On Why I Stopped Following estatesales.net
Oh, my heart beat fast when I first discovered this site. This was even better than walking through my neighborhood at night peering, albeit indirectly, at what I could see in opened-curtained windows. A spectator’s delight.
If you don’t know about estatesales.com, it is a website that provides detailed descriptions, pictures, and directions to local estate sales, tag sales, and auctions. You plug in the zip code that you’d like to follow and the site provides everything, and more than, you need to know.
I was enraptured. Pictures of clothes in closets, hats still in Lily Dache hatboxes, oil paintings, bread boxes, Aunt Jemima salt-and-pepper shakers, all there in jpeg display. But after a few weeks, a part of me felt a bit sullied. I wasn’t there as a customer; I wasn’t there to buy. What I was was a voyeur, eavesdropping on (eaveslooking at?) people’s possessions, judging their sometimes tacky taste, critiquing items that they at one time had cared about and loved.
And this is not to denigrate the people whose business it is to run these sales. They do a service, certainly, and one hopes that the beloved objects of their clients will find appreciative owners who just might one day cherish those items again.
Rather, it is the poignancy of life moving on, of being aware of what these things once represented, symbols of lives, of memories past. To me it spoke of loss, an ache of leaving. And I look around my (minimalist) house, and wonder who will love the things that I love, and know that, even if I write it down, no one will know, or understand, just what these objects meant to me.
Perhaps that is what makes me sad about these sites. The objects remain; the context has disappeared. I wonder, besides the tenderness of losing its owners, if something remains, palpable to the new owners, if only they will touch, will listen to, the voice of memory.
And I discovered, or re-discovered, something about myself while discussing this with a friend. She, in seeing hats and mink stoles from a bygone age immediately thought of the good times they represented. I saw wistful memories. And it underscored what we decided were our “default” perspectives – hers, basically cheery and optimistic, mine, more melancholy and contemplative. Perhaps that is why we are pals, each providing a balancing way of seeing the world. And all this from a website…
Cynthia Strauff, author of Another Sunday, cynthiastrauff.com