Sunday, May 23, 2010

Closing Time

When I began this site in 2004 I had no idea where it would go and how it would be received. I began out of a desire to create. I wanted to write on a regular basis and I wanted to justify my weekly compulsive visits to yard sales. A few months after I began this project simply as a creative writing exercise I began adding photographs. I then started getting feedback and some press for my efforts. Soon my work in this genre helped boost my career as a visual artist. Perhaps my highpoint came early with an exhibition at an established local gallery where I staged a yard sale as a conceptual interactive installation. I remarked after the opening of this well received event, by quoting a line from the film Ed Wood in reference to Plan Nine from Outer Space “This is the one they will remember me for”.
Five years and several other exhibitions later I continue my work. But as each year passed year I wondered where this would go and when it would end. Last year after watching “Julie and Julia” I pondered the turnabout of one woman’s life by starting a blog that led to some notoriety, a book deal, a feature film and finally a change in life as she went on to start a career as an author. I had hoped something like this might happen to me. My intentions was to get a publishing contract for my work. I was told by several literary agents last summer that this was not a good time for publisher and they did not know how to pitch a book on yard sales. I also looked at the success of other sites that have arisen in the past five years giving financial success to their creators. The site featuring the horrid pictures of ugly ill-dressed people at WalMart caught my attention. It appeared if I wanted financial success it I was doing the wrong thing. But I have had success in other ways. I didn’t make any real money from my efforts. I didn’t become famous but perhaps I did become noted. But most of all this may have saved me and kept me busy, it gave me something to focus upon and something creative to do. Each Saturday morning became an adventure not knowing what wonderful things I might document in the yards of clutter. It kept me writing and it kept me taking photographs. My continued efforts established me as an artist. It opened some doors and led my life into a better direction. But all things must end. I’ve known this for some time. My writing was getting stale I was doing fewer and fewer entries. The satisfaction level of what I was creating was declining. A good artist knows when to end a series. Maybe I’ve seen it all maybe there are no more stories for I have to tell. But the other factor is that after five years I want to move on. I do not want to be remembered as the old guy who takes pictures at yard sales. I want this to be a line of my obituary not the entirety of it.
Yesterday while at an estate sale near my home I wondered about the basement of and found a box that must have had three dozen or more pliers in it. I’ve often wondered how does this happen? Accumulation sneaks up on us as we proceed through life. We must remain aware and focused on change and be ready to leave things behind. I don’t want this site with its multitude of words and images to be like that box of pliers. I want to move on.

Will it all end? Not really, I plan to continue some other web presence in some form and on some topic I have not decided upon at this time. I have considered a site about yard sales where the readers furnish the most of photographs and the text. I will be continuing to have a presence on Facebook which seems to be the last refuge of a lazy creative types. There I may not have full freedom and control but will have access to a large following. Currently I have two groups open to all users “Yard Sale Addict” where I plan to continue posting a photo every week and “Sign of the Week” where I and anyone else who desires may posts images of interesting signs. You can also befriend me on Facebook and follow what ever I’m up to. You can also gift people with images on "Yard Sale Junk" made from my photographs.
I will continue to seek to exhibit some of the thousands of photographs created for this series. This week one of them is included in a noted juried show in Decatur. Perhaps if I give an artist talk I can say that I used to publish a web site about what people were getting rid of in their lives.
Divestment can often be a blessing if done at the right time. This is the right time for me and Yard Sale Addict.

I would like to thank all the writers that have written about this site, all the galleries who have showcased my work from this series and all the friends I have made through this endeavor and especially everyone who has had a yard sale, garage sale or estate sale that I have visited and documented over the last five years. Pleas visit all the related links on this site but most of all get out and go to yard sales.

Tom Zarrilli
May 22, 2010

Thursday, April 01, 2010

3/27/10 What happened to the good yard sales?

The winter cold has spread into spring. Thru February and into this month I have waited for the full yard sale season to bloom. I have waiting for multitude of signs to begin appearing on utility poles at intersections but the cold or the rain seem to hinder this. This morning I wander out with Cindy saying that her commentary will add to my observations and that maybe I can find something new to wear. But Cindy simply makes an observation about what she's been seeing lately ”It’s just the same junk from China you see everywhere what happened to the good stuff?” Maybe the years I’ve spent observing the debris of American civilization are reaching their nadir. Maybe the weather just needs to get a little bit warmer.

