Thursday, February 17, 2011

Careful Shopping...

Her Permanent Residence...

Each of us have a choice how we live our lives. Simplicity suits me and was relatively easy for us. Since 1986 my personal ’statement’ to save our planet was to shop carefully. I have found that clothing, household items, cooking utensils, decorating items, shampoo, cosmetics, or anything else can be foraged outside of a conventional store for a fraction of the cost. So I shop yard sales when they are in season, decent thrift shops, community sales and auctions... and sometimes you are rewarded.

At yard sales I meet new people, chat, and look at gardens while I browse, often coming away with the gift of a plant cutting. I enjoy the limited selection and the feeling I am shopping an outdoor bazaar. I also find it amusing to ‘study’ people conducting a sale by looking at their books, which are a profile of their personality… like the little old lady who was selling the 'Harrad Experiment' or the Bible thumpers who read nothing but Satanic novels. Often I am amazed. The man who sold his great-grandmother’s rocking chair for $40 was an enigma as was the antique (signed) Houdin statue for $50... surely a once in a lifetime event I had been waiting for a long time.

About the Houdon...
That day we got started late and didn't really think there was anything we wanted or needed but compulsive people do things by rote so off we went at a little past ten. Besides the nonstop parade of pink plastic baby toys and clothing that should have been sent to the trash bin, there was depressingly little at the first eight sales we attended. I had prayed to the garage sale gods for something special...then as we rounded a corner, we spotted a nice home with a well-dressed elderly lady conducting a sale. She was downsizing she explained and getting rid of everything she no longer needed. Michael had made a bee line for something I couldn't see that was tucked behind a chair.
He asked, "Would you take less for your statue".

"No", she replied, "I really don't care if I sell her or not. I've always been so fond of her. I got her about 40 years ago at an antique shop in New York City. I like her so much and she has lived with me a long time. I wouldn't sell her if she was not too large for our new home. I think she is worth $50.00".
"Okay, he said, "I'll take her and I promise to give her a good home".

I noted his hand was shaking as her opened his billfold and when I glanced at the statue I almost dropped my teeth…she was gorgeous! He picked her up like she was a child and almost ran to the car, as if the lady would change her mind. He looked at me and mouthed, "Come on, come on“, gesturing frantically.

I turned from the front seat to inspect her and noted she was signed and numbered; I further noted the lovely detail and her face was exquisite. I called my friend Maria who is a conservator in Dallas, and she was speechless… "You got a Houdon, a Houdon for $50!" It seems our statue is one important lady.

The Reality of Careful Shopping:
When I shop this way, I (purposefully) don’t pay taxes since taxes have already been paid on what I buy, which is a statement unto itself, and I pay about 5 cents on the dollar.

We can each make a difference in our own way… and sometimes, sometimes, after many, many years...the garage sale gods may reward you!


  1. I find there is also something about the surprise factor, the thrill of the hunt. You never really know what you will find. Sometimes it's all garbage. But other times you find something truly spectacular like your statue. Good for you.

  2. I do love the thrill of the hunt... it sure beats rapelling!