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

Robb Hill for NPR
February 1, 2015 | NPR · NPR’s Weekend Edition will spend a few months following four seniors from Howard University in Washington, D.C., to tap into the challenges and preoccupations of soon-to-be college graduates.
 

Courtesy of Emily Hu
February 1, 2015 | NPR · Sick of dining hall pizza, public health student Emily Hu taught herself how to cook — even with no oven. Now she’s hoping to inspire her peers to pick up cooking skills and healthier eating habits.
 

AP
February 1, 2015 | NPR · The pre-Super Bowl week of hype — which ran the gamut from frivolous to ominous — finally ends and we can turn to what could be one of the closest, most exciting championship games ever.
 

Arts & Life

Courtesy of Emily Hu
February 1, 2015 | NPR · Sick of dining hall pizza, public health student Emily Hu taught herself how to cook — even with no oven. Now she’s hoping to inspire her peers to pick up cooking skills and healthier eating habits.
 

February 1, 2015 | NPR · Kid President (aka 11-year-old Robby Novak) is an internet sensation whose sunny, personality-driven YouTube videos have garnered over 75 million views. Now, he’s written a book on how to be awesome.
 

Le Studio Photography
January 31, 2015 | NPR · While Deon Taylor was playing professional basketball in Germany, he had an epiphany: he wanted to make movies. The self-taught director’s latest film, Supremacy, was released this Friday.
 

Music

Courtesy of the artist
February 1, 2015 | NPR · The orchestral seven-piece hails from a sprawling Canadian island not known for its indie rock. Rachel Martin speaks with singer Tim Baker about how the band has nonetheless made a name for itself.
 

January 31, 2015 | NPR · Veteran dancehall troupe and guaranteed bringers of good times Ward 21 dropped a new video on Friday.
 

January 31, 2015 | NPR · From a sensational soprano to an audacious new work for orchestra, NPR Music’s Tom Huizenga and host Arun Rath spin a broad selection of new classical albums.
 

Get the KRCC iPhone App

The Writer's Almanac

Radiolab