A few weeks ago my sister and I (have you met my sister? She's awesome!) had a spectacular and exhausting estate sale at our mother's house. My grandfather built the place, and mom bought it about five years ago. She died last fall, so we've had the house on the market and need to get it sold. Before that can happen though, we needed to get things cleaned out. We've spent time out there over the last year going through the things in the house, cleaning out cabinets and closets, and deciding what's going to be kept and what's not. It was a long, but not as emotional as I expected, process.
In the end, we spent a couple of long evenings tagging and organizing and staging the things that were going to be sold, and had a line of eager buyers queuing up outside when we opened the doors Friday morning. By the end of the first day, almost all of the large furniture pieces were sold and gone. The second day all of the remaining furniture sold, except this dresser and a few antique beds. I think we had them priced right - the challenge is to sell full-sized beds. Most people seemed to be looking for queen-sized.
We can post what's left on our local Craig's List, but I may just store the beds until I have guest rooms to put one or two in. And the dresser may come home with me as well. We'll see... I already have several things set aside to keep, including this table. It was in our house since I was a kid, and it's perfect for a corner of my living room. I'll cover it with picture frames full of smiling faces of my family.
Even with the things we're keeping, I keep thinking of a few things we sold that I wish I had kept. There was this gate leg table, for example. I had no use for it and no idea where I would use it, so it was priced and sold. Then I saw a spread in the October issue of Country Living where a very similar table was being used as the breakfast table in the kitchen and thought "dammit! I could have had that table!" Not to mention, I'm sure the price we put on it was a bargain. But we wanted to get stuff out, not make a fortune.
Then there was the dining room table my grandfather built, which I didn't get a picture of, unfortunately. It had a narrow middle-section, two large drop-leaves on either side held on with piano hinges, and mortise-jointed legs. I remember hearing conversation about the hinges when I was younger, how they were difficult to do well and how great the table turned out. And we sold it. I do appreciate that the man who bought it was also a woodworker like my grandfather, and he seemed impressed to hear that my grandfather made it. That's how I took his reaction, anyway. I just have to keep reminding myself that I really do have enough things he made to share with my kids someday.
At the risk of being annoying, I took the time to tell the stories that went with particular pieces as people bought them. Like the little bucket with the nut cracker and pick set that set on the fireplace since forever. It was always full of walnuts and pecans, and my grandfather sat next to the fireplace and ate nuts in the winter. I considered keeping it, but 1.) I'm far too lazy to eat nuts out of the shell; and 2.) have enough other memories of my grandfather. You just can't keep all the Things in an effort to stay connected. It's an easy mistake to make, but my sister and I made a promise to ourselves early in this process to let things go unless we truly loved them, and/or we would be able to use them. Neither of us need more stuff. She's been better at keeping that promise than I have.
We were really pleased to see several things go to people who appreciated their history and their ownership. One of my grandmother's cousins bought a chair that had been in an upstairs bedroom for years. Turns out, according to another family member, the chair was a gift given to my great-great grandmother in the 1920s. They were thrilled to find out it was a family piece, and we were happy that it stayed in the family. A couple of bakers' racks that my grandfather built also found good homes. One to a young couple who are also cousins. He used to mow my grandparents' yard and spent some holidays at the house. When he found out his wife was at our sale he told her to get something my grandfather made. The other went to a woman who worked with my mother and went to church with my grandparents.
Life goes on. Things find new homes. I've got to find room for my new stuff...