All my married life, I have loved attending local auctions. Part of the charm of those gatherings is seeing friends and neighbors and catching up with one another’s busy lives or listening to the auctioneer’s clever patter. Another reason these events draw me is the chance to see history and sometimes buy a little chunk of someone else’s story. Unfortunately, there comes a time when those little pieces of other’s lives add up to enough stuff to clutter my closets to overflowing. Before anything bursts, I need to take action.
For several years, dusting day each week has generated thoughts about getting rid of stuff. There comes a point that all the extra polishing or the lack of space to display pretties makes them seem like a burden instead of a blessing. The charm that made me raise my hand until the auctioneer hollered sold has vanished.
One of my girlfriends, a role model for collectors like me, goes through her shelves, cupboards, and closets a couple of times a year and makes a thrift store run each time. As a die-hard accumulator, it was hard to believe someone would choose to get rid of everything they didn’t use regularly. The one time this woman told me to search her cupboards for a specific object, there was no search. I opened the door and put my hand directly on the sought-after item. Seeing her extraordinarily tidy and organized storage space was an epiphany. Some people can find what they are looking for immediately.
After that experience, I decided to work harder at creating order out of my loot. That meant I went through “stuff” every couple of years to either sell or give away objects I no longer wanted. Despite these efforts, more came in than went out, and storage areas bulged. If I needed to find something, I had to empty a shelf or closet get at the box where I stashed my prize. So much for changing my life.
I finally got to the point that enough was enough. I quit attending auctions and garage sales so I wouldn’t be tempted. That doesn’t mean I don’t love to read a great auction bill, garage sale listing, or see someone else’s terrific find. However, I don’t want to find a place for more bargains.
Over the last two years, I began going through closets, drawers, and boxes. Sometimes holding a pretty reminded me why I so desperately wanted to buy it, but most of the time, I hold it and realize the time has come for it to find a new admirer. That led me to contact a former student who along with his brother runs an auction company.
For the past two weeks, I have sorted, analyzed, and packed away 35 years of goodies. Boy, do I have eclectic taste. I bought pretty Depression era boudoir lamps and hand-forged branding irons. I discovered Monterrey Western Ware dishes alongside a lovely pitcher and glass set turning purple with age. I found kitchen gadgets my great-grandma could have used and a giant wooden lobster trap. The oddities are endless.
Despite the fact I have dozens of boxes packed with booty to sell, I couldn’t let go of my armadillos, my dinosaur tooth and coprolite, or my giant seashells. Some objects still make my heart sing when I hold them or admire them in the curio cabinet.
Once the sale takes place, my shelves will sport empty spaces. Maybe it will be time to attend an auction and remember what it feels like to be a buyer.