Oakdale Ave – Druid Hill “Yard Sale”

It had to be in the 30’s when we exit the car to inspect the goods arrayed in the back yard and garage of this Druid Hills home. Cindy zips up her parka so her face is barely visible while I keep my hands in my pockets as I inspect the home furnishing placed around the driveway. An oversized sofa, a painting of a palm tree, some lamps, chairs. It’s all big home furnishings I want small stuff, I want clothing I want something that will at least make a good photograph. We buy nothing and move on.

Harvard Dr. – Druid Hills “ Yard Sale”

We made one more stop in Druid Hills at a small sale where a selection of goods were displayed in the front yard of a brick one story home. The seller admitted it was too cold to have a sale as she watched us peruse her merchandise. Here we found baskets, slightly out of date electronics, a collection of rubber stamps including one for approving mortgages from Fannie Mae and some rope. In a free box was the usual collection of non-matching Tupperware lids and bottoms. Cindy bought a basket to use for Easter.

Childerlee Ln. Woodland Hills “House and Yard Sale”

This was a large sale inside a 1970’s tri-level home. There were three things that stood out in this home liquidation the sadness, the smell and the disorder. This sale was an example of family life interrupted. Toys and children’s clothes were the majority of stuff here. Where were the children why didn’t the need their clothes or toys anymore? The disorder was widespread, except for a few tables in the garage nearly everything was on the floor. Most of this was clothing that had been excessively picked over. An attempt had been made at order by creating printed oval signs that described the unruly piles. “Curling irons (Test before buying we think works but sold as is)” or “Art work individually priced – We have no history of the artist (was left by previous tenant – Ink on plastic is NOT on most of the art pieces. We will be glad to take out of plastic for inspection.” My favorite was hung above a pile of plush toys “We are sooooo lonely, please adopt us” this sign set the tone for the entire sale.
We bought nothing. Cindy complained about the smell and said the sale saddened her.

Artwork with unknown history.

Sign for lonely toys.

Disorder on the floor.

Briarcliff Rd. “Moving Sale”

The reach this moving sale one had to climb some steep stairs to reach a small apartment on the second floor of building. The stairs landing and the open breezeway to the apartment were crammed with sculptures of gargoyles, hardware, a large Buddha, plastic bins, a school desk, rocks and gardening implements. The inside of the tiny apartment was stuffed with electronics, scrap booking supplies, jewelry, paper items and computer accessories. A fine looking calico cat lounged amid the clutter. I poked and perused the paper products thinking of some project I could do to justify their purchase. But the last time I purchased paper I didn’t even bring it in from the car for three weeks and some of got damaged by the rain when I opened my trunk.
I bought a package of photo printing paper for two dollars. Cindy bought nothing but stated that the man must be breaking up with someone who‘s does not like his clutter.

Clutter outside the apartment.

Cat inside the apartment.

Briar Mill Rd. “Yard Sale”

Heading towards a neighborhood sale in Sagamore Hills we stopped at the sale in the driveway on a ranch home on a cul de sac. The owners spoke in an accent I was unfamiliar with and everything assembled in the driveway and garage was over priced. When we got there a teenager was complaining about the price of some clothing they were refusing to lower their asking price. Most of the stuff here was unremarkable aside from two strange pieces of artwork shown below.

What is this man doing?

Why does this waif have a knife?

Sagamore Hills “Neighborhood Sale”

Here we found about 20 sales many on which we only slowed down the car to look at. Neighborhood sales seldom feature interesting materials and it’s the activity of the neighbors that I find noteworthy. I failed to find this here. Maybe it’s too early in the spring or maybe Cindy is right, yard sales aren’t what they used to be.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

2/22/10 Wandering through the homes of strangers…

This was the first weekend of the year that was not wet and miserable. While morning temperatures were still in the 30’s, clear skies made more sellers haul out their stuff and put it on display in their yards or on their porches. In the five sales I went to today only one dared to be outside as everything else keep their clutter was in the comfort of a heated building. In these clutter filled homes of a strangers I wandered about.

