The Estate Sale Shuffle

The Estate Sale Shuffle | Leaving the HerdWhile I was raised to demand a deal, I have become increasingly interested in deals with a history.

Estate sales are a wonderful and eerie opportunity for storied finds.

For those of you unfamiliar with this uniquely modern ritual: when one dies in old age, one has often accumulated a lot of stuff.

Stuff that your remaining family members would rather not keep, or even deal with. So they pick through your earthly belongings and hire an estate sale company to sell off the rest in an unceremonious manner.

The potential buyers are heralded on online sites like Craigslist, called by the siren song of good deals and then they show up en masse to tromp through your home and judge your possessions.

Recently, I got serious about this hobby.

For example, estate sales are generally held Friday through Sunday. Most people (at least in Utah) go on Saturday. On Sunday, traditionally everything left is half-price…or less. But Friday is the real opportunity. Everything good is gone within a few hours after the sale kicks off at 10 AM on Friday.

I adjusted my work schedule to accommodate this perusing of possessions of the recently dead.

Additionally, I often find several items I want in any given estate sale, necessitating that I bring grocery bags in my pockets for ease of “shopping”.

I also bring along masking tape and a sharpie – to mark large items as sold before I have a chance to check-out. You can’t leave your item alone and expect it to still be there when you return at an estate sale.

However, attending an estate sale is not just a unique shopping experience. It demands your acknowledgement of the pitiful loads of stuff that people hang onto and then burden their families with at the end of their days.

How embarrassing to consider that directly after your funeral, your neighbors and friends will walk through your home (at least out of curiosity) and see all that junk you bought and never used!

The dumb books and movies that you kept. Your secret hoarding of VHS tapes or smut novels (yes, the last is almost always present).

Even at the wealthy estate sales, there are lessons.

For instance, last week I visited an estate sale on the upper east side of Salt Lake, near the Country Club. Their possessions were as high end as their home and they were neat and clean. However, in the coat closet by the front door, there stood a small brown bag on the shelf, untouched. You never know where you will find a find, so I took a look.

Inside were 8 cassette tape cases, brand new, with a receipt dated in 1985 for $3.50.

Clearly, the gentleman who had passed had purposefully visited the audio supply shop 28 years ago to buy those eight cassette cases. He went out of his way to make the purchase and bring them home. He then set them gingerly on the edge of a shelf in his coat closet, within plain sight, and never touched the bag again.

I can’t count how many items I’ve purchased that I never used. That adds up to a lot of time and effort and clutter.

After digging into countless dusty boxes and honing our evaluation of what qualifies as a find, I’ve come away with an important philosophy: What comes in must be offset by something else going out.

It’s a natural law.

Since I brought home a fridge and a chest last week – much had to go to satisfy the imbalance. It was well worth the exchange.

Do you have any items with a fun or unique history? Perhaps the prior owner was a little crazy or your journey to obtain the item took some serious dedication.

We surround ourselves with our stuff, at least make it good stuff.

  • Those are some great buys, as a side income I buy and sell items on ebay purchased from thrifts and garage sales mostly, I eventually want to move on to estate sales and more vintage items, but it’s tough to slow down on what’s brining in money. I don’t think I have came across that unique vintage item, but the search continues.

    • Thanks, Even Steven! I really enjoy your recent blog posts – we’re in a somewhat similar boat with the rentals on accident on purpose situation – although we are very focused on selling those properties at the moment 🙂