The pile

It’s amazing, the stuff you uncover, if you just start digging.

Here’s the thing about owning a cabin that’s been in the family for generations. The generations who preceded your own leave, but their stuff doesn’t. Roughly ten percent of what they’ve left behind is stuff you, your siblings, or your cousins actually want. Sometimes, it takes years of moving that musty, dusty, ninety percent pile around from room to room before you suddenly realize that while you may own the cabin, the pile owns you.

I had a sale last weekend. Here’s just some of what I learned:

1. Getting ready for a sale is like opening a store that you only plan to run for two days. You need to collect your inventory. Then, you need to price the items and display them. You need signs. It’s a lot of work.

2. Your customers arrive before you’ve had your coffee or arranged your pile.

3. Most of those customers are retired couples.

4. Retired men are very chatty and always want to look at your “tools” even if they aren’t for sale. When they buy something, they ask if you can break a twenty. Their wives roll their eyes. Retired women come prepared to do business with quarters and dollar bills. They are professionals.

5. If you mistakenly set fishing rods that aren’t for sale against the outside of the garage while you’re looking for something else, a retired man will invariably try to buy them. Every time.

6. It is always better to put a price on an item than a FREE sign, particularly on the first day of a two-day sale, even if what you’re trying to give away is junk. The word “free” makes people suspicious on the first day. By the second day, people realize there’s no catch.

7. A very faded avocado green chair will be just the ticket for someone. Even if it smells a little mousey. As it is loaded into the back of a truck, you’re sure you hear your late grandmother whisper, “what took you so long? Ish!”

8. People will by almost anything for a quarter except a puzzle in a box that has already been opened. I think there’s some profound universal truth in this. I’m still trying to figure out what it is.

9. There are still at least four people in the world who still watch VCR tapes and one who uses an adding machine with a little paper roll attached to it. But the atlas and the encyclopedias on CD’s? I couldn’t give those puppies away.

10. There’s no better feeling than packing up what’s left after a sale and immediately driving to a magical place where an attendant punches your ticket and helps you separate the items for recycling.

I own a cabin.  A pile in the cabin owned me.

And then I had a sale.