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Monday, Sep 01, 2014
Steve Otto Columns

Otto: Somehow the house of stuff is still stuffed

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I felt the nudge from the other side of the bed.

“We have to get up,” came the voice.

It was dark. I didn’t have to open my eyes to know dawn was still a dream or two away. (I have short dreams, usually with me falling helplessly into a dark pit.)

But it was Saturday morning and time for the planned moving sale, sort of a glorified yard sale except with more stuff.

We’re not going anywhere, but my Mom has moved in with us and we had to clear out her house a couple of miles away. It’s a modest house and I figured one good Saturday sale and we could clear everything else out in a couple of days.

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I guess you really don’t know how much “stuff’’ you really have until you decide to get rid of it. Mom was part of a military family and we moved from places like Japan, Germany and exotic Rapid City, S.D.

In the military you learn to travel light, although my parents loved to haunt German barns and the small shops of Europe and Asia, not to mention the flea markets of the Midwest, gathering in rare treasures (stuff) that ultimately disappeared into closets and storage trunks.

Now most of it had to go, though we managed to bring over some “stuff’’ to our house, where it is now piled on top of our own personal stuff that has been collecting dust for years.

The sale was to start at 8 a.m., but we figured we needed to get there early to put on price tags and spread a lot of it on the driveway and yard. We’ve done yard sales at our house and learned that unless you want to haul it back inside later that day, you sell your “stuff’’ cheaply.

It was dark when we got to Mom’s house but I noticed a couple of cars slowly moving down the street. I unlocked her door, turned on the lights and started to haul a box of books out front. Two shadowy figures, each with a flashlight, were moving around the nearly empty carport, staring at the garden hose attached to the wall.

“You know,” I said, hoping this wasn’t a home invasion, “this thing doesn’t start until 8. Why don’t you go get some breakfast?’’

One of them shined his light in my face, “You got any tools?’’ he asked.

I was about to tell him what he could do with our tools when I noticed another couple coming in across the yard and walking right into the house.

To be honest, I wasn’t all that surprised. There is a cult of early birds who must get up at 3 in the morning and drive through the streets looking for yard sales. I talked to one of them later who said she didn’t really need anything and that it was more the hunt than anything else.

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Actually, things went pretty good until around 9 a.m. when a mini-typhoon blew in, scattering early-birders to their cars while we tried to drag everything inside the house. The rain didn’t stop until noon, which meant that two weeks later I was lying in bed before dawn when the nudge in my back meant it was time to go face the early-birders one more time.

What’s more astonishing is that by the end of the sale that afternoon, after selling enough stuff to stock a Goodwill store, the “stuff” had mysteriously regenerated and the house was full as ever. My guess is some of those early-birders secretly unloaded stuff they had purchased elsewhere from their cars when we weren’t looking and escaped.

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