When I walked inside the 1902 home, it nearly took my breath away. The high ceilings, the woodwork, the worn wood floors, the handpainted wallpaper. The last of the gentleman's things were being auctioned that day, the third in a series because there was such an overwhelming amount. He'd been a WWII fighter pilot and a geologist. A life-long bachelor, he'd inherited this, his parents' house, full of their things, and had proceeded over the years to fill it to the rafters with art, books, and furniture of his own. He'd passed away earlier this year at 92.
In an attic closet I found his mother's hat boxes with hats still in them. In the basement, peeking out from a pile of boxes were her dance shoes. Her fur coats had been taken from the brass clothes rack in an upstairs closet and hung in a row on the screened porch for prospective bidders to see. There were tables of crockery, cut crystal, and sliver. There were draper's tables, chests of drawers, and brass instruments. A single wool coat with a fur collar hung alone in a windowed closet off the dining room. His father, who'd been the town tailor, once traded a suit for a stately pool table with leather pockets that was there in the pool room, with its floor to ceiling window at one end and fireplace at the other. Art was stacked, several frames deep along walls and down halls. In the parlor sat a Steinway grand piano.
I wondered how a life that spanned so long could feel so short. I wondered how it could be layed out like that, on display for strangers to look through, to flash a number for, to scoop up and haul off. I wondered if anyone else wanted to cry.
As I pulled away from the curb in front of the old house that afternoon, I wondered if the gentleman had been happy in his big house full of stuff. I wondered if I'm happiest in my little house with less.
I didn't have to wait long, for my answer came quickly, with a comforting assurance. Simple living, for me, is the sweet spot in life. Give me a small curation of meaningful things and I'll happily spend the greater portion of life living beyond the things I own.
This, surely, was the most valuable thing I took away from this estate sale.