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From Trash to Treasure

Updated: Sep 19, 2020

The bumper sticker on the car in front of me brought a smile to my face, “I brake for garage sales,” it read. Whether you call them garage sales, yard sales, tag sales or estate sales, they basically are all the same: Someone has something they no longer want or need and they are willing to part with it at a price far below the current new value.

I can pinpoint when I got hooked on estate sales. I was 16 and had just gotten my driver’s license. My married sister stopped by and told us about a beautiful old Victorian house a couple of miles down the road where she had gotten some great deals. As it turned out, the occupant had died and it fell to her only child, a son who lived in Alabama, to clean out her house and get it ready to sell. He wasn’t interested in hauling the contents back to Alabama, so he was getting rid of everything. It was full of the trappings of her life during the depression and the ensuing years of prosperity. I could have happily loaded up a truck with everything in the house, but the few dollars in my pocket prevented that. I finally settled on six matching clear glass sherbet dishes, which immediately went in my “hope chest.” My mother bought two large vases in the same pattern.

My interest in yard sales only increased as time passed. During the years when my children were young I scoured the newspaper for garage and yard sales every Friday and Saturday for treasures to save my family a few dollars, making our already-stretched budget go a little farther. I bought almost all of my boys play clothes from mothers whose children had outgrown them, and decorated my house with cherished items found on my weekly forage. Of course, it helped to live in a “military” town, where there were young families (and yard sales) in abundance.

One of my favorite finds was a desk I snagged for $35. A little bit of stain and varnish and a lot of elbow grease produced a beautiful piece of furniture, one that I kept and used for many years, only relinquishing it to my now grown son for use in his house. I found a chair that was perfect for it at an auction.

Of course, the next thing I got interested in was having my own yard sale. After shopping the sales for years I figured I pretty much knew how to price my castoffs and hold a successful sale. My next door neighbor and I teamed up together, and about twice a year we would clean out our houses and our children’s closets, turning their outgrown clothing into ready cash. The boys would go through their toy boxes, and any profits made from toys or games were returned to them, teaching them at the same time how to manage their money. Some of the happiest times from those years were the camaraderie we had with our neighbors during these events. Even though the term “going green” wasn’t in use, by recycling items through yard and tag sales we were being good stewards of the things God had given us. “She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness” (Proverbs 31:27).

In 2003, when my mother died, my sister and I ran across the two vases our mother had purchased at that long ago estate sale, and we each received one. A few years ago I researched the pattern and found out it is the “Iris” pattern and the glass is called “Depression glass.” The monetary value continues to increase for this glassware, but the real value is the time spent rummaging through the household items in that old Victorian house with my mother, and having those sherbet dishes to remind me of those happy times.

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