I don’t profess to be a hoarder , in fact, I am broaching the life of a minimalist. So for me to attend an auction flies in the face of my contention that we complicate our lives by having too many things. However, I dream sometimes of finding that rare item that will land me on the Antique Roadshow with a $500 000 footstool that I paid $15 for at an auction.
Last Thursday, my daughter and I attended a pre-auction showing just up the street from my home. It was in a private home, an estate auction. I didn’t go with any high expectations assuming that most items of value would have been sold privately . The house itself had the sad look of aging without any cosmetic surgery. Nothing had been done to it since the seventies when I would guess it had been built. The shag carpets were worn . The linoleum flooring was dated and I thought what a job it was going to be for the new owners to remove the forty-year old wallpaper. It was a surprise then when I looked through the items listed to see that this particular sale had everything a homeowner would expect to have but in duplicate and triplicate. And much of it was in pristine condition.
The basement held the auctioneer’s heaven. For the carpenter there were workbenches still in the boxes. I counted three. One large tool chest high as a man stood in a corner of the basement and another slightly smaller one was next to it. Both were in perfect condition . The red paint had no scratch , dent or smudge. Alongside, an electric sander, rotary saw and screwdrivers peeked out from a box on the floor. Scattered around the place were ladders, hammers, saws, screwdrivers and drills , all new apparently unused. Two exercise machines were stored there. They showed no evidence of use.
Hundreds of artificial flowers , beads, ribbons, vases, bindings and accoutrements that one would use to make arrangements sat on shelves in another room. The themes varied from the earthy autumn colours, to easter yellows and purples and Christmas reds and greens.
Upstairs on the main level there was a pantry. It overflowed with baking tools. I noticed numerous baking pans , cookie sheets, moulds, and cookie cutters. Pots and pans lined the shelves . There was too much to take in all at once. My thought was someone in this household really enjoyed cooking and baking. The library in the tv. room was additional confirmation . Shelves and shelves of books the length of the room held only cook books, hundreds of them.
I concluded the occupants of the house were a couple who were heavily involved in crafts , carpentry, physical fitness and baking. They were interested in everything.
On the upper level were the bedrooms and main bathroom.
The bedrooms were stripped of furniture except for one which had a twin bed covered with the most beautiful thick duvet I have ever seen. It appeared to be in sparkling white brand new condition. And the cover was in its original unopened packaging.
Art prints and various hangings were lying here and there , in the closets, on the walls , on shelves. They had obviously been removed from their original places and combined with similar works to make their sale a more convenient process. Auctioneers often sell things in groups.
I placed a pre -bid on one single object, a stacking shelf with wicker baskets that I thought would look nice in a spare room of my house.
Before leaving I decided I would have to find out just why so many things were being auctioned. If the family was moving, why were they not taking their treasures with them? Had there been an accident with all souls killed? Was it a widower or widow who had passed away and the offspring had no interest in the property? My curiosity had to be satisfied. So I asked.
To my surprise, the owner was a single woman, a doctor. She had had a stroke and had gone to live in a home where she would be cared for. She was barely 50 years old.
I don’t know her. And yet I feel I do.
And I feel sadness. It seems this person spent her time buying things . Collecting. Was this compensation for some void in her life?
Then, on the other hand, she did floral arrangements. I could see that because there were some around the house . That makes me feel better. And baking may have been a pastime though the pans looked new and unused to me. But the carpenter’s tools are a mystery. The house had not seen any renovations. The tools looked new. What was the story behind them?
I doubt I will ever know the answers .
This experience leads me to one resolve. When I die my things will show that I lived a life. The evidence will be in the wear and tear on my clothes, the worn finish on my pots and pans , the dog-eared pages of my cookbooks, the worn out soles of my running shoes and the stains and nicks in my dinnerware. I know that in one of my handwritten recipe books there are samples of many meals I prepared over the years. However they are no longer palatable and live only as stains and smears on the pages.