Kirkwood – La France St. “Garage Sale”

This was the only sale that was not inside unless you count the portion of the garage that some of the goods were displayed in. It was not a great sale and not even photo worthy. Here a young woman was selling her condo and some of is contents to move out of he city to the wonderland of Kennesaw. Nearly all the stuff here was the usual things you see when new in-town housing dwellers have a sale, new looking clothing, the usual kitchen items, the usual, decor items and some bed clothes. Under the display of bedclothes I noticed a down comforter spread out on the narrow expanse of grass in front of the condo. This winter has been exceptionally cold for Atlanta and my old down comforter is no longer comforting as all the feathers seem to have migrated to one end. So I bought the comforter for five dollars.

Bernadette Dr. – Woodland Hills “Moving Sale”

I did not know what to expect when I pulled down the winding driveway to this 60’s style modern home that looks like it belonged in an older suburban area. Inside I found a middle-aged couple poking around what might be a living room. Here above two large windows was a banner made of tape that read “Happy Birthday”. I then met the seller, a young woman with a small child. She told me most of the stuff for sale was upstairs and that this was her studio where she had recently had a birthday party for her son. This explained the lack of furnishings and the large painting of a tree on an easel in the middle of the room. Taking her advice I headed up a spiral staircase with a metal railing covered in plastic faux flowers. Up stairs I was on my own, I was alone encountering the home of a stranger. A few things were arranged for sale but most things were like someone was just living there from the disheveled bed to the bathroom sink counter cluttered with a collection of personal care items. The kitchen was not different as a meal had been recently prepared and the dishes and utensils were not put away. I started feeling like was not supposed to be here. I had not sinister plans like a burglar but felt more like someone who sleep walks on Ambien and wanders into their neighbor’s homes. After taking a few photos and nosing around in things a bit I headed back down the flowery staircase. I then told the seller about my work as an artist but tried not to call myself a voyuer as she had no idea what I might have gone through upstairs. She told me she had decorated the stairway when she had gotten tired of the winter weather in a move to make the home more Spring like. She told me she did painting and illustration work but was having to move to a smaller space. When I mentioned how open she was with her private space she told me someone had gone to the bathroom and took here toothbrush off the holder and tried to buy it. That made me feel like less of an intruder. I bought nothing.

Floral decor on spiral staircase.

Scene from a private residence.

Barry St. - Decatur “Moving Sale”

This home was an old frame bungalow located in the southern part of downtown Decatur. When I first arrived I thought the only stuff for sale was the clutter piled in the driveway and some old stuff in the garage. But the seller told me there was more inside. In the warmth of the home a haft dozen people were poking thought some stuff that had been put on display but most of the stuff was just a lot of personal belongings packed into boxes or piled up in the living room. It was very hard trying to tell what was not for sale. It seems that the couple having the sale were selling off as much as possible to go hike the entire length of the Pacific Coast Trail. This seemed like a good plan to me but they needed to put more organization into selling their belongings. Not that I have ever been a fan of well-organized yard sales. I think this may be one of those sales that continue for several weeks getting more organized as they go. But once again I found myself in the home of a stranger peering not only at what they were getting rid of but what they have not decided to get rid of and stuff they were currently using like a lot of stuff in the kitchen because they also appeared in the process of cooking a meal. As for the contents outside there was a lot of motorcycle accessories, in the garage was more cycle stuff and a several old televisions. Inside were there was the most confusion. In the dinning room a table was covered with kitchen wares, pet supplies, bits of electronics, an unopened bottle of cheap white wine, plastic cups and various hardware items. The living room was crowded with boxes of electronic devices, old magazines, old books and other stuff some of which appeared to never have been used. All this was mixed in with a variety of stuff that looked like it was supposed to be in the living room. In the back of the house they had more plastic cups, a big box of jellybeans and a leather sofa and chair for sale, which they were asking a very high price by my yard sale standards. I did see a map of the Pacific coast trail I don’t know if they planned to sell it.
I bought nothing.

