I’m a sucker for a good deal. I’m always keeping my eyes peeled, searching for a bargain. My best deal ever, I’d have to say, was when I went to a local consignment shop and found a pair of super cool shorts for my teenage son, brand new with tags on sale for $3.00. Wow. But the really awesome part, I got the shorts home, handed them to my son to try on, and when he put his hand in the pocket he pulled out a $5.00 bill. Sweet!
Part of this “Super Deal” process is hitting the local yard sales in my area. I love me some yard sales. Oh, boy, the fun stuff I have picked up for a dollar or two. Bargains, bargains, bargains.
Well, this past Saturday, we woke up the clan and headed out to hit some sales. For the most part, many yards sales are crap. I REALLY hate it when they have these huge colorful signs that say, “Neighborhood Yard Sale” or “Multi-Family Yard Sale”, and then you show up and it’s a couple of people with one table and all their old clothes and dusty, dirty shoes laying on top. Totally false advertising. But, it’s part of the process—you have to weed through a lot of bad to get to the good. (Same thing goes for writing and reading).
Now, let me tell you about the good. Wowzer, wow wow! We ended up at this estate sale in the town next to ours, and before I’d even seen what they had out for sale I was intrigued. I mean, this old house looked something along the lines of the one in the movie Zanthura—old, with lots of character and appeal. To get to it, you had to meander down this long winding driveway with orange poppies blooming on either side. There were trees, huge and draping. Perfect for an old wooden swing. Off to the left, in a weedy grove, sat a weathered picnic table and chair set. Take this house and then place it in the scene of like Bridge to Terabithia or The Spiderwick Chronicles and WAH-LA, you have an idea of what I was looking at.
This house captivated me, and my mind whirled with creative possibilities. Also, I wanted to buy that house. I wanted it. I mean, how could it not be full of magical possibilities? It LOOKED magical. It had to have had an attic and a spooky cellar and doors that led to secret rooms and crap like that.
Someday I will write a book with that house in it. I totally have a setting. Now I just need a story to go with it.
Anyway, this yard sale was incredible too! Oh, my heck, all the cool old stuff they were selling. Treasures. Pure treasures. And they were practically giving this stuff away for nothing—antique desks and tables and the most amazing old pieces of furniture. But all that aside, I began to lose myself in the midst of these hidden pearls tucked away in cardboard boxes, things that probably had no monetary value whatsoever, but were interesting nonetheless.
An older woman, who had owned the property, had recently died and her children were sorting her belongings, cleaning out the home that had housed decades and decades of memories. One box, contained 1950’s smelling soaps and perfumes, still in their boxes, unused. Another, had shoe boxes, I’m guessing from the 1960’s or so, of the same high heal shoe, but in various shades and colors. They looked nearly perfect too.
One box held envelopes, dozens and dozens of envelopes all from Utah Power and Light Company (it hasn’t been called that for about forty years now) in which the company sent recipes to this older woman. Recipes? The electric company sent recipes? Weird, yet slightly cool. That’s interesting stuff right there.
There were books and old records and vintage purses and clothes—a complete blast from the past. I did purchase a couple of things I found interesting or seemed to tell a story (see pictures below) and my husband went crazy buying all sorts of crap he plans to turn around and sell on eBay and make a small fortune. He bought an old pair of black salt and pepper shakers for a buck that were made in the 1930’s, very rare, and can probably sell for thirty dollars. We spent approximately $40 and will probably make well over $200. (Some items I’m keeping for me just because).
So now I have a setting for a story. All I need is some characters and a plot.
Where do your ideas come from? Do you start with characters first or settings? I think I normally start with a character and then go from there. This is weird for me to start with a setting. That story will have to wait, though. I have others on my plate that need attending to.
Leave a comment. I’d love to hear where you get your inspiration. Next to bargains, I love comments (and people who leave them).
It's an old shoe shine kit. It's missing a few things, but still, it's really cool. I picked this up for $2.00. Can you just imagine the story behind this?
This old suitcase even had part of a traveling tag on it from the railway. Look at the old key dangling from the case, the buckles, the hardware. I wonder who used it and where they went.
Look at this amazing book! "An Old Fashioned Girl" and do you see who it is written by...way down near the bottom...Louisa May Alcott, the lady who wrote "Little Women." It doesn't have a copyright page, but it does have an inscription in the front saying, "Presented to Edith from her teacher xmas 1900."
Cute little children's suitcases. I know they're not as old as some of the other items, but they still had a unique look to them that I couldn't resist. They are each made out of stitched together cardboard and they're in perfect condition.
Here they are, just few of the old cook books I picked up for a quarter (I have a whole stack--why, I don't know. I hate cooking). But notice the blue one on the left with the band on the cover? That's the holiday cookbook from Utah Power & Light Co. I should have grabbed more. I could kick myself for not grabbing that old lady's mail with all those recipes in them. Oh, and now I have a cookbook that tells me how 300 ways to cook an egg. I thought there was only one way--scrambled.
6/27/2011 05:36:25 am
Amazing treasures. They are all so exciting and hold so many stories.
6/27/2011 07:44:04 am
That's some great buys you got there! I'm a sucker for those boxes of old postcards they have in second-hand shops - all the better if they've actually been written on and sent. All those memories and stories... I always buy a handful and then wish I'd bought more (they're only about 10p, for goodness sake, so what stops me?). Aside from being a lovely piece of history, they're great ideas generators, and I like the idea that I'm holding onto someone else's precious memories for them.
6/27/2011 08:11:38 am
I love the hundred year old book, Angela. What a cool find!!
6/27/2011 09:53:29 pm
I haven't been to a yard sale in years. Looks like you found some great stuff, including the inspiration. I do love big old houses and think they are wonderful settings for almost any type of story.
6/28/2011 11:16:10 am
I collect porcelain dolls (they're so pretty 0-0) and I get most of my new one from yard sales (they seem to be one of the more expensive items).
6/29/2011 10:13:45 am
I like yard sales too. For a while I collected Fire King mugs until I had no more room for them. I'm also constantly on the lookout for any hardcover 'yellow jacket' Nancy Drew book, since I gave away the ones from my childhood (slap, slap on my wrist). I start most of my stories with characters in some kind of trouble. Then I make their life a living hell. I'm so mean.
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