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.