Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Estate Sale Etiquette

One thing I certainly miss about living in Southern California is the totally awesome estate sale scene. Kent and I used to get the paper on Saturday morning, grab a map, and head out in search of musty old books, bark cloth curtains, Depression glass, vintage tools, and whatever other jackpot was waiting for us. Long Beach was the best, because the neighborhoods are old. The older the house, and the more overgrown the junipers were, the better the goods inside. The Woodlands is roughly a 40 year-old town, and estate sales are not even allowed, which means that our pastime has been significantly reduced since moving here.

There is of course the sad truth behind these Saturday outings: it means that someone has recently died.

Usually, the family outsources the running of the estate sale to another company. Personal items are removed from the home, giving it more of a garage sale kind of feel. There are however exceptions. Last Saturday Kent and I went to one, and in the bathroom were unopened packages of Depends adult diapers for sale. Not far from that were semi-used bottles of shampoo and conditioner with price tags on them. A week ago some nice granny was shampooing her hair, and this week strangers are brushing them aside to find better stuff.

So here are my thoughts on how to give your relatives dignity whilst selling off their life’s possessions:
1) Take personal pictures out of the frames before selling them. Nothing is sadder than seeing a nice old lady’s 1940’s glamour shot that she took for her man during the war, tossed into a bucket with a $1.00 sticker stuck on it.
2) Remove toothbrushes, hairbrushes, beauty products, and leftover toiletries from the bathroom. Please do not resale adult diapers!
3) Only sell vintage/desirable clothing. Kent and I went to an estate sale where all of a man’s clothing was in his closet, right down to his belts and ties on a peg rack. There were new flannel pajamas hanging up that his poor grandchildren had probably given him for Christmas. Way too personal! Sell old Jackie O coats, 1950’s prom dresses, fox furs, etc., but leave granny’s mu-mu collection out.
4) Never sell wedding albums. Sad, sad, sad. Nobody wants it? Well strangers don’t either.
5) If you sell military uniforms, take the medals and dog tags off. I bought a WWII men’s army uniform, complete with pilot’s cap and wool overcoat, and when I got it home, I found his dog tags and medals in the pocket. I can’t believe that nobody in his family wanted those! (I Googled the guy, and he had been a big-wig animator at Disney, and had been chief animator for several Disney movies.)
6) Clean the place first. I have been to more than one estate sale where there was cat poop and rat dropping in the bedrooms. Gross. I know the cat urine smell is hard to mask, but please try.

Anyway, just a thought.

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