Why Estate Sales Creep Me Out

My wife and I can usually gauge the items in an estate sale from the driveway.  How was the house kept up?  What neighborhood is it in, and on what street?  What kind of car is in the driveway for sale?  It’s a bit like judging a book by its cover.  Once inside, you clamor about picking over knick-knacks, thumbing through books, and eyeing the furniture.  You feel like you are on a treasure hunt, and like you are a creepy voyeur at the same time.  Sometimes you can get an incredible deal, or find that tool that you never wanted to pay full price for but would find handy.  Sometimes it’s something that you never really thought you would buy- like a “Herb Albert and the Tiajuana Brass” album on vinyl for 99 cents that is obscure and to unknown to your generation- but fun to show to your friends who think you are crazy at a dinner party (true story, that happened to me).

But by and large, estate sales give me the creeps.  Here the doors are flung open to the deceased home, and all of their belongings are irreverently thumbed through by complete strangers for the lowest possible price (especially by Sunday).  I always imagine that persons’ ghost hovering over our shoulders:  “What, you think my choice of artwork is too kitschy?” “How could you pass up these glass swan figurines?  I thought they were beautiful!”  “My good china?  For how much?!”  It makes one realize how temporary it all is.  One day, everything we own will be picked over by strangers and go to the lowest bidder, or on to Goodwill to be further picked over.  We can take none of this with us.  It has no real, everlasting value.  We may enjoy it for the time we have it, but don’t put too much stock in it.  Possessions are just that- material things.  And as a thing, it too will face the fate of the second law of thermodynamics and wear down, break down, and ultimately fade away.   As you lay on your death bed, you won’t be thinking “What shall ever become of my Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass album?”  Nope.  You will think something more along the lines of “What in the heck happens now?” and “Did I love my wife and kids enough?”  I bet your bank account, the car you drove, and your status in life will be much lower on the list of concerns, let alone the trinkets in your house.  I may be wrong, but I doubt it.

I’ll close with this thought from C. S. Lewis on ultimate reality:

“Hell is a state of mind – ye never said a truer word. And every state of mind, left to itself, every shutting up of the creature within the dungeon of its own mind – is, in the end, Hell. But Heaven is not a state of mind. Heaven is reality itself. All that is fully real is Heavenly. For all that can be shaken will be shaken and only the unshakeable remains.”
C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

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