Avery St. Decatur “Estate Sale”

This sale was in an older not so well kept looking house near Agnes Scott College. I had visited the site on Friday after work and poke through some of the stuff sitting out in the driveway but never saw a sign to go into the home and never saw anyone in charge of the sale. Today the stuff was still in the driveway but people were coming out of the home so I enter another strangers home. The inside of the small house was moderately chaotic. I presumed the man who was selling this stuff still lived here but there was not room to do anything. The living room was packed with the most stuff, trays of golf ball, lots of books, tackle boxes containing a mixture of fishing stuff and art supplies, an old waffle maker, some scattered clothes, tools, sports paraphernalia and a bunch of bottles that looked like wine but weren’t. In addition to selling off a lot of stuff the seller was also trying to recruit people into a multi level marketing scheme to sell some sort of concentrated acai berry concoction that was in the wine bottles. While I was there he offered every shopper a taste of the thick dark fruity beverage. After they drank it he would then repeatedly ask is the drinker felt better. “You should feel better already,” he kept saying. I drank some but after I swallowed the syrupy drink I wished I was back at that sale a few weeks ago that was offering coffee and Kahlua to visitors. None who sample the drink offered to get involved in his MLM marketing business.
In the back of the home in what could have been a bedroom except that here was no bed were more piles of clutter. Here was a large selection of baseball bats, more golf balls, boxes of old bottles(not containing his concoction) and a stack of aging televisions.
I bought nothing but told the man that I did feel better.
Multitude of golf balls for sale.

Laredo Dr. – Scottdale “Moving Sale”

My final stop of the morning was inside but it was not a home but the studios of a graphics business that was moving. I had actually come here to check out their paper supply to use for some art project that I need to conceive and get started on. They did have stacks and stacks of paper. I bought a good supply of 11 x17 some foam core and some other paper. I know this all sounds boring but I do need things from time to time and fancy papers are not cheap in the art supply stores. I bought a large stack for five bucks. I’d include a photo but the paper just looks like blank paper only fancier.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Saturday 2/13/10 Snow!

No yard sales around here today as snow has covered this city in a thick blanket of white. Maybe next week....

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Two Homes 2/5/10

This Friday I was supposed to be in Charlottesville, Virginia to attend the opening of The Center of the Study of the End of Things a cultural symposium where am exhibiting my new work, which consists of plants sprouting from books. Unfortunately a massive blizzard prevented me from even attempting to head north but the books are sprouting and the show did go on with my work regardless the artic weather. So Instead of trudging through waist high snow I took in two estate sales in far balmier Atlanta.

Madison St. - Oakhurst “Massive Estate Sale”

I don’t think of Oakhurst as a place where estate sales feature the accumulations of octogenarians who spent far too many years acquiring ball jars. So when I arrived at this two story newer home my expectations for exploring the residence of an aging hoarder were low. I knew from the start this could well be one of those so-called estate sales. My suspicions were confirmed as soon as I walked past the sales desk and viewed the tidily arranged materials set out on the first floor like some display at a well-appointed home wares boutique. I was not the only one with such higher expectations as no less that three other shoppers remarked as I wandered about, “Did anyone actually live here”. For those who read my comments on a regular basis know that “living here” is one of the foundations for my continual weekend explorations of clutter. The lack of evidence of someone having lived here was the pristine books individually and expertly priced based on current market value arranged on meal bookcases, the well arranged stacks of unopened kitchen appliances, bedclothes in their original packages and dozens of virgin candles seemingly arrayed not by a homeowner but a professional seller. Only when I went to the one room upstairs did I find evidence of life. Here in a bedroom was a closet packed with men’s clothing some of which appeared worn and most of which was he same size. On the nightstand was a guide for Metrosexuals and a map of New York City. So perhaps a man lived here (if you could call this living), a man who accumulated stuff but never touched it. On my way down to the basement I heard one of the estate sellers tell a customer “he worked for many years at William Sonoma”. Perhaps this was the home of a man who wanted his home to be Williams Sonoma. Perhaps he wanted to be William Sonoma. He wanted style, simplicity clean lines and lots of candles.
Basements do not lie. When I went down I determined this was someone’s home but even in the clutter of the basement there was still so much order. One section of the lower level was overflowing with all manner of Halloween décor. Boxes of plastic bones, a giant rat, a variety of skulls, masks, strobe lights for pumpkins, masks, lights, lights that looked like masks, all manner of faux pumpkins, more skulls and an original painting of three dogs dressed as witches stirring a caldron. But sadly it was difficult to tell if the décor had ever been used. Perhaps the owner had had dreams of putting this stuff in his yard in a grand gesture but never got around to it. On the other hand he may have used the stuff then painstakingly cleaned it all meticulously when he took it all down in November.
One thing that he did seem to have a true love for and did display was a collection of humanoid dog figures and artwork. I first notice this in the stairway where four framed portraits of dogs dressed as 18th century gentlemen were boldly displayed. Other artifacts included a wiener dog dressed as a cook serving wieners, a footstool of some sort shaped like a fat dog, a pair of large metal hounds and a welcome sign with a lifelike plaster dogs head on it.
Other unusual items about the home-included two five foot high metallic candle like things with a giant wick and two large bowls of faux bakery products. The sellers told me these were sold. I bought nothing.

