Mountains of Stuff

Every year our community has a giant, multi-household yard sale. It has developed a following in the greater Santa Fe area and we have many repeat customers, hovering before the 8:00 am start, hoping for early bird specials. There was the usual assortment of yard sale items, but there are always treasures to be found. This year my neighbor sold her grandmother’s hats from the 40s – fantastic, elaborate, elegant, mostly black, many with sparkly beads, a feather or two, beautifully crafted. An artist neighbor made themed packets of collage materials. We sold a monster aloe vera plant that was consuming the kitchen and a Danish wooden hanging lamp that I’d had since the 70s. Hundreds came and that is why this blog post is late. I needed a little recovery time.


This is the good news – I divested myself of many things. The bad news is that there is so much more… stuff. How to deal with a lifetime’s collection of material goods, and in my case, not only my lifetime but my parents and grandparents and beyond. For decades I have been custodian of dishes, vases, tarnished maybe-silver baby dishes, yearbooks, report cards, letters, clippings and handmade cards and crafts that seemed to be very important to someone long ago. I have my grandmother’s wedding dress from 1900, my great grandfather’s Civil War medal, my mother’s drawings from her college years, my father’s award from the Seattle Food Lifeline which he helped found – and this is just the tip of the iceberg. I have felt it was my responsibility to save and protect this collection of family lore. These things meant enough to my ancestors to pass down to the next generation. Heaven forbid I would break the chain and fail to do my duty. And, of course, like a good ancestor I am adding my own lore, imagining that someday some descendant will be happy that I saved the little clay penguin I made in nursery school.

my grandmother’s wedding dress, 1900, Webster, SD
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The Girl at the Yard Sale

The great thing about yard sales is the element of surprise. Will you sell that top-of-the-line jig saw made in Switzerland, only used a couple of times, still in its fancy case? Will someone not be

able to resist that shawl in beautiful earth tones from Bali? What about the Japanese vase made out of a fat section of bamboo, so simple and elegant?We had a yardsale today and none of the above sold. No matter. It was a great day, and I’ll tell you why.

I was selling a dozen or so Easton Press books. They are the classics, leather bound with fancy gold (real gold, they say) lettering and designs on the covers, gold edged pages and elegant illustrations. I inherited them and although they are handsome on a bookshelf, they just didn’t look comfortable on our bookshelves. They needed another home where they would be loved.

Two sisters came along, shorts, pierced ears, cute purses and ball caps. The younger one saw the books. “Ohhhh. I love books!  These are so great! I just love them!” and she picked up one, petting the cover, fingering the gold embossing. She opened it lovingly, cooing over the print, the illustrations, and generally being a really enthusiastic teenager.

“Do you have Of Mice and Men?” She was almost afraid to ask. It was a long shot that it would be one of the dozen in the box. (more…)

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