Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Stranger Things

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"It's the stories we're after. We love the stories and the artifacts can tell the stories." - Dan Elliott
Estate sales are rooted in kind of a strange concept, if you think about it. The last living member of a household passes away or a family goes into debt, and suddenly, their front doors open to the general public and everything is for sale. Random people line up to poke and prod through the home of someone they've never met before, rummaging through drawers of junk and making offers on things from the dining room table to the soap dish in the bathroom. Now, I have recently become intrigued by estate sales (since there seem to be so many in and around Detroit), and have visited a few this year to try my hand at finding some unique treasures. The selection can be fantastic, but at the same time, I always find myself wondering whose house I'm walking through and whether I'll ever leave behind a trail of things from my own life that causes a new generation of people to stop and think about me.

This past weekend, I heard about a huge estate sale going on in Detroit, a thirty-room mansion filled with clothing, furniture, books, and artwork galore. The sale was run by Cari Cucksey and her RePurpose team, so I knew it was legit and would be worth the drive out to the Indian Village. Brad and I were a little iffy on the route our GPS took us, but once we got through a few burnt-down and broken neighborhoods, this well-known street with beautiful, old houses popped up to greet us.

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Left: Me, waiting in line outside the house during the estate sale. Right: Camera crews set up outside.

The sale was set up to be filmed for an upcoming season finale of the HGTV show, Cash and Cari, so there were a couple things we had to do before entering the house. First, sign a sheet of paper with our contact information, agreeing that the show had permission to use any footage of us while at the estate sale. Next, hold up a white board with our respective names for a happy mugshot, which I'm assuming helps the film editors sort out who's who when reviewing the episode. Then, it was on to check out the house.

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Brad, checking out end tables as possible night stand contenders
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We almost bought this old phone. For Brad, so he could fix it to make it work. For me, because it was cute.
We were lame and kept changing our minds.
I still don't know much about who lived in the house, but I do know this person (these people?) had money! The age and condition of most of the stuff showed that the residents were probably a little older and had a lot of it for years, but it also showed a love of travel, an appreciation of art, and an addiction to clothing (There was an entire room deemed "The Suit Room" and another completely filled with men's shoes. Someone please tell me more about the man behind the wardrobe!).

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Left: A small sampling of the estate's shoe collection. Right: Souvenirs and lamps galore.

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This room was completely filled with original paintings, frames, and other decorative items.
It's amazing how much you can learn about a person's life through the things they accumulate!
Despite the three-story (plus basement) setup, a combination of small hallways and tons of people made for a slightly-confined room-to-room browsing experience. Nevertheless, I did find a few cute things, which are now hanging out at my place and beginning their journey with a new set of owners. Can you tell I have a slight, sympathetic attachment to man-made objects?

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Finds: Juice pitcher (which I've been using to water my plants), cute vase, and little shelf cabinet.
Come to think of it, I still need to dust that cabinet off.


On Sunday, Brad and I found ourselves driving around random neighborhoods after an ultimate frisbee meetup with some friends (I know, I never pictured myself playing ultimate frisbee, either), when we passed by a sign for another estate sale. Of course, we had to swing by.

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Kitchen in the house from Sunday's estate sale. Nothing but gorgeous views of lake and trees out of all windows.
The house was much more modern than the one we had visited in Detroit, and not nearly as full (granted, we showed up during the last hour of the sale). What I found interesting, though, was how many personal items were still left among the boxes of books and board games. Photo albums, birthday cards, yearbooks, and scrapbooks. I've heard of people buying old photographs to use in artwork, but I couldn't bring myself to take anything so personal as these family-specific memories. I couldn't resist, however, taking a peek at what was inside.

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Left: Handmade scrapbook. Right: Inside of a family photo album, filled with pictures from 1967.

It makes me kind of sad to know that these items have gone unnoticed, sitting in discard piles instead of on relatives' bookshelves. Maybe these things are lost, or maybe there's no family around to inherit them--but I like to think that they'll find their rightful owners after the hubbub of clearing out less-meaningful items wraps up, and that the little girl who wrote her name in the front of that album won't soon be forgotten.

Leave it to me to worry about a complete stranger's hand-me-downs.

2 comments:

  1. I've often wondered what "stuff" I'll leave behind when I leave this Earth....and who will be in possession of it. It makes me want to go through all my collectibles and label everything.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Leave a few things unlabeled...you wanna have a little bit of mystery about you. ;-)

    ReplyDelete

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