Saturday, June 22, 2013

I'll give ya a buck for that!

If you read yesterdays blog, this edition will seem as though I have lost my mind. Two weeks ago today I had a big garage sale where I unloaded heaps of possessions. I swore after the experience that I was never going to collect so much stuff again. 

Fast forward to today.  As I have been settling into my new summer house, I have concluded I needed a few things to make it more functional and comfortable.  Clearly, it is insane to purchase things for a short term rental that I will not likely tote with me when I leave. However, I had been making a mental list of what I would need to complete my summer experience here. The boys are off on a fishing trip, so I got the invitation from my sister-in-law yesterday to join her and another friend to go GARAGE SALEing today.  "EGADS!", I thought to myself. No way. 

Then it occurred to me that perhaps many of the things on my mental list might actually be found on such an excursion, and it would also be nice to spend time with her and meet someone new, so I accepted the invitation to hit the streets at 7:30 this morning.  I had been forewarned that the woman who had planned the morning was a "professional" garage saler. Really? OK then, let the games begin.  I was a bit of an expert myself many years ago when I would scour the neighbourhood on a Saturday morning for treasures, but had long since given it up as my own garage became the receptacle for most of the junk I collected.  Things that required repair or painting or revamping that I never got know the drill.

This woman made me look like an amateur.  She assigned another woman who joined us as the navigator and handed her a lengthy list filled with addresses.  Her job was to read out the addresses and check them off as we completed them.  She knew which homes would be more likely to have good stuff versus crap stuff and in between the planned list of stops, we stopped at even more that were unadvertised. This was gorilla garage saling.  She even had some rules.  No wasting time.  If you sized a place up and decided you were uninterested, you were to head to the car, indicating you were finished rather than hanging about.  This way the last one left lingering knew she better step up the pace and complete her negotiating as the others would be waiting back at the car.  This was serious business!

And fun. It was almost a workout actually as we zipped in and out of a dozen places or more.  When the car trunk would become too full, we would stop back at her place, unload, and head back on the treasure hunting trail. I half expected to buy little if nothing at all.  Wrong!  I was on a mission for lamps.  The place I am staying is lovely and cool nestled in the trees, but it is dark. The walls and ceilings are all pine panelling and the present lighting is just not bright enough.  I needed more light and I found it!  Not only did I find lamps, one seller even had an entire carton of new light bulbs for fifty cents a box. Kid you not.  I bought 5 lamps for $21.00. There is a nice little peninsula in the kitchen here, but no counter stools.  Found a good solid pair of those for $20.  The guest room needed a second side table next to the bed.  Found one for $2. There are no cloth napkins in the house. Found a brand new set of those with tags still on them, brand new, for $2. I need a new garment bag. Found one for $8 after some serious negotiations. I have been on the hunt for an old copy of Crocodile Dundee as my daughter has never seen it and I told her it is pretty funny.  Found it for $2. Then of course there were a couple of other purchases that were not necessary but so cheap it was crazy to turn down.

A toothless woman at one stop in a rather dodgy area was selling a lot of stuff that looked like she had acquired it in suspect ways.  I noticed a copy of the movie version of Love in the time of Cholera. Having read the book, I was curious about the movie. How could I turn down anything by Gabriel Garcia Marquez for a buck? I asked the woman if she had watched it. She had not.  I asked her if she had read the book. She said she was not much of a reader. Best I rescue it I figured, as it was not being appreciated in its present home. I do recall it got rather luke warm reviews, but surely anything with Javier Bardem cannot be that bad.  I will let you know how it turns out.

Then I came upon a copy of Ayn Rand's Fountainhead.  A nice hardcover in perfect condition. I will sheepishly admit I have never read it.  I know, I know, it is a classic and I surely should have devoured it back in the day, but it is on my bucket list of must reads before I die, so I chatted with the seller about it and as it turns out, she was actually giving all her books away for free. How do you turn that down?  She also had some trashy Jilly Cooper novel that came out a couple of years ago and I snapped that up as well...beach reading for sure. She was the same vendor that sold me a pine bedside table for $2.  I think she was in it for the company and conversation more than the money.  Ya figure?

Then, just as I was running out of steam for the day, we came to the piste de resistance of garage sale vendors.  An estate sale.  Not just any old estate sale, mind you.  This was the estate sale of a hoarder house.  A genuine crazy ass hoarder house!  I was gobsmacked.  It was just like those places you see on TV. The adult children of the deceased owners were there and just letting people wind their way through the whole house.  Every room crammed to the rafters with JUNK...and the odd treasure. There were unopened boxes of every thing you can imagine.  Small appliances, kitchen utensils, office supplies, never-worn shoes, unopened ugly bedding, a garage and shed chock-a-block full of tools and so much crap you could barely move through it.  It was horrifying to me.  Especially in my new state of minimizing.  How could anyone let their home become so, so out of control? It actually made me sort of nauseous. And oddly, of the thousands of things in that house, I needed none of it.  The other ladies were finding the odd items they would be able to use, so I reluctantly loitered about rummaging through boxes and shelves and drawers in a vain attempt to find some little item that might be useful to kill time.

Surely, amidst all this bounty there must be something that would ignite some little bit of consumerist desire in me.  Maybe if I had been trying to outfit an empty home with necessities for daily living, perhaps this place might have excited me, but it actually repelled me instead.  It just highlighted what I have been thinking and feeling for so long now.  There is just way too much STUFF. Then just as I was about to leave the house and go and wait outside, I spotted a box of assorted crap that contained a retro tobacco can. I recognized the label immediately. It was a VOGUE cigarette tobacco can. The lid was missing. In an instant I was sitting at my mother's kitchen table in 1961 watching my father roll his own cigarettes. We would have been at the gray arborite table with the chrome legs.  Suddenly I felt nostalgic. The can spoke to me. My sister-in-law recalled the label as well.  We rummaged for the lid to no avail. What would I do with it?  I suggested it would make a good pencil and pen holder.  She volunteered her idea of a small planter.  Whatever, it was coming home with me. 

As I sit writing this, the can is within my peripheral vision and it is giving me some sort of odd pleasure. Like all retro signage, it hearkens back to a time when we actually did not have so much stuff.  The world had not yet exploded with Dollaramas and "shopping til you drop" was not even a consideration. And maybe that is what appealed to me. My mother's minimal decor, our limited collection of toys, our sparser wardrobes, the weekly trek to the grocery store on pay day, one pair of summer sheets and one pair of flannel winter sheets, lacking versus excess. Were we more grateful then? 

I know one thing for sure. I had one pair of sneakers, a pair of sandals, a pair of penny loafers and a pair of patent leather Mary Manes for church. A far cry from the 4 boxes of shoes (reduced from 8) I packed in my car June 9th to move across the country. And guess what? Since I arrived, I have only worn 3 pairs.  My sneakers, my sandals and a pair of flip flops. The boxes remain unopened in my closet. 

Some lessons being learned here.  

Stop.  Just stop.

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