Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Joy (and Danger) of Estate Sales





Once we got rid of more than half of our belongings when we downsized, I figured going to estate sales would now be out of the question for me. Otherwise, how would I handle the temptation of more stuff?

I’ve been going to estate sales for years. I used to live down the road from a very wealthy town where people lived in beautiful old houses on acreage. Those were truly estates! By going to the estate sales, I could go inside these lovely old houses, appreciate their architecture and decorating, and sometimes pick up a few goodies as well.

Now that I’m committed to not bringing home more stuff unless I get rid of an equal amount simultaneously (so that I never overstuff a home with clutter again), I’ve been surprised to discover that going to an estate sale can actually encourage me to stick to my guns.

How can this be? Well, now when I go into a house where an estate sale is taking place (as I did the other day), and I see table after table covered with old glassware and plates, countless knick-knacks, faded costume jewelry and worn linens, I think with gratitude that I’m glad this mess isn’t mine, and that I didn’t have to deal with it. It’s a good reminder of the quantity of stuff we went through when we downsized, and how glad I am to have that behind me.

Of course, my stuff was newer than most of what I see in estate sales. But it’s the sheer quantity of stuff spread all over someone’s home that is a good visual reminder of how much stuff a house can hold if you don’t stay on top of things.

So going to estate sales actually helps me keep on top of my own clutter. But there are other benefits as well. Since I no longer live near that wealthy area, the houses I go into now aren’t palatial or architecturally significant. But their contents often include things I remember from my childhood, so it’s almost like going into a museum of my youth.

For instance, at the sale I went to the other day, I saw an ashtray with a gold-colored metal top and a red-plaid bean-bag bottom, just like one I remember from my grandpa’s house. Seeing it took me back to Sunday afternoons visiting my grandparents, where the women chatted in the kitchen while Grandpa and my uncles sat around the tiny black-and-white television set, drinking beer and smoking cigarettes as they cheered on the Sox. All those important people in my life have been gone for years, but what a nice memory of them that ashtray brought back to me.

That’s why, as long as I can keep to my pledge not to bring home anything unless I get rid of something else, I will keep going to estate sales.