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July 23, 2012


Julie Herman

I share your love of estate sales. Beyond the great bargains lie the things you outlined: the chance to see a home and see the decorating choices, the flow, the objects left behind.

Of course, I also like airports. People in transit do the darndest things.


Oooh, airports! You have the whole world going past you...and misbehaving. I've never been to an estate sale, but I bet it would be like going on a dig, putting a story together about someone.

Hank Phillippi Ryan

Oh, yes, of course! Airports, absolutely. Because the emotions are so open.

Grocery stores--because people think they can be selfish. "Wanting" is a strong motivator. And you see a lot o relationships in the raw.

Estate sales--too sad for me.

Marcia Talley

For some reason, the walls of Cracker Barrel Restaurants make me tear up. If you've been to one, you know that they are all decorated with antique tools, utensils, product containers, tin signs, magazine covers and old family portraits. You were once someone's beloved great-grandfather, I think, and now here you are, watching over a bunch of tired travelers, or the kids throwing mashed potatoes at one another.

Karen in Ohio

I love estate sales, too. It's so much sweeter for well-loved treasures to find new and equally appreciative homes than to just dump things at Goodwill. Or worse yet, the dump.

Kris, I know what you mean about the outside and inside not always matching, and both directions. One of the most amazing revelations for me: A tiny brick cottage, filled with gorgeous antiques. The yard was nondescript, and from the outside there was really nothing special about the place. In fact, it was almost seedy. But the daughter of the woman who had died was telling me they had found real linen sheets, sets and sets of them. Can you imagine? IF you could find them today they would cost thousands of dollars.

Sadly, none were for sale. The daughters had split them beforehand. Durn it. But I hope they used them.

That was about 20 years ago, and I just found a linen top sheet at an antique store, the first I've ever seen. $15.

Deb Romano

I love watching people at airports and railroad stations. I enjoy making up stories about what they are doing. And I do the same kind of people watching when stopped at a traffic light or stop sign. Where are those pedestrians going, and why?

Yesterday I was driving in a large city in a mixed use neighborhood: stores, houses, most of which are multi family, and a very large nursing home that occupies an entire block. The parking lot is behind the building and accessible from one of the side streets that the building straddles. I was going there to visit someone. As I waited to make a left turn into the side street, I saw a pedestrian walking towards me on the same side of the street as the nursing home. Before turning, I waited to see if he was going to cross the street or just turn down the side street. He turned down the side street, so I then turned onto the street, too. Just as I got ready to turn left into the parking lot, I noticed an adorable Chihuahua standing in front of one of the houses across the street from the parking lot. I worried about why the dog might be outside all alone. Suddenly the dog's head perked up, and the little pooch raced over to the pedestrian. I am not sure what was actually going on, but my IMAGINATION tells me that the little dog somehow got loose, the owner went out looking for it, and finally decided to return home, in the hopes that the dog would show up. Meanwhile, the dog found his way home and arrived there before his owner, and was hanging around on the sidewalk in front of the house, wondering what on earth happened to that human being that he was responsible for! Oh, look! THERE he is!


Estate sales are a great place to people watch! Very cool to see the different people that go to the sales and what they end up buying.

lil Gluckstern

I like watching people in grocery stores. i imagine what they are thinking, and I'm hopelessly curious about what they buy. Some would say nosy :)


Julie & Hank, you are so right about airports. You see people as they sometimes wouldn't be at home.

Hank, there can be a sadness about estate sales. But I've come to love giving new life to some of the things that person might have treasured.


Dana, I imagine estate sales are something like what you've done on a dig. Piecing together the bits of a life to draw a picture of how someone must have lived it. Working a dig must be absolutely fascinating, as you piece together how an earlier people must have lived. Has to be awesome!


Marcia, I've never been to a Cracker Barrel, but I have seen other restaurants decorated that way. Kinda sad, actually, but it does explain what some people buy at estate sales. There's probably a strong resale market for what I often regard as junk.


Karen, I know exactly what you mean. If the heirs don't want them, it's great when things go to someone else who will treasure them. I sure hope those daughters used those linen sheets, too. It's too bad the woman who died just collected them. Someone should get the pleasure of using them before the fabric rots.


Deb, what a sweet story! I believe you've tapped into the right scenario there. Precious!


Caroline, I know exactly what you mean. Sometimes when I see someone buying something at an estate sale that I would never think to buy, I then have to figure out what they're going to do with it.

Lil, I do the same thing. I guess I'm pretty nosy, too. ;)

thelma straw

Last fall I went to the auction house sale of the estate remains of Elaine, the famous owner of Elaine's Restaurant in Manhattan. As possession after possession was held up on the screen, it opened whole worlds of this woman's life to me! I enjoyed your blog and the comments! Thelma Straw, Manhattan MWA-NY


Wow, Thelma, I imagine that would be an amazing look into a person's life. Whenever I hear of an auction of some prominent person's possessions, I always wonder what it would be like to attend. Thanks for sharing that.


The only estate sale I have attended so far was one at the most beautiful old house in town. It WAS interesting.

I often copy down and study the dialogue at the terribly loud university library where we research. It takes away some of the annoyance at their incessant rudeness & loudness and gives me practice with dialogue. (Was that a baby screaming that I could hear over my earplugs at 10 p.m. in a university library. Why, yes! If I hadn't seen it myself more than once I probably would have thought people telling me were exaggerating. Sadly, not in my area.)


I meant to add how much I enjoyed your post and the other comments.


Thanks, Brenda. I agree that people have become rude and have lost any sense of privacy in public places. On the rare occasion when I write or work on my online classes in a coffee house, I'm torn between using ear plugs so I can concentrate on my work, and people-watching and listening to dialogue. Sometimes I'm just too nosy! Thanks for sharing your experiences.

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