Selling your life for a quarter at a time


A year and a half ago, I stumbled across the essay Selling Your Life for a Quarter at a Time by Tim Barcz and found it quietly poignant. (Unfortunately, the spammers also found the essay and decided to fill it with garbage links. So much for poignant.)

I tried to come up with a catchy tagline for this entry, but nothing worked. Coming up with something snappy would just be a disservice.

Comments (14)
  1. szalap@hotmail.com says:

    Someone’s life isn’t his things.  Assuming the people holding the tag sale owned the things and had no legal or moral responsibility to care for them on Carl’s behalf should he return, I’d be happy to buy up some of his things for a quarter or a dollar.  I certainly don’t want my accumulated things to be uselessly kept around after I’m gone.

  2. szalap@hotmail.com says:

    "There were plenty of other people there, eating up the good deals, not slowing enough realize their good deals were someone’s life being liquidated."

    Someone’s life isn’t his things.  Assuming the people holding the tag sale owned the things and had no legal or moral responsibility to care for them on Carl’s behalf should he return, I’d be happy to buy up some of his things for a quarter or a dollar.  I certainly don’t want my accumulated things to be uselessly kept around after I’m gone.

    Or am I missing the point somewhere?

  3. tsrblke says:

    I thinks its not so much that they were getting rid of some of the things the man didn’t need anymore, it was the way in which it was carried out. When someone passses on, typically you should spend time going through their things, looking for things of sentimental value not just run through the house with some tape and a sharpie pricing it.

  4. Dmitry Kolosov says:

    …the spammers also found the essay and decided to fill it with garbage links

    Other comments on that page are only marginally better than spam: "Cool", "Nice", etc.

  5. James Schend says:

    Those "Cool" "Nice" links are also spam. Look at the link on the username, their "homepage" link.

    Anyway, I’m also kind of missing the emotional point of the article. The important thing about a person isn’t his suit or hat, but the relationships he had with other people. The house is just "stuff."

    Sorry to be a grump, if I’m being a grump.

  6. Shana says:

    I rarely comment. In fact, this may be my first.  Thanks for sharing this, Raymond.

  7. Steven Stewart says:

    I think that the piece came out as somewhat judgemental of the people getting the bargains, and in that respect, I do disagree.  The people taking advantage of the situation had no moral obligation to treasure carl’s things…

    That said, I understand the sentimentality of the piece tremendously.  I remember when my grandfather died, my grandma directing me to go get some of his old tools out of the shed.  She also sent my brother and this horrible man my aunt had married to see what we could find.   My brother and I had a hard time picking anything we wanted.  Felt like stealing, almost.  My aunt’s husband, in my opinion, callously grabbed up anything of financial worth, and left the rest like trash.

    I grabbed an old simple, well used hammer.  It looked like "Grandpa B’s Hammer" to me.  Out-dated by more modern tools, with a wood handle instead of fiberglass-carbon-fiber-polymer-noshock handles.  But still as sturdy as the day it was sold.   All his tools were like that, and I wanted his hammer because it reminded me of him.

    My point is it’s sad when you see life interrupted.  He shined those shoes planning to wear them.  He carefully hung his suit, planning for a day when he needed to look nice.  He laid out his things in anticipation of using them.  And it was all halted by the fragility of life.  It’s a sad thing to me, the way life (or death) halts us dead in our tracks, whether we had done what we planned, or not.

    That people buy up the trinkets is not morally wrong…But to a person with the emotional connection, it can look like vultures on a corpse.

    I expect when I’m gone, my stuff will be picked over.  I do not begrudge those doing the picking.  But I’m glad I won’t be there to see it.

  8. af says:

    I have to agree with Steven.

    And I have still another stance. I come from a family who’s "family business" entails doing exactly that …. estate liquidation. It is done with the most care and respect. Family members are given large amounts of time and encouraged to take as many sentimental items as possible. The utmost care and respect is given.

    Once a person realizes that their lives and their minor possesions are not the same thing, then they become free to realize that LIFE, LOVE, and EXPERIENCE are the only things you need. The "things" are simply tools for getting there and you should only keep the ones you really need.

  9. Cereal says:

    "The things you own end up owning you."

  10. Great post Raymond.  One cannot help but wonder what exactly this "relapse" was and whether or not it could have been overcome at some point.  I’d also be willing to bet there were antiques in that house worth way more than a quarter, both monetarily and sentimentally.

  11. Bill says:

    Sad, indeed.  Beautifully written though, something captivating about it.  I echo the sentiments of the poster above, thanks for sharing this Raymond.

  12. John says:

    While the manner in which it was carried out is somewhat distasteful, in the end it doesn’t really matter.  I remember the instant I was introduced to my own mortality, and it still stays with me today.  I was in a psychology class in first year of college; I was young and dumb and hadn’t really given this any thought previously.  I don’t remember exactly what the subject of the day was, but it was something to do with how our behavior changes as we get older.  Anyway, the discussion eventually moved on to memories of loved ones.  Essentially, it boils down to this:  How well do you know your father?  How well do you know your grandfather?  Ok, what about your great-grandfather?  And your great-great-grandfather?  Someday, you’re going to be somebody’s great-great-grandfather; basically nothing more than a name on a tombstone.  Hell, I don’t even know my own great-grandfather’s name.  There’s something depressingly sad about that, but life goes on.

  13. brian says:

    if I knew the old man I would initiate a bidding war for his stuff.  Imeadiatly offering the seller x2 the tag price for every thing in the house.  Any bargen hunter would need to outbid.  Bringing the price up.

    To all those people that say stuff is worthless. When all your friends are dead, the world is strange, and you mind is going.  Having your favorite things gives comfort.  

  14. George Jansen says:

    During the last several years I have seen both sides of this, hauled volumes of well-made  clothes to Goodwill or shipped them to Katrina-related charities from a couple of different houses, and also browsed through a house in the neighborhood being cleared out.

    A moderately prosperous American can accumulate remarkable volumes of possessions in the course of 40 or 50 years, a good deal more than an assisted living facility will house or store, and also generally more than the heirs if any can find use for. A quarter or a dollar, anything you buy from Carl his family or guardians don’t have to deal with later.

    But yes, poignant.

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