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 30-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. My husband 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, the well-known street with beautiful, old houses popped up to greet us.
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.
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!).
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?
The next afternoon, my husband and I found ourselves driving around random neighborhoods after an ultimate frisbee meetup with some friends (an activity I never thought I'd find myself partaking in), when we passed a sign for another estate sale. Of course, we had to swing by.
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 the amount of personal items 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, spending a few minutes flipping through album pages and smiling at the handwriting of the 11-year-old girl who had so strategically put them together.
It makes me kind of sad to know that items like the photos and old birthday cards 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.