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
September 1, 2014 | NPR · NATO leaders are expected this week to set up a rapid-response force to defend against potential Russian aggression.
 

September 1, 2014 | NPR · President Obama heads to Europe this week to take part in the NATO summit. The alliance is weighing how to respond to Russia’s incursions into Ukraine.
 

September 1, 2014 | NPR · Ebola has exposed weaknesses in Africa’s health networks and a failure to work together to arrest the spread of the virus. The “not our problem” response is taking an economic toll on the continent.
 

Arts & Life

September 1, 2014 | NPR · The process of becoming a man isn’t always an easy one, but poet Saeed Jones says that reading Real Man Adventures by T Cooper, can make the journey more joyful.
 

Alison Rosa
September 1, 2014 | NPR · Until Guardians of the Galaxy came along, this year’s box office figures were the worst in years. But critic Bob Mondello says there are bound to be some fall films that get pulses pounding again.
 

Jonathan Ring
September 1, 2014 | NPR · NPR’s Madhulika Sikka profiles Cumming, the author of thoughtful spy sagas like A Colder War. Cumming’s books provide plenty of action, but also grapple with the moral quandaries of espionage.
 

Music

September 1, 2014 | NPR · Guitarist Joe Beck said he thought of the guitar as a six-piece band. Music reviewer Tom Moon says that’s exactly how Beck’s music sounds: layers of overlapping ideas. He reviews Beck’s posthumous release, “Get Me Joe Beck.”
 

Courtesy of the artist
September 1, 2014 | NPR · Plant’s 10th solo album lovingly layers elements in ways that mirror memory, creating new constructs from floating shards of the musical past.
 

September 1, 2014 | NPR · The archetypal ’70s band had a charismatic frontman and wonderful songs, but they also had drug problems and kept breaking up. Their Warner Bros. recordings are in a new box set called Rad Gumbo.
 

Get the KRCC iPhone App

The Writer's Almanac

Radiolab