Giant rat greeting visitors in the basement.

Giant candles puzzling visitors in the living room.

Childerlee Way – “Estate Sale”

There was no question regarding the authenticity of this event. The brick ranch home just off Briarcliff Road was truly the home of someone who had accumulated clutter for many decades. At the entrance I encountered a man with a box overflowing with wind chimes in his arms. At the sight of redundant whimsical items I knew this sale would be a delight. Inside I immediately headed to the basement and was not disappointed at what I found. Below the house were two rooms crammed with the disorderly accumulation of a life well spent. Books, travel literature, magazines, letters, holiday décor, clown figurines, old plumbing fixtures, sewing patterns, staplers, pool cues and souvenir dinner bells were heaped together in no discernable order throughout this subterranean domain. The confusion had been amplified by the hands and fingers of the dozens of shoppers who had already perused this delightful jumble. Some of the highlights I discovered here included a package of letters sent to the estate owner over 40 years ago by her fiancé in the service, some rolls of oversized faux 100 dollar bills, a tourist brochure about visiting a place called Hell, a magazine called Salesman’s Digest, a Putt Putt World magazine, a book entitled “The Greatest Thing in the World” and a copy of “Gods Psychiatry”.

A sign on the back door of the basement indicated that outside there was a trailer and a dirt basement. Sadly the trailer was just an old boat trailer covered with old plastic sheeting. But the dirt basement held further delights. I entered it under the deck where some old claw foot bathtubs and a section of seating from the Olympic stadium sat gathering filth in the mud and rain. Inside I found a continuation of the hoarded debris. While not as expansive as the finished basement the dug out dirt floor cellar held an even more confused jumble of clutter. Here was a overcrowded tool bench packed with hand tools, power tools, unmarked containers of solvents and paints and topped with a toy rifle. In another area was a large plastic decoy owl resting upon a pile of old golf balls. Old books were scattered about “Kids Say the Darnest thing”, “Learn to Speak” “Central American roundabout” and “Cozy Little Farm” among the titles. There was almost too much to take in, a decaying child’s hobby horse, an old set of golf clubs, bicycle parts, license plates, a shelving unit crammed with sports trophies and a large bale of cotton.

The rooms upstairs seemed well kept by comparison regardless of the clutter packed into every corner. Here I found closets packed with women’s clothing, an endless array of small ceramics and a large old framed photograph of a bride in her wedding dress. The kitchen had the usual old kitchenwares plus some fun cookbooks such as “Cooking with Nuts”. Just outside the kitchen was a life- size realistic ceramic dog who sat motionless while a large tabby wandered about the room rubbing against shoppers. One crammed area I took to be another room turned out to be a carport packed with furniture and more clutter. It was so packed that only the cold air let me know I wan no longer inside the house.
This sale restored my fair in great estate sales. I later regretted not buying the bale of cotton, something I could tell people you find at lots of southern estate sales.

Bathtubs at the entrance to dirt basement.

Book found in basement.

Owl and golf balls.

The bale of cotton I wish I had purchased.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hot chocolate or Kahlua 1/16/10

I did not expect anyone except crazed people in the exurban sprawl to be hosting yard sales today but I did find two events within the limits of tolerable driving distance. The weather was still cold with temperatures in the low forties. To bring out buyers one this day one sale offered hot chocolate the other coffee and Kahlua.

