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
May 23, 2017 | NPR · The uptick in support, especially among U.S. Democrats, comes after the turbulent U.S. presidential race where Donald Trump called NATO “obsolete.” He now says it’s “no longer obsolete.”
 

NPR
May 23, 2017 | NPR · Brennan will testify about Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election and Russia’s use of “active measures.” He is also expected to be asked about leaks regarding national security.
 

Getty Images
May 23, 2017 | NPR · British actor Sir Roger Moore has died. He began his career as a model and small-time MGM studio player, but was best known for stepping into the role of James Bond in the 1970s and 1980s.
 

Arts & Life

Getty Images
May 23, 2017 | NPR · British actor Sir Roger Moore has died. He began his career as a model and small-time MGM studio player, but was best known for stepping into the role of James Bond in the 1970s and 1980s.
 

May 23, 2017 | NPR · Katherine Heiny’s first novel for adults is a warmhearted and funny — if overly long — portrait of a man who begins to doubt his chaotic, talkative second wife after 12 years of marriage.
 

May 22, 2017 | NPR · For our series, “Backstage Pass,” NPR goes behind the scenes of the hit TV show, The Voice, where we meet the house band and veteran musicians who learn and perform new songs daily.
 

Music

Courtesy of the artist
May 23, 2017 | NPR · Downtown Boys makes it clear from the outset of Cost Of Living, the Providence punk band’s debut for Sub Pop: “A wall is a wall / A wall is just a wall / And nothing more at all.”
 

Courtesy of the artist
May 23, 2017 | NPR · Chumped’s Anika Pyle and Dan Frelly are back with a new band that’s more pop than punk and a song named for a 19th-century abolitionist and suffragist.
 

Courtesy of the artist
May 23, 2017 | NPR · Why would anyone remix one of the most important and influential albums of all time? Giles Martin explains how and why he did it for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
 

Get the KRCC iPhone App

The Writer's Almanac

Radiolab