The Story of (Old) Stuff

I love shopping for antiques. Not at the hushed fancy places, although that’s nice sometimes. I prefer the antique malls. Every town’s gotta have one, because where else would people sell their old stuff? I know, I know, Ebay. But there is no substitute for rambling down dusty aisles and looking at people’s lifetime collections. Plus, it’s so environmentally correct!

On the one hand, it’s a thrill to see if I can find something fabulous. Something that may be worth something, but more likely just fits in nicely with my own collection. I collect vintage tablecloths, green Depression glass, and odd Niagara Falls memorabilia, since that’s where my husband proposed to me.

On the other hand, it can feel kind of sad to see someone else’s collection sitting there up for sale. Clearly children, grandchildren, or siblings didn’t want to keep the stuff. Or maybe they just needed the money. Or even worse, maybe there are no surviving relatives. I find the stands with the framed photos of ancestors especially sad. I realize their grim faces might not look good in the living room, but still…they are family.

Which brings me to the real reason I love shopping for antiques: It’s a good reminder that you can’t take stuff with you when you go. As much as we may covet things while we are alive and enjoy our stuff, when it’s all said and done it’s family that matters most, and the lasting actions we leave behind, like ripples on a pond.

Meanwhile, I am still alive and antique-hunting in Louisville, Kentucky, at the Louisville Antique Mall! I bought a vintage tablecloth from Perth, Australia (!), and a green aluminum cake tin, which I will probably actually use.

My grandmother, Anna Rodale, was an epic shopper. Her advice was that you should always buy things you want; otherwise, you might regret it later. I think of her advice often. In fact, I am thinking of it right now. There was a lovely little watercolor from the 1940s of a naked woman. I didn’t buy it…wasn’t sure where to put it. I don’t know who she was, but I know she was somebody that someone wanted to paint, and the painter did a sweet job of it.

Maybe I’ll go back tomorrow.

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6 Responses to The Story of (Old) Stuff

  1. CW June 10, 2009 at 9:58 am #

    I find that as I entered my 40’s I felt a need to de clutter. Less dust collecting things and more time to do what I enjoy. Less money going to stuff to sit on a shelf, and more to pay off debt hopefully to have less need later. I have some collectibles but they are packed away, (no bookcases built yet in our new digs) but I am in no hurry to pull them out. I lived for years with my things in boxes, packed away. Many years when my husband was in the Marines and after three moves in two years I just left much of it in boxes, and now for three years when we were building our home. I realized that all that stuff is – well, stuff… mementoes and pictures remind me better.
    I have always felt time was the most precious resource I have. There are no do-overs, only ‘do’ s…

  2. Maya June 10, 2009 at 5:16 pm #

    I love antiquing! I often find the best quality, most fabulous stuff at the lowest price. The local antique mall is my town is one of my happy places.

  3. Mary June 11, 2009 at 7:37 am #

    My husband and I are antique mall addicts! We would go every weekend if given the chance. And like CW, I also feel the need to de-clutter; that is an energizing feeling unto itself! I guess we counter the need to simplify our lives with maybe filling it with collections that we can actually use. For us, right now we’re into dinerware; that gorgeously unbreakable, only made in the US of A, pottery that makes your morning coffee taste even better. I can’t wait til we find a small collection of plates and bowls that we like; meatloaf and chili will never taste so good! Didn’t mention that we met while I was working in a diner eons ago, hence the love affair with Syracuse, Buffalo and Shenango ware.

    But CW, please build your shelves and display your collections!!! Don’t look at it as clutter; it’s something you enjoyed collecting and therefore says so much about your personality. Embrace it and proudly show it off.

  4. Maria (farm country kitchen) June 11, 2009 at 8:10 am #

    When we moved to our new house I wanted to by new every day china and the only thing my husband would allow is Syracuse China! So we went to the factory outlet up in somewhere in New York State and bought a whole set with flowers on it. It’s very, very hard to break.

  5. Mary June 11, 2009 at 8:55 am #

    Used to live in Syracuse and my everyday “china” is Syracuse China direct from the factory! Thirty years, two kids, six moves and countless meals, only four bowls from the original 12 piece place-setting have been broke! We were actually looking to replace it a couple years ago with something new, but when we found out that Syracuse China was being sold … they will bury me with this china!

  6. Ethne June 11, 2009 at 8:50 pm #

    I’m just about to shift our tschotkes from Iowa to Pennsylvania. I’ve shifted them from England to Austin (along with a considerable amount of cultural clutter — imagine swapping Wellingtons for Lucchese boots.) We divested ourselves of clutter only to load up at the next stop.

    I’m resisting the siren call of PA’s antique malls and reminding myself that someone else’s clutter is another person’s antique…but NOT mine. The ultimate environmentally friendly statement is to stop acquiring stuff.
    And I say that having just purchased the latest iPhone.
    Drat. Foiled again.

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