Estate Sale – Morbid Curiosity and Curiosities

By Andrea Hagan

I became obsessed with estate sales when I was pregnant with my second child.  I’m still not exactly sure why.  Maybe it was the nesting thing that a lot of women talk about.  My family and I had moved across town to a larger home to accommodate our growing brood and there was a lot of blank walls to fill with art work, knick knacks to display, furnishings to furnish.  I became a woman on a mission to get the house in order before the baby came.

It is a bit ironic that when I was about to give birth to another life, I really got interested in estate sales.  They are really quite morbid, if you think about it.  Someone has died.  You don’t know that person from Adam and yet you are riffling through their collection of toothpick holders and creepy clown décor.  Who was this person?  Why did they have a collection of toothpick holders and creepy clown décor?  (And for the record, all clown décor is creepy!)

It’s fascinating going to these sales, especially rifling through what I call the time capsule homes.  I went to one memorable estate sale here in town and it was like stepping onto the set of the Brady Bunch – green carpet, faux wood paneling, pink toilets, you get the picture.  So many questions!  Did the deceased just really like the décor, or hope that retro would come back into fashion?  Did he or she have children that nagged about updating the place?

More importantly, why did he or she have a large collection of mouse figurines and an original oil painting of a monkey wearing a jacket and hat and playing a tambourine?  Or maybe the better question is why I am looking through that weird collection of mouse figurines and seriously considering buying the monkey painting?  (I still half way regret not buying that painting; it was so bad that it was almost good!).  And this gets me to thinking, if strangers were going through my house, would they wonder who I was and why I have an excessive number of place mats, for example?

I’ve become quite the estate sale aficionado.  First, caution must be exercised as an estate sale is not always an estate sale.  People are playing fast and loose with the term, luring you in only to discover that it’s really just a yard sale.  I feel prey to this not too long ago, getting suckered into an “estate sale” advertised in the paper as such, only to get to the house and see yard sale tables set up in the driveway.  That ain’t an estate sale, people!  Second, you’ve got to get there early.  Apparently I’m not the only person who’s weirdly obsessed with them, although I am always the youngest.   From retired lookie loos to professional pickers, there is serious competition on first dibs.  Third, if you love something but not the “I just can’t live without it love,” wait for it.  Items are usually discounted on the second day.

My favorite finds? My daughter’s rocking chair, because every child needs a rocking chair just their size.  I also snagged my fine china at a sale here in town.  Granted, I’ve never actually used it, because who wants to hand wash fine china, but by golly I got a great deal on it, and isn’t that what’s important?!

I’m also always on the lookout for art work.  I found a great set of Alice in Wonderland oil paintings for my daughter’s room and a Noah’s ark painting for my son’s.  I just hope the monkey playing the tambourine found a good home.  Who knows, maybe it’s prominently displayed over the mouse figurines, and the circle of life goes on.

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Please post comments! I’d love to hear about your estate sale finds!  Or better yet, the most bizarre curiosities you’ve come across!  Please, please, please, somebody tell me you are the current owner of the monkey painting and post a picture!

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