Nothing says summer in America quite like a yard sale. On the surface, it’s a great way to get rid of unwanted consumer goods and earn a little extra cash/find stuff you may or may not have been looking for on the cheap. But it can also be an extraordinarily personal act of revelation in which individuals turn their front yards and garages into intimate thrift stores of memory. It’s an opening up of one’s life to the neighborhood as consumer choices (taste in decor, embarassing mementos, books and sporting goods) tell stories the seller might want to forget or can no longer afford to carry. Haggled purchases thus become a kind of ritual divorce in which objects or cult cargoes with varying degrees of significance for the seller are parted from their histories and sentiments as they’re carried off into new lives. Of course, an untold number of disposable objects, unwanted gifts, etc., also fuel this purgatorial, fair-weather economy. Regardless, the sometimes-careful, often-mysterious arrangements of these objects in this folk market almost always create curious juxtapositions and narratives worth considering.

[Music in this piece: "Memories Are Made of This" as sung by Johnny Cash]

(We greatly appreciate your feedback in the comments below or to thebigsomething@krcc.org. If you liked this piece and feel inspired to do so, please consider joining, renewing your membership or making an additional gift HERE. Thanks!)

 

4 Responses to Still Life at Yard Sale

  1. Lenore Fleck says:

    Seeing collections like this, in a way, gives me hope for the world. We really could get by with a lot less stuff without changing the quality of our lives. Which means, we could get by using a lot less resources.

    But how to keep the economy going if we buy less stuff? Buy more experiences — concert tickets, lessons, dinner out, art; make more donations.

  2. michael comora says:

    i have always said several things about yard sales……well, first i have said mine is the home that yard sales built…and that if you look carefully you can almost always find just 1 item that you absolutely need from even a junky yard sale….and then also i have said…yard sales are better than stealing because you don’t have to feel guilty…
    But more importantly is one of my other great yardsale quotations which is that it is only half about the stuff and the other half about getting to meet some great neighbors…..and they are a captive audience because they are stuck waiting in their chairs as they mind their yardsale. Also, i agree with the KRCC narrative that we truly do learn a lot about people from their sales……Happy Yard SAiling!!

  3. Matt H says:

    Always start at the record collection.

  4. Hiker gal says:

    love the shot of the clothes hanging from the picket fence. dang – did I see a hula hoop???

News

AP
April 26, 2015 | NPR · Recent attacks against immigrants have reportedly caused at least seven deaths in the country. Accused of incendiary remarks, Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini says his comments were taken out of context.
 

April 26, 2015 | NPR · NPR’s Arun Rath speaks with a California landscaper who says demand for her business is booming.
 

April 26, 2015 | NPR · Donatella Lorch, a freelance journalist in Kathmandu, gives NPR’s Arun Rath an update on the effects of Saturday’s devastating quake. She says people are taking it “hour by hour and day by day.”
 

Arts & Life

April 26, 2015 | NPR · In honor of National Poetry Month, our latest Weekend Read is Fred Moten’s collection The Little Edges. Poet Douglas Kearney says Moten’s power is in his attention to music, both in text and subject.
 

April 26, 2015 | NPR · Every answer to today’s puzzle is a familiar two-word phrase or name in which the first word starts with L-O and the second word starts with G.
 

April 26, 2015 | NPR · The second volume of Anne Opotowsky’s lavish trilogy about the Kowloon Walled City is like the city itself — vibrant and contradictory, its skilled atmospherics sometimes marred by sloppy art.
 

Music

Courtesy of the artist
April 26, 2015 | NPR · On her second album, Sprinter, Torres confronts the problem of confession head-on and proceeds to annihilate its boundaries.
 

Courtesy of the artist
April 26, 2015 | NPR · A versatile sideman serves as leader, filling a three-disc, nearly three-hour album with dozens of players, new ideas and transformed old ones. The title is justified.
 

Courtesy of the artist
April 26, 2015 | NPR · Raw, belligerent and dissonant — that’s just the tip of the noise-rock iceberg when it comes to Metz.
 

Get the KRCC iPhone App

The Writer's Almanac

Radiolab