Madness Monday: The Stuff We Throw Away, and...

The Big Yard Sale: A Hundred Cars, a Little Bit of Cash, and a Whole Lotta Junk

(Copyright (c) 2010 Cynthia Shenette) I am sitting here, exhausted, typing in the debris-strewn aftermath of what the folks in town are now referring to as "The Big Yard Sale." I sold a lot of stuff, mostly household goods and kid stuff, and what's left is currently cluttering up my front hallway, kitchen, and garage waiting to go to Goodwill or be collected by the Big Brother, Big Sister Foundation truck next week.

About a month ago a woman in our neighborhood dropped fliers off around the neighborhood to inquire into the collective interest in a neighborhood-wide yard sale. Last week she notified those of us who responded that the yard sale was on. We live in an area with lots of families with young children so sellers and buyers were plentiful, particularly given the current economy.

All the prep for the yard sale made me think about all of the yard sales and flea markets I've done over the years. I, as well as many other bloggers, have written great posts about the stuff they have, the stuff they've kept, the stuff they've organized, and the stuff they're still trying to organize. See my series of posts, Letters and Photos and Stuff, Oh My!: Sorting Through a Loved One's Estate (Part 1). One thing I've never thought about too much, until now, is the stuff we throw away. What does our "trash" say about us?

For centuries archaeologists have examined, for lack of a better word, junk. The stuff that humans for one reason or another have determined they don't need or can live without. A great collective trash pile so to speak. From that trash pile archaeologists piece together, literally and figuratively, the stuff of people's lives.

With that thought, I tried to recollect what I and my family have tossed out over the years. Even though we don't own it any longer, what does the stuff we get rid of say about us and our lives? Do we regret our decisions to toss certain items away? For years my grandmother bemoaned the fact that she gave a Tiffany lamp to the junk man in the 1930's. According to her the lamp was "old-fashioned" and times were tough. My grandparents were struggling through the Great Depression, and the lead in lamp was worth more as bit of cash in hand from the junk man than the lamp itself was worth.

Other family items I've sold or tossed over the years include:

~ the books Poultry Raising in Your Back Yard and Celery Culture (I grew up in a city that at the peak of it's population in the 1950's hovered around 200,000.)
~ a wooden ironing board and a metal washing board
~ a Victrola cabinet without the Victrola
~ about 20 acrylic cardigans my grandmother was "saving for best" (Apparently best never came up...)
~ more dishes, glassware, plates, and platters than one family would EVER need (Mom said, "We did a lot of entertaining." Clearly. Does anyone really need three teapots, five cake plates/stands, and two hard boiled egg plates? Come on now...)
~ a huge number of religious items, such as prayer beads, crosses, and religious pictures, including several pictures of the pope (I can't remember which one.)
~ a variety of sporting goods, including golf clubs, a tennis racket, and exercise equipment
~ lots, and I mean lots, of doilies
~ an upright piano my grandmother bought for me for a $100 (I don't play the piano.)
~ DECADES worth of used wrapping paper and ribbons
~ hats, lots of hats
~ a moth-eaten beaver fur coat my mom bought in the 1940s
~ Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopedia (You know the one--cream volumes, black trim, gold lettering.)
~ Blue Willow section plates (My husband makes fun of my "food touching issues." What can I say? I come from three generations of people with "food touching issues." I don't like my peas in my mashed potatoes. )

Now if you were an archaeologist, and you looked at my family's trash pile, what conclusion would you come to about my family and me?

My husband and I did a "high five" last night when we realised someone took away the big TV at the end of our driveway with the "Free" sign on it. We'll save $25.00 trying to recycle it elsewhere. All in all, our participation in "The Big Yard Sale" was successful.

We made about $170.00, minus the $25.00 we spent to buy an old, kid's train table for my son's Legos. Oh, and $40.00 went to my son for his items. Believe me, he was keeping track of every dime. Oh, yeah, and $5.00 to give to the lady who organized the effort. So let's see $170.00, minus $70.00 is $100.00. If we add another $50.00 to that, we will have just about enough money to pay the junk dealer to come and haul the rest of our unusable stuff away.

What have you trashed? I really want to know...


Carol said...

