Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Estate Sale

Jessica likes going to garage sales on Saturday mornings...here are some of my thoughts about an estate sale we visited recently. 

Visiting an estate sale is depressing. I scan the accumulated junk of an anonymous lifetime and realize nothing is worth buying. It is hard to feel sorry for the poor person who died and left a house full of junk. I wonder who lived here. What was important to this person? Was she happy? Did she live a full life or was she a bitter old unfulfilled person?

Clues about her life are hidden in the piles of shabby sweaters and chipped dishes.

I look at her bookshelf. How to Fight Cancer, and Win! one book is titled. "I guess she didnt win I think to myself. A mish-mash of other books on healthy eating and proper diet reveal an ultimately futile obsession with health. The Encyclopedia Brittanica from 1974 would be interesting, although the volume for the letter P is missing. A dusty Bible. A dog-eared romantic novel with a picture of a half-naked man and woman overlooking a sunset from a beach catches my attention. A history of the first one hundred years of the First Baptist Church of Tulsa. A book of recipes is stuffed full of yellowed newspaper clippings. Nothing interests me.

The cabinet full of antique china looks like a prized possession. I could own the set for $35. The actual cabinet is unavailable, I am informed by a bright red sticker that proclaims SOLD.

The guest bedroom boasts an assortment of old fashioned cameras, derelict printers, sheet sets, pots, and an old mop. 

A picture of a frowning ancestor stares at me from the wall. The frame is for sale, I suppose I could dispose of the picture, but its an ugly frame.

There is a pile of old music cassettes. Beethovens Fifth sits next to Elvis Greatest Hits. 

The livingroom couch has a deep indentation on one cushion directly across from where the television set used to be. I guess someone already bought the TV although I do notice a massive grainy color TV and a black and white TV in one of the bedroom closets. The coffee table is old and stained with liquid rings. An old plastic tree is losing all its leaves in the corner. A tri-fold Chinese screen is in the other corner. It costs $750. No one has bought it yet.

The carpet is shaggy and worn. Upstairs looks like it has newer carpet but a sign informs me there is nothing to buy up there.

Three Hispanic men lug an old wooden piano out the door. Price? $300. They look happy.

The master bedroom contains almost nothing. The closet has been cleared of everything but three empty hat boxes. A headboard and footboard lean against the wall. In the bathroom, I see an empty toothbrush holder and shower curtain rings.

I check out the bargain bin. The carefully sewn sampler is 50% off. The monogrammed towels are nice, if my initials happened to be RHF I would buy them in a heartbeat.

In the garage, I see some tools. One old Craftsman plane with cracked wooden handles. Three hammers, various sizes. A rake. A dusty hoe. A box full of hundreds of assorted nails, screws, and metal do-hickies. I notice a broken sowing machine and an ironing board.

I walk out without buying anything. This persons life has nothing that interests me. That is depressing.

As I leave the house and walk back into the sunlight I ask myself these questions: Will anyone buy what is left of my life after I die? Will all my precious paperbacks be sold for $0.10 each? What useless item will I store for forty years in a closet? Will my stuff end up in a bargain basket or a trash bin? What story will my house tell? Will the leftover dregs of my life inspire or depress? What can I do to end my life with deeper significance than just a pile of assorted junk?

No one on their deathbed wishes for more stuff in their closets. However, many wish they had spent more time with their kids, done more for God, or positively influenced future generations. What are you doing to make a difference? Is your life focused on getting more stuff or are you focused on creating a life of significance?