Monday, March 15, 2010

An unhealthy estate of mind

My husband and I like to head out for late breakfasts on Saturdays, followed by an estate sale or two. We rarely buy much, other than practical things, such as childproof latches, light bulbs, kitchen matches, etc. Most of the sales are in the homes of elderly people who have either died or moved to nursing homes. We are often saddened as we browse through a lifetime of belongings, some generic and some extremely personal. Every once in awhile I’ll catch my husband with a faraway look in his glistening eyes as he holds an heirloom in his hands, imagining a young child proudly presenting the gift to her parents many, many years ago. We’re always on the same page here, as we browse through someone else’s memories.

This week was different. As we drove away from the sale, my husband recounted a conversation he had with a couple of other shoppers. At one point he looked over at me and said, “You’re not really crying, are you?” followed by, “If this is how these sales affect you, maybe we should stop going.”

However, this time the tears weren’t about how sad I was for the people who once lived in the house. Rather they were for the state of our country. They were for the utter wastefulness I saw at this particular sale; a sale held in one of those ultra-rich neighborhoods with the obscenely large homes where people have more than they could actually want or need. This was a sale about excess, as the owners of the home simply had relocated and these “trinkets” were just what they left behind.

There were dishes and more dishes, artwork, books by the hundreds, televisions, sofas, beds, tools, clothing, etc., all of which can be found at any estate sale. But the excess glowed most brilliantly when we counted at least 100 figurines, pictures, and stuffed versions of dachshunds. There were at least one dozen like-new ace bandages. In the basement I found a small dresser with labeled drawers -- the top one designated for kitchen magnets. Seriously? A whole drawer of kitchen magnets?! And there was a medium-sized box labeled shoe laces. Why does anyone need dozens of pairs of shoe laces?

Unlike other sales, this house wasn’t full of items saved for 50 years or so. Other than a few antiques, there didn’t seem to be much that had resided in the house for more than a decade or so. The gray-haired owners were at the sale, carefully watching that no one slipped anything into a pocket or purse. Most times, the company hired to do the sale, has enough workers at a home to watch over things, but these two weren’t going to trust that. They obviously had a hand in overpricing most everything as well. I couldn’t help wondering what this wealthy couple needed with a home of this magnitude. It was huge!

It was obvious to anyone at the sale, based on the literature, slogan buttons, etc., that these people were devout democrats. However, their lifestyle didn’t seem to embrace the environmental side of the party, for in the garage there were eight, yes I said eight, large, well-used trash cans, complete with the name of the couple boldly marked across the front of them. Setting demurely beside them were two township-issued, barely touched, recycling bins. I got sick to my stomach. How, in God’s name, could anyone have that much trash?!

My question was somewhat answered on the drive home as my husband recounted the conversation I mentioned earlier. To make a long story short, the couple he spoke with told him that the people in the house, along with many of the other residents in the neighborhood, buy new things all the time and then just toss out the old. And by old, I mean, gently-used. The man he was speaking with told him about a perfectly good lawn mower he’d taken out of the trash, as well as a gas-powered weed wacker, neither of which needed any repair and both of which he is still using to this day. He even picks up things sometimes and just runs them over to Goodwill, or sells them at a garage sale at reasonable prices. Anything to keep the stuff out of the landfill.

Why did this make me cry? Because I’ve never seen anything like this firsthand. Excessive waste. Extraordinary self-centeredness. Greed. Laziness. And, apparently, more money than they know what to do with. It just made me sad and I wanted to share my story.

Appreciate what you have and share what you don’t need or no longer want. Whether you sell it, donate it, freecycle it, or give it to friends or family members, just please don’t toss it out.

Sharing my heart and keeping it green,



  1. What a great blog entry! I'm going to try to share in on my FB page...

    I hope that their overpriced unsold items made it to a Goodwill store.

  2. Thanks, Heather. I'm afraid the mounds of stuff that didn't sell probably didn't go any further than the curb.


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