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Why You Should Never Be Rude at an Estate Sale

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I’ve had several house sales throughout my 60 years. Many have been after the death of a beloved family member. It’s hard to sort through the belongings of your loved one, to decide what to keep, what to donate, give away or sell. You cry, you remember, you grieve. As you hold each item, you feel the memories wash over you. Your mother’s favorite tea cup that she sipped her tea from as she gave you advice, your father’s golf clubs that he cleaned every Sunday after Saturday morning golf with the guys, your grandma’s needlepoint box full with all the brightly colored threads and your granddad’s lead pencil set. His handkerchiefs still new in the box, that he was saving for when the ones with the monogram grandma put on became too worn. They came from the depression era, you know, waste not, want not. You sadly place a $2 sticker.

It’s hard — especially during a pandemic when millions upon millions of people have died — to not become dull to the grief of others. But you must not. You must take that moment to offer a word of respect, a word of sympathy, a word of compassion, to say, simply:

I’m sorry,

I’m sorry.

Such a simple expression, but oh so needed!

I’m sorry.

It gives solace, it’s gives acknowledgement, it gives condolence.

I’m sorry.

It costs you nothing. Why not give it away?

When you go to a sale at a home, you know full well that these are or were the belongings of another person, several people, some dead, some still alive, and someone who loved them had to sort through the lives that their loved ones have lived. You are simply an invited guest for a few moments of their lives. How do you want to be remembered during that time frame of their grief and their letting go? Do you give them more grief, this time about their prices — the prices they anguished over as they were saying goodbye and letting go to the things that meant so much to their momma and dad — or do you want to be grateful for the opportunity to have a beautiful antique or useful thing that you buy in today’s stores? They are asking $20 for grandma’s quilt. She and her mother spent over 200 hours sewing it by hand, cutting all the strips from the family clothes. You say to the grandchild who has an estate to settle, “This is so old, will you take $10?” You see the grandchild behind her mask feel dejected as she takes the $10 for a lifetime of memories. You walk away smiling because you are going to list it in your online shop for $250. How much more could you have helped with the healing heart of the seller  by happily paying the small asking price, honoring that life?

Have you ever been that someone at a house sale who was rude and indigent at the appropriate prices for things? You want it for $1 even though you know it is worth the asking price of $15, or even $40 for that matter. Heaven forbid the owner should make the profit on their own items that they bought, searched for, had handed down, or made! Yet you are insulted that you can’t buy something cheap and still make 1000% profit on because someone had the misfortune to die.

Their death is not your gain. No one gains anything from the death of a life. No one is graced or bettered when someone does. It’s not an opportunity to benefit or increase your riches. It’s a time to grieve and be respectful of the life that ended, the divorce that happened, the job that was lost or the illness that racked up bills.

In short, when you enter a home, where someone lived a life, raised children, suckled children or worked three jobs so their family could have a better life, you owe them as an invited guest, respect.

You don’t owe them insults over their  prices, grabbing up things as if it’s a free for all, or breaking them down on their prices. You are a guest in that home. For the few moments that you entered the home, please be mindful that you are entering the sacred sanctuary of someone’s peace; their home. It’s not a place where you can be the least you can be, it’s a place to be the best of yourself. You have an opportunity to show grace and respect for the misfortune and sadness of others. You have an opportunity to embrace humanity. Don’t blow it.

Photo credit: TrongNguyen/Getty Images

Originally published: August 9, 2021
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