by Shari Randall
I really intended to get up early this morning (Friday) and work on my blog but it was a beautiful day and the yard sales were calling.
Yard sales, garage sales, or as we say here in my corner of New England, tag sales, are one of my weaknesses. For me there’s not much that's more fun than poking around lots of fascinating old stuff. Nothing better than the high of a great Find (with a capital “F”) at a bargain. It’s the thrill of the chase, the chance to exercise those ancient hunting and gathering skills that kept our prehistoric foremothers alive.
Around here, sales tend to fall into three types: yard sales, estate sales, and mega sales. Yard sales are the most common. Usually it’s the more organized among us unloading stuff they no longer need – Little Tykes toys, outgrown clothing, too small bicycles, treadmills that have turned into clothes hangers.
Estate sales are the Olympics of yard sales. They are for the more advanced yard salers. They offer the chance for really fascinating stuff but you have to bring your A game. At estate sales you’re competing against antique dealers, lovers of vintage clothes and jewelry, collectors – the pros who will have their finds on ebay by the end of the day, the early birds who have no qualms about showing up for an 8 a.m. yard sale at 6 a.m.
Mega sales are done by liquidators who sell the contents of businesses that have closed. Usually they have lots of one kind of thing – car parts, paint - but sometimes they can surprise you.
I grew up in an antiques loving family. My folks still have an antiques shop in Connecticut. Over the years my interests and tastes have shifted. Being married to a military man and moving many times over the years has made me tamp down my urge to collect anything but my absolute favorites. I still get excited about finding a great piece of McCoy pottery, or a great piece of art, or mid-century souvenirs, but now I’m pickier. Plus I’ve found another way to enjoy yard sales. I approach them with a writer’s eye. What other chance do we have to go into complete strangers’ homes? There is often so much drama and family dynamics at play at these sales.
Every yard sale is different, but often the story is the same – younger folks have inherited a relative’s house and a lifetime of things that they don't want.
In a tidy brick rambler I stopped at today, one young man proudly showed me his grandmother’s needlework while his brother rolled his eyes and tossed her silk opera gloves and hats into a stained cardboard box. “Crap,” the second brother muttered.
A lifetime can be read in objects. Another yard sale had a table of cameras, carved African masks, little Dutch wooden shoes, Spanish castanets, and battered suitcases next to a metal walker. $2.
I did a drive by of a tired duplex. A young man stalked past a stained sofa and a rusty mismatched patio set with a box. As he tossed it onto the table, photo albums and sepia tinted portraits spilled from within.
So. Much. Stuff. But for me, no Finds.
So I slammed on my brakes when I saw a small sign by the road: Mega Sale. The yard sales I’d been to had been disappointing, so I decided to give it a shot.
I followed the signs down a driveway, through a fence, to a rutted parking lot. At one end of the lot was a small warehouse. Between me and the warehouse were row upon row of unopened boxes and Tupperware containers.
A young woman unpacking a box of books told me that the Mega Sale was done four times a year by a storage company. Unclaimed storage lockers are unloaded and their contents sold for rock bottom prices.
I put on my game face and dove in.
Sure, it was box after box of Stuff. And not great stuff either. America, you have a problem with holiday decorations.
And there was the ugly: weirdly alive antique porcelain dolls that looked like they had a score to settle. I gave them a wide berth.
Now, you know that my hubby and I just moved into a new house and the last thing I need is more stuff. So don’t tell him I went yard-saling this morning, okay? It will be our little secret.
What’s your weakness?