Everything I Needed To Know, I Learned At An Estate Sale

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I stood watching a man open up a closet door, shoving the contents aside as he quickly sized up whether he might make use of them or not.

As I made my way through the narrow hallway to take a look myself, I noticed a fancy ball gown amid the winter coats and polyester pants.

All bedazzled in sequins and gold lame.

I could picture her…smoothing out the ruffles…adjusting her perfectly coiffed hair…re-applying her lipstick…adding another coat of mascara…surveying herself in the mirror.  Just one more quick look.  She’s coming.  She’ll be right there.

Did she feel beautiful in it? Did she have fun that night? Was it all she had hoped? Did her husband whistle in approval? Dancing and laughing. Feeling gorgeous in her fancy gown.

And when she came home, she undressed and hung it up. In this closet. On that very hanger.  Decades earlier.

And through the years she kept that dress. Even if she no longer fit into it. Even if  she had nowhere to wear it.  Because in that noisy, swishing fabric lay precious memories.

And now… Years later.. she is dead.  But the dress is still here.  Taking up space in this musty closet.

The gown nothing more than a gaudy item at a Saturday morning Estate Sale. Shoved aside by strangers. Considered ugly and dated now. Not even worth the $1 price tag dangling from the sleeve.

And as I wandered the house…a roof and walls that once was a home…surveying the treasures.

Collections painstakingly accumulated.

Knick knacks and bright orange lamps.

900 old records in dusty boxes.

Amber colored mugs and avocado hued Pyrex dishes.

A garage filled with tools that would make Sears envious.

All these things.. left behind. For strangers to pick over like vultures. Haggling over 50 cents. Unaware of their value once upon a time.

Adult children watching pieces of their childhood walk away and packed into cars they did not know.  Heartbroken that it only took 75 cents to make it go away.  Weary from negotiating from $5 to $4 for Dad’s old socket set.  The one they remember from weekends in the garage.

And I stood, tears in my eyes, against a wall. Watching. My mortality in stark view.

How this will surely be my home someday.

My kitchen cupboards being rummaged through. My prized decorations. My dresses and coats. My candlesticks and vases.

Going home in foreign hands for pennies.

My kids selling off the excess of my life.

And I realized…

In the middle of a dead stranger’s home… That none of it matters.

Not one bit of it. My things…are things.

Left behind and completely and utterly meaningless.

We know these things to be true.  We know that it’s just stuff.  That we can’t take it with us.  But in that moment, standing next to the fake potted fern in a poorly lit living room, it stared me right in the face.

And it yelled at me.

And in that moment, in a stuffy, strange house I was reminded Of God’s Holiness.

That my pretty Pottery Barn serving dishes… My favorite lighting fixtures… Even my beloved Le Creuset collection…


It will all stay here. It will be sold off or donated.  It will be a chore for my children.  They will divide up the $500 profit from a week’s worth of back breaking work.  They will haul off the things I paid money for once upon a time, to a Goodwill in black trash bags and a rented trailer.

But what will remain is not tangible or easily held in the palm of a hand. What stays behind is not something that can be sold for $3 on a sunny morning.

What I want to leave here is different anmuch more precious.

Giving. Loving. Serving. Praising.

Mightily and until it hurts.

This is what I want for my life.  For my children.  Am I doing it?  Or just paying lip service?  Only time will tell, I suppose.

This is not to say that I will sell all of my possessions tomorrow and move to a hut in the jungle.


I will continue to collect beautiful things. I will always have a soft spot for fancy cookware.

I still bought a $3 footed dessert plate.
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I'm a mom to four. A wife to one. I believe in story. I love telling you about mine and would love to hear yours. There's really no sense in wasting our suffering and not sharing in each other's joy. We're all in this together...even if it doesn't always feel like it.

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  1. 1

    I love reading your blog. This post is spot on! They are just things. Make memories! Leave impressions! Live! Merry Christmas to you and your beautiful family.

  2. 2

    I had that same epiphany while sitting at a nursing home with my mom. The lady in the next bed had severe Alzheimer’s, others were in wheelchairs in the lobby, staring into space, try to speak words I couldn’t understand. Nursing was grossly understaffed so helping a stranger to the restroom including getting their pants down. I couldn’t bare to see someone wait so long for something so simple for you and I could do. As I sat there thinking, I had that same awakening. At the end of the day, we are all the same in our elder years. It doesn’t matter how rich you were, how many things you had, what kind of car you drove because by that time, we are the same person waiting to go potty, waiting for someone to feed you, needing your bed changed. Waiting for The Lord to take you. It’s sad just how much THINGS we invest in, that you’ll never need by that time. We need people not money or things. Have you ever watched a sunset on the beach with a dollar bill? Celebrated a holiday with a piece of gold? We spend our whole lives chasing it, only to find out what’s really important.


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