Sunday, August 24, 2008


The through-line in Saturday’s garaging seemed to be dealing with the stuff that our elderly parents leave behind. It's certainly an issue in my own family right now. My mother has moved into assisted living, and as many before her have discovered, you cannot move forty years of stuff from a three bedroom house into a two room apartment. She was already amazed at what she found when she started going through my father’s desk after he died. I don’t know how he got it all into the relatively small space of a desk and a file cabinet, but there were financial records and receipts going back to the forties. She wore out a shredder and then took bags of stuff to a commercial shredding place. The scary thing is, he wasn’t known as the packrat of the family. You can imagine what’s left to be gone through! Kind of like the little scene I witnessed yesterday at a sale that had miscellaneous items strewn from the driveway all across the front yard. A young man stood by a single table of odds and ends, talking to a buddy. I heard him say, “This [pointing to his table] is my stuff. That [sweeping his arm to indicate everything else] is mom’s.”

In our case it's my sister who’s having to deal, since she lives about 1300 miles closer. I revere her! Go by her website sometime, maybe you’ll find a vintage item you can't live without. (Don’t miss the picture logo I made for her site!)

It seemed like about every third sale yesterday was stuff from elderly parents. At one, two ladies were talking about just this topic. One was moaning about the decades of detritus in her parents’ house. The other said her mother had taken a different tack. As she got older, she started giving stuff away. To anyone. If the gardener did a good job mowing the lawn, she gifted him with something from her house. The woman telling the story seemed glad she’d had less to go through, but she also said, “Some of it was stuff you wish she hadn’t given away!”

The sale I most enjoyed yesterday was just one of these situations. The middle aged daughter had a huge amount of stuff for sale, and she said it was just a sample. She’s planning another sale in two weeks, and she said her mother (who’s still living in her own home) doesn’t even realize this stuff is gone from her house because there’s so much more still there. Evidently her mother was a notable seamstress who had a huge sewing room. I found a number of vintage sixties dresses that she'd made. I bought one in hopes the stains will come out). There were vintage linens and fabrics and tablecloths. Another shopper picked up an old alarm clock, the wind-up type with the bells on top, and asked if it were vintage. “Well, it's from the seventies, I had it in my room in high school,” the seller replied. “I guess that could be vintage. Or an antique. Guess I'm the antique.”

I know a lot of us who love to go thrifting can be suckers for a good deal. The amount of stuff we have can get scary. My house is relatively uncluttered, except for my home office, which at times is stuffed to the gills. When I need to declutter, I remember what William Morris said: “If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” That might just say it all.

But even William Morris can't stop me on a Saturday morning, though I hope he slows me down a bit. For $9.25 I came home with these things that I hope are useful and/or beautiful:

A set of farmyard hand puppets for a door prize. Useful for storytimes!

Some prizes for my Summer Reading Program—embroidered bag (useful for carrying a book or two around!)

box of cute candles

vintage embroidered cloth

and a “Gnome garden” complete with three inch tall gnome, imitation grass, a garden background, and a book about gnomes. Okay, William might not like this one. I think maybe we need to add to his quote: “Or things that make you laugh.”

A couple of pieces of clothing to sell

A velveteen patchwork rabbit

And these are from the seamstress’s sale, pretty stained and somewhat battered, but with a little care I think I can coax back some beauty:

Vintage tablecloth, I'm guessing from the 60s

Embroidered tablecloth—looks like 20s vintage to me

A couple of embroidered cloths, a very old one embroidered in silk, with insets of handmade netting (what do you think, Victorian period??) and a linen one that uses an unusual thick-and-thin braid which is couched into the design

Seven yards of vintage rayon fabric (for 50 cents!!). I may use this as the center of a bedspread, with some solid color borders to make it big enough.

This is the handmade dress. The front yoke and bands are cut in a single piece. This woman could sew!

And my favorite piece, this fabulous vintage apron. Looks like it was a kit, you can see the lines to embroider over in a couple of places. Don’t think this has ever been used.

Favorite quote of the day came from a man who said, “When I get ready to take my nap, everything that’s left is going in that dumpster.” Sure enough, there was a dumpster by the curb. My guess is his heirs won’t have a lot of clutter to deal with!


  1. Just by the style of the embroidered flowers i can see, i would guess it was more an Art Deco period piece. Not quite as fancy, more shape and style conscious that most of the Victorians. Nice Haul!!

  2. The "braid " in the round doily or cloth is Coronation Cord. Last manufactured in the early 1920`s. You can still find "New' old stock on Ebay. Your piece looks to be quite old. I collect Coronation Cord and anything trimmed with it. very nice piece.

  3. LOVE LOVE LOVE the vintage linens you found. I would have thought I died and gone to heaven at that sale.
    It's so hard not to think you "need" everything you see. I just spent 2 weeks cleaning out every room in the house and getting rid of STUFF. This next weekend is a garage sale. Then it's going to take what is left over to the thrift store 50 miles away so I don't repurchase it! :-)
    Have a wonderful week

  4. Just a quick note, to let you know how much I enjoyed reading this post.
    And I L.O.V.E all your new treasures, also!
    Debbie Moss


  5. Reminds me of the time I discovered a daughter dealing with her parents stuff. Every Sunday morning she would travel to their house, and haul out literally whatever was handy to drag out onto the lawn. This went on for weeks. I seemed to always get there after the 'dealers', they got most of the really good stuff. But one morning I scored two original oil paintings of the Eiffel Tower, for 50 cents each, by a well known Califorina artist. After trying to use them in my house for two years, and having to admit the just didn't work, I sold them for a tidy profit.

  6. I really enjoy reading about your finds. Beautiful linens and overheard conversations alike. But, I flipped out over that apron. It's a keeper!

  7. OMG!!! I want to come thrifting with you!!! I love getting stuff that is cheap #1 and stuff that was previously loved #2 and the thrill of the hunt is the best part for me. I agree with all you wrote about how adult kids have to weed out all the stuff their parents have. What a job that is. I took about 5 or 6 years to decide what to keep and what to get rid of after my Mom died. Now I wish I had some of the stuff I got rid of and wonder why I held on to some of the other. *sigh*

  8. I dread the thought of having to deal with my mom's estate someday for these very reasons. She has accumulated so much stuff.
    Thanks for finding my blog and commenting!


I really love your comments. Thanks for coming along on my thrifty adventures!

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