I got invited to preview an estate sale a few weeks ago. I was in the middle of a grubby chore and the thought of looking at a bunch of someone else’s stuff is rarely my first choice when I’m off duty, but this sale was especially intriguing and my friend had worked really hard putting it together, so I got cleaned up and went over.
Set up under a big top tent were rows of tables laden with treasures, from European dishes, antique walking sticks, needlepoint pillows and silver vessels to ceramic animals and a life size chainsaw-carved wood Siberian Husky. The mix was magical, with lots of rich colors—deep green, dark gold, robin’s egg blue and wine red. Outside the tent were the arresting shapes of fountains, follies and other garden structures. The bird cage collection alone was impressive—one enormous one was a replica of the Taj Mahal.
I don’t normally shop tag sales, being somewhat of a minimalist, and didn’t mean to look too closely at the merchandise, but I spied something I couldn’t pass up. I thought to myself, “This will be the one amazing purchase I make to commemorate this cool person’s sale.” Then as I was walking out, my eyes focused on a table and bench that was really incredible but needed a lot of work and before I knew it, I owned that too. I brought a friend over to help me move the table and he bought a couple things and I suddenly saw two end tables I had to have. The next day I went over with my cash and almost tripped over ten stacking café chairs and the seller offered up such a low price, I couldn’t refuse.
My first purchase, a sculpture of sorts, made me rethink my bathroom counter decor. Even though I don’t advocate clutter (understatement), sometimes a new purchase can make you rethink a space. Seeing your home in a fresh way is always a great opportunity to up your organizing game.
The table and bench became a project. It took most of a weekend to sand and put sealer on them, but I was craving a project and they made a beautiful addition to the yard. I let go of a couple end tables to make room for the new ones and cleaned up the café chairs, stacked and stored them for next summer.
There’s something about vintage stuff that is so magical. For one thing, items are often unique and any distressing is in an item’s favor. As a perfectionist, imperfections in an item relax me—I always dread the first scratch, stain or ding when I purchase something brand new. Vintage items can be accompanied by good stories, which to me adds to the value tremendously. Plus they can be good bargains—online sites like Chairish and 1st Dibs have the highest of the high prices (one of the end tables I bought for $45 was $875 on Chairish), but most people selling vintage just want to find their things a good home and make a reasonable amount of cash.
The moral of the story is that even a clutter-phobe can love to shop. What made this shopping experience so magical is the unique qualities of the items, the fact that a couple things were fixer uppers, feeding my creativity cravings, and my willingness to part with a few old things in order to make some room for the “new” stuff. Additionally, it was not a budget buster, so I didn’t have any guilt about the spending end of it. I felt rejuvenated, not overwhelmed or guilty, by the experience.
The more organized you are the more positive an experience shopping an estate sale can be. You know what you have, you know what could add value to your life and you can think through a purchase to quickly determine what it would take to do any necessary fixing, how it will need to be stored, how you will use it and what you might need to let go in order to make room for it.