most estate sales, entire rooms are full of Christmas decor & junk. This does not feel like "me" and our family, but I can see how easy it is to go there, so it has helped me narrow down to fewer things that are traditions in our family, and not collecting more stuff just because of store hype.

I was recently cleaning out a closet. We had 2 tennis rackets and 2 racketball rackets. Neither of us really play tennis at all. We used to play raquetball. Right now, I could no more enjoy that than fly--too speedy for me. My husband hasn't played in years, though he still could. "His" racket is a good aluminum one; mine was wood. Both tennis rackets wood, and one had a busted string. We have stored these for 6 years and not used for longer than that (maybe one day a random child would want to hit a tennis ball in the street...).

So it became easy. We kept his racket, for now. Mine went out. Tennis rackets out--easy.If I ever would decide to try to play either of those sports, I would want a new racket.

I may be too unsentimental. I really don't feel compelled to keep things JUST because someone gave it to me (except fear/guilt of discovery). I do develop sentimental attachments to some things, but am doing better about limiting that. So an estate sale visit can help to shake your senses up and say, for whom am I keeping this? For another person is not a really good reason for me to be cluttered or burdened, usually.

Still, I have maybe 15 tablecloths (I like them!). I use them for and with my family, different seasons, holidays, but they're "mine." They wouldn't really care. So I can't worry that if I dropped dead today, my family would go, look at all these tablecloths--what a hoarder! But I can try to keep just the ones I really love and use. And, every couple of years I can look to see that I'm not really using or having fun with some of those, I'll try to let them go. Plus, now that I cleared some of them out, I can see my assortment better and see that I don't need any more (for now!).

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Frankie, as a former antique dealer who has done her share of sales, your timing on this coincides well with the basement we are cleaning out to have our ''Sale'' with! Your observations are right on. You know those things that were saved in boxes were probably family gifts the owner felt they couldn't give away. Broken or dirty stuff that's been neglected is just sad. Knowing how much work there is to selling off old stuff always makes me want to make it easier on myself.

I helped my parents with their estate sale. Mom thought it was too overwhelming and she never dealt with the contents of her house until that point in time. She was a depression kid, and her stuff represented her life to her. Most of it wasn't particularly valuable, yet she had far more difficulty letting it go than she should have. She didn't have any practice at culling, and though she knew most of that old stuff wasn't worth much, it was physically painful for her to let it go.

When we cleaned out our garage, to have a staging area for the basement stuff to sell, my DH wanted to save two windows that ''we might need if'' something happened to the others. I put my foot down. I'm allowing him to keep the bicycle he refuses to get rid of that has been hanging (out of the way) in the garage that he hasn't ridden since we've lived here. (It's a symbol of his youth, long before we met. Since we'll have been married 27 years soon, it's old and not particularly valuable...Only in his mind!) I figure it resides there as my bargaining chip, which I've used many, many times as a point of reference. Since it isn't taking space away from anything else, it's useful to me for that!

I have an assortment of tablecloths too; you can bet I'm culling them for my sale. I have parts to pieces I've been looking for since we moved here 11 years ago. I hope to find them in the basement when we clean it out. If I don't, they're GOING. I'm trying to have a good attitude about this, knowing I'll find some treasures that were lost and found. It's going to be great to reclaim the basement real estate for a re-purpose, other than storage. The only problem I can see with this is that it may involve another remodel, but I'm not going there for a good, long while! In the meantime, there will be room to figure it out.

I've had so much stuff come and go in my life I don't attach a lot of importance to it anymore. If it's useful or you love it, sure. Most doesn't fit in that category. Otherwise, you just have to deal with it at some point. When it's all said and done, it's only stuff. It's so refreshing to lighten the load!

    Bookmark   September 17, 2007 at 1:42PM
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I shop at Goodwill and other thrift type stores. I am always dumbstruck at sheer the junk that is manufactured and purchased. These stores all have hundreds of coffee mugs - holiday designs, favorite teacher, best boss, advertising, cute kittens, ect. all probably received as gifts. Then there is stuff that is just crap; leather covered liquer decanters, wall plaques with poems, little decorative boxes that are too small to hold anything, collector wall plates, sets of two matching champagne glasses, itty bitty figurines. Just junk. Aisles and aisles of junk junk junk. I always wonder "Who bought this stuff in the first place?" So much of it looks like something that was bought because someone needed to give a gift for an "occasion" and had to come up with something that could be put into a box and wrapped with a bow.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2007 at 7:23AM
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Oh, Bud, me too!

In fact, me three, me four, me five, me six.....

And I think of all the economic power that was squandered by the people who purchased that stuff.

I will say that I have decided there is *some* use to all the junk--it's like the mosquito. It's a way to move economic power from one person's wallet into someone else's, because there are people who have jobs making, purchasing, marketing, and distributing that stuff. that is the only purpose they serve.

I don't even think they really serve the purpose of "conveying someone's love." They just carry "obligation" back and forth: "I ought to get them a present"; "I ought to be grateful"; "I ought to display it."

So much of it looks like something that was bought because someone needed to give a gift for an "occasion" and had to come up with something

I hate this sort of thing--it occurs, I think you're absolutely right. I just want to outlaw those sorts of stupid gifts.

I grew up in a family that tended to buy *useful* gifts; we spent months eavesdropping so we could buy someone something that was exactly right. If that meant we bought them jumper cables because on Dec. 7 they realized theirs were frayed, then we were proud of our gift.

My ILs can't do that. If they give a gift, it *has* to come from the "gift" aisle. And I'm sure they're not alone, at all!

I just wish we'd stop defining so many occasions as "gift-giving."

In my ILs family, they give gifts at Easter, and Thanksgiving, and stuff.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2007 at 9:30AM
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