As you know, I – and several of my neighbors – were annoyed, inconvenienced and a little ticked off this week when a horde of estate sale pickers, buyers and collectors descended on our little street for the estate sale of our neighbor, Wayne. Because I’m a writer and blogger, I came up with a lot of article ideas, but while working on queries I blogged, off the cuff, and from the heart.
If you read daily, you saw that I had fun, and then I was just super annoyed after 2 1/2 days of people sleeping in their cars on the street, parking willy nilly, and then telling me that it’s only for a day or so and that I should basically suck it up.
By the last day, I was ready to never see an estate sale sign again.
Breathe some fresh air, relax, and have some time without frantically barking dogs … and let’s look at the big picture.
Tonight I went over to Wayne’s house because his sister offered me to see if I wanted anything. I’d already been in and bought a couple of books and an old camera but I wanted to see Nancy, and then I couldn’t say, “Gee, I don’t want anything,” as if nothing had value. So I took three old books that I thought were cool.
And of course Nancy and her son Steve and I talked for about an hour. And it was really interesting to hear from her perspective what the estate sale company does.
I had never been in Wayne’s house until the day I went to pick him up for his doctor’s appointment and he didn’t respond, and I had to call 9-1-1. Inside, his house was chock full of stuff. And I mean chock full. I know, because Wayne and I were kindred spirit pack rats. I also know what massive undertaking it was for his sister to clean out the stuff, sort through the junk, separate the general clutter from his antiques and guns and coins.
Nancy was on her own to pay for the adverts for the sale and hire a dumpster and handle some other things. But the estate sale company did one major task: the sorted through the stuff. The gave her direction for the first part, and then literally managed the task of trashing and sorting and valuing and appraising and pricing and cleaning and really tackling an enormous project.
Unless you know how much stuff Wayne had, you can’t imagine what a massive task that was.
For Nancy, she looked at it very matter of factly, although I know there’s a lot of emotion involved. The house is the house Nancy and Wayne’s parents built in 1928; the family of four lived there ever since. Wayne lived there with his mom until she passed away about 10 years ago. I can’t imagine trying to sory through literally a lifetime of memories and memorabilia and stuff.
So after experiencing my first estate sale, I can see the bigger picture – the family of the loved one who passed away, and the necessity to have an outsider manage what is a difficult and emotional task; the collectors and buyers who descend on the sale to discover items to either add to their collections or sell for a profit; the estate sale folks who run a necessary business and need to do it with a detached eye to get the job done; and the neighbors on the fringe, who aren’t really family but aren’t really strangers, either.
Death is a funny business, isn’t it? As a reader named Cathy, who is having to deal with managing her mom’s estate, it “[G]ot me thinking about how strange it is that simple items such as a spoon can last for hundreds of years but something as complex as a human doesn’t last long at all.” I thought that was a great thought.
I was also fascinated talking to the people buying items; I’m a story teller, I’m more “History Detectives” than “American Pickers”, so it was interesting to see items leave Wayne’s house, and know the story behind some of them, and also know that those stories died there. Although as one picker told me, some think a piece of the person’s spirit goes with the item. I’m not sure I want to imagine what part of the spirit went with the nudie picture collection.
Anyway, if there’s one good thing that came out of this: I have a ton of story ideas. I am completely fascinated by the process of running an estate sale and having to balance sympathy with a detached eye for a profit. I loved hearing from other people who do estate sales, because I get the sense some have a more balance view of how what they do does affect the neighborhood; the woman who runs a blog called TrueFinds.com, for example, ” I stress is that my customers should obey the posted parking signs and they should also be respectful of the neighbors.” I like that, because I think that’s all we who are on the street want: a little notice that we’re still here, having to deal with the crowds, and that the people running the sale recognize the hassle it is for everyone involved.
I also learned that the buying/picking/collecting group is super small in these parts, and probably even farther away. I heard gossip about other pickers and comments about the estate sale companies (who charges too much, for example, and who has pain in the rear numbers policies).
As one of the collectors/pickers/buyers told me, It’s a business. Someone has to die, someone has to sell their stuff, someone has to make a mistake and then someone makes a profit. And I think I’d add to that: someone dies and the process starts all over again, with the same stuff.
As I stood in Wayne’s almost empty house, I kept thinking about what comes next: the house will be sold and a new family will move in. Who will they be? What will they be like? Will they have kids? Dogs? Will they be nice or rude? Will someone buy the house and rent it out (a major problem in our village), and if so, will they be good tenants?
An estate sale is part of the circle of life of a neighborhood, I guess. We live together – and in our neighborhood, very closely together. We get to know each other, and then we move on. And then it starts all over again. In that cycle, strangers descend and cause a blip in our world, turn things that are already a bit wonky from a death a little wonkier for a few days.
As I was told repeatedly, it’s just for a few days and we should just deal with the inconvenience and annoyance. In the end, I suppose that’s the only choice. Because the other changes – death, new neighbors – are more permanent.
- The estate sale buyers arrive about 14 hours early to pick through Wayne’s stuff (notesfromthefunnyfarm.wordpress.com)
- Invasion of the estate pickers – part 2 (notesfromthefunnyfarm.wordpress.com)
- Invasion of the estate pickers – part 3: It’s time for you to go home. Now. (notesfromthefunnyfarm.wordpress.com)