Yesterday I repeated my new summer Saturday morning routine: Sleep in, drink two cups of coffee really fast, check the blog and emails, then head to an estate sale.

This time, I was there…four hours. Of course, I found lots of cool stuff — like four vintage England’s Department Store boxes. Aren’t they pretty? I love the color and the coach lamps. This was the best department store in downtown Pittsfield, Mass. – and then the mall went in.

Estate sales: Exhilarating — and horrifying — at the same. Exhilarating at the prospect of wonderful finds. Around here especially, which was built-up after the war, during prosperous times for the growing middle class. And these people were thrifty, they didn’t throw things out.

Horrifying: Well, this is other peoples’ stuff. I now own a couple’s 1943 marriage license — and her year-2000 funeral book. I can see: He was a builder of manufactured houses, and liked to do woodworking.  She sewed, collected stamps, and took photographs. How could I let this stuff go to a dumpster?

Yet – the accumulation of their lifetime, and I am a rooting through every single cubbyhole, all juiced up on joe, throwing anything with any potential whatsoever into box after box because I know Nora and Shawna aren’t going to charge me much.

Horrifying, too, because I can only imagine, some 40 years into the future, someone doing the same with all my precious finds. Just like these homeowners, I stick all this and more into the attic and basement … in 2048… my daughter takes one look, shudders, and calls the estate sales people to say just get it the heck out of here.

There but for the grace of god go I.

  1. Sumac Sue says:

    When my husband’s mother moved into an assisted living facility a few years ago, we helped with cleaning out her house. We were pleased to discover some old letters and photographs, some almost 100 years old. But we were horrified to find them in a trash can, where another relative had tossed them!

    I once had a summer job in a college archives, so I know that such family documents, no matter how humble the family, can be a great source of information for historians and others searching for details about the past. Even old receipts and grocery lists can find their way into collections, since they can provide some information on what people regarded as necessary in an earlier era.

  2. bombshell says:

    I know exactly what you mean! I feel bad poking and prodding through the home of someone’s dead love ones in search of treasure. A close friend of mine does estate sales for a living and he finds a sense of relief from families when they find someone cares about the belongings left behind.. On another note, I sometimes wonder what one will gather at my estate sale when I pass someday. Although I was born in the 70s, most of my belongings are from the 50s – 60s..

  3. angela says:

    As someone with archival training, I’m mesmerized by other people’s memories- if there’s some local historical significance these materials might be accepted by a local society… You never know what a historian might be able to use for research. The way I see it, as long as it doesn’t end up in the trash it’s okay for a stranger to snatch up these items- they’re going to someone who will love them and maybe pass them on to yet another generation one day!

  4. sharkeysday says:

    I totally agree! I LOVE estate sales to shop, but eek, when you think of someone’s lifetime of precious items put up for sale for everyone to paw through….ick ick!

    And photos! Can you imagine?

Comments are closed.