Love this post!! MMMMMM, I can see I need to throw away more!! Please send helpers!

Nolichucky Roots said...

Thanks for helping me realize that much as I've kept, I've still managed to throw away, sell or donate much more!

As to what - a post of it's own. Certainly everything the children - or I ;-) - outgrew, a garage full of furniture, books and sports equipment, 11 demitasse cups (I kept one), china place card holders (SO essential for those formal dinners), 43 lime jello recipes (I kept one), 7 old suitcases and dozens of hats (I kept the boxes), 2 sets of silver. It's a start.

Barbara Poole said...

What a fun topic to read about, because we all have stuff. Me probably less than anybody, due to the fact that I've moved abt. 17 times. Each time, stuff gets thrown out. Unfortunately, that includes old photos (my only regret). I loved your tab of expenses.

Cynthia Shenette said...

Carol and Susan - Maybe we can start a support group. I'm not sure what we should call ourselves though.

Susan - My mom always wanted demitasse cups! I think she figured since my dad spent 20 years in the military he wasn't exactly a demitasse kind of guy. ;) I am intrigued by the jello recipe you kept. What made that one stand out?

Barbara - Thank you for your nice comment! When it comes to yard sales, rarely do things "add up." I will say the kids had a good time. They kept going from house to house, coins in hand, buying each other's stuff! Just what we need, more toys...

Michelle Goodrum said...

Boy did I enjoy this post! We had a garage sale at Mom's earlier this summer that I blogged about.

There were a couple of things from childhood that were tough to part with but I took a photograph of the items and never looked back. Plus I felt better that those items just went across the street - not that I'll ever see them again...

It just never seems to end. As dear husband pointed out to me - the problem is they never moved in over 50 years! And they kept EVERYTHING (still do). Brother came up with the "Prime Directive" whenever someone hesitates too much about getting rid of stuff - "Make It Go AWAY." It works.

A number of odd things like, old bowling balls, have been taken to a local recycling place. The person who runs it has a bowling ball collection there! It makes one feel a little better instead of just tossing certain things in the trash.

Then there's my family. We keep acquiring stuff from the family home which is fun but we do keep a steady stream of tossing stuff as well. We do need to do more however so when the helpers are done at Carol's send them over here!

Cynthia Shenette said...

Michelle - I haven't read your yard sale post, but I certainly will. I too try to keep a steady stream of stuff heading out of the house, despite what my husband thinks. ;) I'm determined not to let stuff acumulate the way my mom did. My mom's house belonged to my grandmother before her. I think there was a hundred years of stuff stacked up in that house. Of course the one benefit is that I did find all of the important family history stuff I have that way.

I'll make sure to pass the message on to send the helpers to your house when they finish at Carol's! I bet we can keep them busy.

Thanks for your comment!

Heather Rojo said...

We had a yard sale when we remodeled the kitchen. I put everything out on the lawn from the kitchen, and begged people to take it away. I didn't care if I got a nickel or a dollar. Twenty years of old pots, pans, glasses, even the doohickeys that go in the drawer to hold the silverware. If it didn't go to buyers, then we took it to Goodwill. (I just kept my wedding china and pottery) Then we went to Walmart and William Sonoma and I got all new stuff for the kitchen- new pots, new glasses, new everything including the doohickey for the silverware drawer. The best weekend of my life! Your post brought back so many memories of that yard sale!

Cynthia Shenette said...

Heather - You just reminded me that I forgot to put my kitchen silverware out on Saturday! I was going to sell it, and then buy a new set. We always seem to be missing something. With this set its knives. The last set spoons. Where do these things go? I suspect the knives and the spoons are living together somewhere, probably next door to all the single socks.

I definately priced "everything to move." I had a couple of items for $10.00, but most was $5.00 and under. Please just take it away...

Thanks for your comment!

Anonymous said...

I'm currently on "Declutter Mode" so am trashing/recycling as much as I can in the hope that's what left will fit in the house. The family history stuff stays though :-) Jo

LindaRe said...

I love going to yard sales, don't like all the preparations that go into having a yard sale, so, I just gather my junk and give it away - or throw it away if it is useless like the old computers in the attic that I will clean out as soon as it is cooler.