Off season

Posted by Jenny in Grab Bag | 3 Comments

It’s the off season in the world of junking (at least in our neck of the woods) and frankly, that has been just fine with me. The last thing I’ve wanted to do is bring more crap into my house. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with just how much unwanted junk is out there. I know lots of you can relate (exhibit A being this post from Secondhand Nation. I hear ya, sister!).

I can easily start to fall into this state of mind just making the yard sale rounds, but it’s even more overt when you go to a thrift store. Especially a BIG thrift store. Like Portland’s infamous Bins, an extension of Goodwill which for many cast-off items is “the final stop before landfill, materials-salvage or purchase.” That’s a quote from a handout I picked up when Meghan and I made a rare blog-related gallery visit back in November, to see Bin Labs Presents: Second Growth, described as “a video and sculptural installation examining the community surrounding the Portland Goodwill Bins.”

The exhibit consisted of thrift store junk arranged in various permutations … clocks all over one wall, big towers of tacked-together discards in the middle of the room. For someone who sees a lot of that stuff in the wild, the arrangements weren’t all that striking. All of the stuff came from the bins and was just on loan — by now it’s been returned and either purchased, or sent on to the great beyond. My favorite part of the exhibit was the accompanying video footage, which documented the thrift’s operations, workers, and shoppers. Watching a mega-truckload of donated crap get funnelled down a chute was more sad than exciting; the sea of bright-colored plastic crap that I couldn’t imagine anyone ever buying was frankly a little depressing. Sure, there has to be the odd amazing score here and there, but digging through all that crap in the hopes of finding it? I think I am really over it.

Of course, there are tons of regulars who hit the bins hard. This article describes the scene quite well, and the Yelp reviews are pretty hilarious. We have our own bins in Seattle too, though can you believe I have never been there? Based on this brief description it sounds like it’s pretty similar … I am sure we’ll make it over there one of these days, out of curiosity more than anything else.

So I haven’t had the yard sale bug at all lately, but that’s fine — it’s not like there’s much out there to go to anyway. We had a crazy bout of snow in the middle of December. I didn’t go anywhere I couldn’t walk for about 10 days, but I did peek at the listings on Craigslist, mostly out of boredom and curiosity. Mixed in with the usual annoying spate of people listing their random items for sale incorrectly in the garage sale categories were two things that caught my eye.

The first one was a listing for an “estate sale” that was obviously just somebody moving. I think we’ve mentioned before that this is a pet peeve. If no one died (or possibly moved to a nursing home), it’s not an estate sale. However, as annoying as I’ve found this, my irritation has not led me to take the drastic steps that someone else was apparently compelled to: placing a whole new Craigslist ad lecturing the poster about the meaning of the term, including a painstakingly detailed line-by-line rebuttal of each item in their listing clarifying exactly why it was obviously not an estate sale. This was then in turn followed by a “can’t we all just get along” type of post from a third party, offering up some half-assed definition of estate sale that could include just about anything and mocking the complainer for taking so much time writing their ad. Call me crazy, but I am often entertained by passive-aggressive drama over more or less pointless matters conducted by anonymous freaks on the Internet.

The other listing I noticed was a horrible-sounding sale by a “collector” who was “downsizing” … selling off their prized items, including many vintage toys still in their original boxes and other crap that I would bet they think they can sell for a lot more than anyone will ever pay. This was scheduled for a Saturday right in the middle of the worst snow, so I doubt they had many shoppers … even with their subsequent ad, featuring an alarming number of photos from their vast collection of official Harley Davidson brand jewelry. I didn’t even realize this is something people collect (or really, even existed). Let’s just say that I was not sad that it was way too snowy to get to that sale even if I’d wanted to.

I did end up hitting one sale on the first Friday of the year. Karl had sent us a listing for an estate sale in Olympic Manor that listed midcentury furniture and whatnot. I wasn’t sure I wanted to bother, but it was right on my way home from running an errand about an hour after it opened up, so I made a quick stop. All of the furniture was already marked as sold (and was way too pricey for me anyhow). The rest of the stuff was boring, and there wasn’t much of it — everything might’ve filled up five or six boxes. It was a total waste of time, except that it was in one of the most amazing ’50s houses I’d ever seen, with an incredible water view and beautiful landscaping. I wandered from room to room just imagining what it would be like to live in that house, even sneaking into the off-limits upstairs party to get a quick peek. Even though there was nothing to buy, it was cool just to check that place out.

Meghan keeps telling me that my not being motivated to hunt for crapola isn’t going to work too well for keeping up on the blog, but I’m not worried about it. For one thing, I think by the time the season picks up in earnest I’ll be a little more into it. For another thing, finding stuff to buy is only one part of the appeal of going to yard sales. A big part, sure, but it’s fun for me even without scores. I mean, look at Tom from Yard Sale Addict. He ends almost every sale recap with “I bought nothing,” yet he’s still out there almost every weekend. Or Mister Jalopy over at Dinosaurs and Robots, who wrote in a recent sale report, “Even if I never did get anything good, I would still go to garage sales. I am extremely interested in seeing how people lived, how they live now and what that delta looks like. I am curious which is another way of saying I am a snoop.”

Um, likewise. So don’t you worry … once things warm up a little more around here, I’m sure we’ll both be reporting as usual from the yard sale field.

3 Responses to Off season

  1. becky says:

    Seeing people’s junk “In situ” is a big part of the allure of estate saleing for me.

  2. kelly says:

    This blog has some interesting posts about the goodwill outlet in Seattle.

    I really enjoy your blog!


  3. Felicia D. says:

    Come on! Take a nice long yard saling trip. I have just the thing for you next winter. (you already missed this winter’s trip) We go on an antique shopping trip to Europe. We have a group over there RIGHT NOW (2/1) They are shopping the street fairs at Arezzo in Italy, then Tuesday they take a plane to the antiques fairs at Swinderby and Newark in England, then Friday night they go to Paris, France for the famous flea markets. Check out the website at I think you would love this excursion. Let us know!