When Azza and I moved from Cairo, Egypt, to San Antonio, Texas, USA, we didn’t bring a lot with us. Actually, I take that back. We transported a hellacious load of boxes, via a cargo container that was loaded into ship that had dropped anchor in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, but that lot didn’t include much furniture. So, when we set up house in SA, we lived a Spartan existence for a while.
We did not despair about our lack of furnishings. Instead, for months now, on weekends, beginning early every Saturday morning, we rise and shine to make the rounds at garage sales, yard sales, parking lot sales, estate sales, and any other kind of retail enterprise, large or small, where folks hawk previously owned goods at affordable prices. We learn about these buying opportunities via the World Wide Web, on this site and this one. We also locate them by sheer accident as we drive around and through the sprawling metropolis that is San Antonio.
I have to admit that this sort of shopping beats the hell out of a visit to IKEA or some such place. I am particularly fond of estate sales even though I always feel a little sinful—that might not be exactly the right word, but it’s close—while picking up and handling a family’s once-cherished possessions. Poking my nose into their bedrooms, bathrooms, living rooms, dining room, kitchens, and private crawl spaces invariably leaves me feeling a bit like an impertinent ogler. For example, if I walk into a home where the owner had an obsession for footwear—there are plenty of houses that are simply stuffed to the rafters with an obscenely large number of pairs of women’s shoes—I always feel like I’ve discovered a family secret that the inhabitants would have preferred not to have become common knowledge.
Estate sale shopping is always a little sad, too. I invariably run across wheelchairs, walkers, and packets of unopened adult diapers, the tell-tale signs of deterioration and demise. I often find that my eyes fixate on these items as my mind tries to conjure an image of the person (or persons) who used them. I then turn away and wander into a new room, one where the walls are decorated by dusty black-and-white photos of people I’ll never know and who are probably long gone and forgotten.
Not long ago, while the two of us were walking down the hallway of a particularly large house that was simply bursting at the seams with stuff, Azza stopped me dead in my tracks by grabbing my arm. “Troy, promise me one thing,” she said with a troubled look on her face.
“What’s that?” I asked her.
“When we die, you’ll never let anyone open up our house in this way.”
“OK,” I said.
She then let my arm go and we continued moving from room to room, picking up a few purchases as we went along.