Rosalia Ave. – Grant Park “Yard Sale”

I Should have gone to the other sale first since they did not have the coffee ready when I arrived and did not want to appear as a wondering yard sale derelict by demanding a shot of straight Kailua. This was a small sale in the yard and porch of a frame bungalow just off Boulevard in Grant Park. There was not a lot of stuff here and I was not sure if they even wanted to put everything outside when I arrived. On the porch were some books, a few articles of women’s clothing, some small glass vases and an unopened box containing a bicycle tire. In the yard was an ironing board with a few more items of clothing displayed upon it and some shoes beneath it. I did not wait around for the coffee to brew and bought nothing.

Gayle St. Medlock “Yard Sale”

This sale in the carport of an older ranch home was a much larger event. Here in the driveway and in the shelter or the carport was arranged a collection of clothing and household items. Assembled on a bookcase was a woman’s collection of pig figures. Most were plush but there were some small porcine porcelains as well. In addition to pigs it appeared the sellers loved shoes as well seeming hundreds of pairs of footwear were lined up along the edge of the carport. I’m not sure how long it takes to accumulate this many shoes but it was apparent that the sellers had not gotten rid of many shoes in quite some time. On one of the many tables inside the carport was an assortment of board games and puzzles among them were Sex and the City, Scattergories, Battle of the Sexes, a children’s mystery game and a jigsaw puzzle of an angelfish. The seller also had a large collection of recorders. I asked her if she had a recorder band. She told me that at one time she was taking lessons and kept losing them. It appeared she finally found them and was now divesting them. Other stuff here included a CD set on Securities Regulation, some old Easter Décor, a VHS tape on Bun and Thigh sculpting and a set of metal attachments for shoes that made it easier to walk on ice.
I bought an old dictionary to use for an upcoming installation in Virginia where I will have plants sprouting from books. I paid a dollar for it. I did have a cup of their hot chocolate. Sad to say it was barely warm and nearly tasteless. I wish I had stayed around for the Kailua.

A large and colorful selection of shoes in Medlock.

Collected porcine items.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Year ends a new one begins....

I’ve taken a bit of a vacation from this site for good reason. First I deserve a vacation. I’ll been writing this for five years so I should get some time off. But more importantly over the last few weeks we have had holidays and dreadful weather.

The real last sale of the year.

While driving thru Kirkwood in mid December I came upon this sale off of Howard Ave. A huge sign painted on a sheet hung from a pole directed buyers to go all the way to a lot behind some sort of old brick building. Temperatures were in the 30’s and I figured that this truly would be the last sale of the year so Cindy and I proceeded down the dirt driveway and parked near a large peace sign create from Christmas lights that was strung across some bushes.
Around some hedges we found an assortment of old stuff put out for sale. The centerpiece of this event was the seller’s collection of vacuum cleaners. I have no idea why he had so many but he appeared proud of them. He also had a massive six-foot high steel cornered road case that could double for a coffin if someone wanted to be buried vertically. Other stuff included some old furniture, a lamp in the shape of Spiderman’s head, a selection of high-heeled women’s boots, a very obsolete video projector, an aquarium and some exercise equipment. Cindy attempted to by a small table but the seller decided he did not want to sell it so we bought nothing.

Dreadful winter weather began as in mid December so we headed off to Florida. Escaping the cold we spent our time walking the beach and enjoying the climate. We encountered an alligator and it’s hatchlings in Jonathan Dickenson State Park we also saw a bald eagle. I was hoping to see the eagle eat one of the gator babies. But the nature scenes here did not reach the Discovery channel levels. I by chance did encounter a yard sale on a Wednesday afternoon just two days before Christmas. The sale was not noteworthy in the least but it was remarkable to be able to walk to a sale on a weekday afternoon right before a major holiday. I bought nothing but did thank the sellers for having a sale.

The sale before Christmas.

Back in Atlanta the intense cold weather continued and culminated with a brief snowstorm this week. Craigslist did show some crazed folk in the far suburbs, even the more ice covered ones having sales but in my part of town no posters went up and no junk went into the snow covered lawns. But there probably were determined early birds cruising around looking for something being sold.
The closest thing I encountered was these two ancient TV put out on the street and topped with snow in front of a shuttered house on my street.

With this post Yard Sale Addict can now be said to span decades.
Happy New Year to all my readers and lovers of yard sales everywhere.