Yard sale, thrift sale, clean out

I have been thinking lately about the meaning of used things. When we acquire them, when we love and use them, when we get rid of them, and what happens to them after we are gone.

Here is my take on the spiritual, social, and psychological differences between the various forms of stuff exchange:

Stoop sale: A feature of urban environments, where there are stoops. Could also be a lobby or laundry room sale. Involves anonymous dumping of small materials, usually books and bric-a-brac, in the hopes that someone else will take away. Anonymity between both giver and taker. Not a neighborly exercise, but one that facilitates in a small way the mental and spiritual transformation of the self through the shedding of stuff.

Block parties- the urban and perhaps suburban yard sale. A more neighborly version of the above. Comes with bake sale/hot dog, amateur band, and other fun accoutrements. Celebrates community. People tend to display more stuff, so the stuff often has to go back to the owner and lives to see another party/day. Small talk and deepening of those communal relationships is a byproduct.

Yard sale/Moving Sale Seems to be more competitive. Advertised in local newspapers with words like “no early birds” or “stuff must go- moving!” People also seem to advertise time limits on the day; this is not a party, but it is an interaction. Might even be a good actively for a leisurely afternoon for the seller if you are not moving.

Clean out sale or its fancier sounding-cousin: The estate sale. The object of these is get rid of someone’s possessions after death. There are businesses set up to do this on percentage; they make sure that people come, price it, and take the cost way- both the emotional cost for those left with the task, and the cost in time. This is something that was foreign to me until I moved into an environment with so many single family homes. I find attending such a sale a bit unsettling- I won’t check it out unless I know that what is being sold ahead of time, and I have little appetite for acquisition these days so I usually will not go anyway. There is a feeling I that arose in me, the few times I attended such a sale, of seeing those items laid out in the home of the individual who had passed, with strangers picking through them, that felt like a kind of invasion. Perhaps I am just not the estate sale kind.

Often times going thrift shopping is less a fun exercise than it is a necessity. Sometimes a person’s objects are being auctioned, sold, or otherwise disposed of because of difficult times. I prefer the idea of the swap meet- I guess for a collector of freely exchanged stuff, it feels like shopping without shopping- you satisfy the need to have new and different stuff, but without the feeling of cost (at least of the monetary kind). But still, you are bringing a new object into your life, into your orbit, into your sense of being and often it seems, into your sense of security

I always feel intrigued by the ways in which we communicate around our things- communicate our needs, communicate even in the sense of co-regulation. Co-regulation is a term I am just learning; it refers to the way we unconsciously interact around shared stresses; the ways in which stress and joy are attended to in community. My understanding of co-regulation is that it acknowledges the inherent interdependence of our psychological and physiological state in relation to those closest to us. When I think about the movement of things, and all the various ways things move about the earth- from junk in the ocean, to spending online to dumpster diving/voluntary simplicity, I think of what our co-regulation around things says about our values and aspirations, about our purchase in the world.

What is your relationship to the used and the new? Do you take time to contemplate and notice your feelings around them? How does this all relate to the beauty and magic and joy you wish to see?

About Valerie Freseman

Valerie Freseman is a Unitarian Universalist minister and a 2014 graduate of Union Theological Seminary. She completed a chaplain residency at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford, CT, and served as the first year-long Killam Ministerial intern at the First Unitarian Church of Cleveland. She is passionate about spinning the inter-dependent web, creating a more just world, and applying the arts to faith.  She is also becoming increasingly well-known for her sock collection.
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