Letting Go of the Chicken Lamp

Letting Go of the Chicken Lamp by Sharon Burns The weather forecast didn’t look good. A major hurricane was predicted for the eastern end of Long Island, and my driveway was in the direct path of the storm. Sustained winds of over 55 miles per hour and heavy rains could certainly put a damper on my end-of-the-season yard sale. Moderately worried, I continued to prepare for what I hoped would be a great sale. It turned out the gods were with me, and I awakened at dawn to a brilliant sunrise. Yard sales are always eventful and lots of fun. In truth, it’s much better attending one than hosting one. This was my first yard sale in a number of years and it was long overdue. We’re selling our house, and it was time to purge. Getting ready for such a sale takes a great deal of psychic, physical, and emotional energy. First, you have to be ready to part with a minimum of 300 to 500 objects. Each object holds a deep significance, otherwise you would not possess it. Before you let it go you need to analyze, prioritize, and calculate each object’s worth. You need to clean out closets, drawers, bedrooms, playrooms, mudrooms, garages, sheds, buy stickers, permanent markers, make signs, and get up really, really early. You need to have lots of dollar bills for change and ask your family for help, lots of it. Next, you have to stage the objects, artfully placing the most desirable pieces at the entrance of your driveway. All in all, it’s a lot of effort but well worth it. Prior to the sale, you are faced with big decisions. You have to be strong enough and brave enough to make them. One of the hardest decisions for me was, “Should I or shouldn’t I let go of the stained-glass chicken lamp?” The lamp was a gift from my godmother because one day I mentioned to her that I liked chickens. Now really, who doesn’t like chickens? They lay eggs, ruffle their feathers, strut, cluck — what’s not to love? I realize I do have a thing for chickens, but I don’t quite know how it happened. I seem to have an inordinate number of them (ceramic, porcelain, tin, fabric) all around my kitchen. I knew it was time to let go of the lamp, but it took a lot of doing. It’s not easy. Each object sold at a yard sale has a story and is filled with history. What will I pass down to my five children? This type of question needs to be considered when letting go. At any rate, the transaction went smoothly, to a lovely woman who enjoys chickens as much as I do. My heart skipped a beat and I almost bought back the lamp for double the money, but in the end I was happy to let it go to someone who would cherish it as much as I did. Why do we cherish objects so much? The bigger question being, why do people go to yard sales to buy “gently used” or “super used” treasures? I must admit I was a yard sale junkie. Every weekend I would set out bright and early with my good friend, Debbie. We would comb the newspaper, analyzing which yard sales appeared to be the best. Next, we would map out our course, eagerly looking forward to the thrill of the hunt. Many happy hours were spent gazing at long folding tables filled to capacity with countless tchotchkes. Why did I have to have the purple set of English bone china, the lemon-yellow German chicken plates, the pale-blue embossed dessert plates, and the red-and-white enameled coffeepot with a picture of a cow painted on it? Why? Because I liked it. I liked, no, loved every tchotchke I ever bought. I really didn’t need these things, but they all gave me a simple pleasure. I am a great repurposer. For the most part, many of these objects have had a happy home and served a purpose. Sadly, now it’s time to let go. My husband and I want to downsize. Our children are moving into their own places and, honestly, don’t want any of my tchotchkes. I’m only a little offended — I feel that I have an excellent eye and very good taste! No one ever truly understood my love for the eclectic, quirky assortment that would spill out of the trunk of my car every Saturday morning. But guess what? I’m cured. I’m ready to let go and I’m on the road to downsizing. Smaller house, smaller rooms, smaller property, smaller mortgage, and smaller bills! I want to purge and release myself from the overabundance of objects in my life, and I want to let all my former yard sale junkie friends know that it is a good feeling. I actually feel lighter, less burdened, and cleaner — yes, cleaner. Once you have had a sale or two you will know the secret. Just let it go, release, breathe deeply, and count your money. Even though the chicken lamp is gone, never to return to my cozy country kitchen, I can now rest easy knowing that its soft, multicolored glow will forever warm another yard sale junkie’s heart — and her kitchen too! Sharon Burns is the author of “Tough Tommy,” a bereavement book for children.