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Saturday, January 28, 2012

On Your Mark, Get Set, GO! (Jan. 28, 2012)

On a warm turquoise-skied Saturday morning I hopped into the truck and headed west. To the beach? Nope. A gorgeous day like this is the perfect day for…garage sales.

What??!! Isn’t Sarah allegedly on a downsizing mission? Why, yes. In fact, I brought things to the thrift store twice this week. I haven’t gone to a garage sale in many months. But today I decided I would check out an estate sale. I’d gotten a good night of sleep. I’d stretched before hand. I’d taken my vitamins. Braving an estate sale would require stamina, an alert mind, quick reflexes.

I found the house easily. To an extent, all garage sales look the same: as though the owners pulled their drain plug, allowing the house to leak its contents onto the driveway, revealing a little bit of this, some of that, and who knows what else.

A quick scan of the garage and then it was inside to see what lay within. Although seriously, I do want to own less stuff, I am an artist after all, and the kind of art I do sometimes involves smashing ceramics for mosaic creations. Maybe I’d find something to use in an art piece. The kitchen had some ceramic sugar bowls and plates but nothing that screamed at me. Other rooms held furniture, knick-knacks and picture frames. As I glanced into two bedrooms, I feel a little uncomfortable tromping through someone else’s house, as though as I’m spying on them. Garage saling involves the quick determination of whether I want something. But who am I to judge another person’s stuff (indeed their life) as good, bad or ugly? It’s a weird experience to see the most private rooms of a stranger’s house. You can’t help but form a quick opinion about their style, and I don’t like making judgments about people. But garage sales require you to make choices.

Estate sales are generally at households where the same person has lived for decades, and sometimes these houses feel like time capsules. Their bathroom wallpaper is the original 1960s pattern. Their kitchen, their furniture, everything is from another era. Sometimes it’s just depressing to me. Other times it means I find a treasure, since I love old stuff. This family has lived here for forty years, and they have tons of everything: cloth napkins, jewelry, tools. I feel like an archeologist, digging through piles and forming theories about who lived here. In the garage I sift through vintage beaded purses, hand-made shawls and other special items. I’m momentarily tempted but try to be strict with myself, really considering whether I’d use these things or whether I’m simply appreciating their craftsmanship. It’s the latter, so I move on. I find a tiny ceramic container that would be interesting in a mosaic. Then I see an item I’m very tempted by. Since I always have my camera with me, I take a photo. It is so ME. It’s quirky and playful and it calls to me. It’s a purse, smallish, maybe eight inches tall, a woman's head and face. But I need a big purse and I’m not sure I’d ever use it. It’s so FUN, though! Somehow the practical part of me reins and I leave it for another person to discover and love.

Stepping into the back yard, I gaze way, way back to the end of the yard. It’s like a football field, deep and green, framed by succulents and, surprisingly, a tall pine tree. Immediately I notice potted plants and plant stands. Oh, no. I’m doomed. I’m such a sucker for plants. I find a strawberry pot I want. I’ve wanted one for ages and can envision my succulents growing out of its pockets. At garage sale prices, who can resist? I limit myself to two of the hanging plant containers. These will be unique and I can kind of justify them because gardening is one of my favorite hobbies and I’d use them. Four items: $8. I don’t try to haggle with the cashier. The prices are fair and I’d feel like a heel if I tried to take advantage of someone by low-balling.

There is another garage sale three houses down. I really shouldn’t amass any more stuff but I see a package of two brackets from which I can hang the plant holders I’ve just bought, so I get those. Then I ask the owners if there’s any chance I can buy a piece of the cactus growing near the front door. It’s different from others I’ve seen. Its branches bend and fold irregularly and I like it. They agree, and $1 later, the cactus, the brackets and I are headed to the truck. $9 spent today. Not bad.

Could I live without these seven items? Of course. But I’ve gotten a deal, and I will use each of these items. They will help make our home more personal, as I believe homes should be. Interesting that so many items in my garden are from other people’s homes/garage sales. I wonder if a tiny piece of their lives becomes part of mine when I buy their things. Is my life a mosaic of pieces from other people’s lives? Each piece different, but together making one unique life? Who knows. Maybe I’m getting too philosophical.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some gardening to do.

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