Eugene’s Diversity Shines at Yard Sales

In Eugene, we love diversity more than we experience it. So when we encounter any spectrum of human identity or endeavor that’s wider than the norm, it’s worth noting. As we glide toward our spectacularly non-diverse summer weather, a curbside activity emerges that shows Eugene at its diversest.

A broad spectrum of yard sales fill our weekends with hunting plans and our telephone poles with arrowed signs.

Not every community in America still has yard sales. Some municipalities have banned them outright. Other towns cluster their residences onto busy roads with no space for a sale or sprawling homes served by long gravel driveways. Traffic in those places is too much or too little, but most of Eugene is just right.

Our neighborhoods tend to roll into one another, making it fun and surprising to wend from one sale to another, then another — often without having to return to any major thoroughfare to replenish with more directional signs.

People come here with big ideals and sometimes almost nothing else. They show up with little more than the shirts on their back, needing one of everything. Others are living on the edge. A yard sale will help them make this month’s rent, or pay back that anxious uncle who’s called three times this week.

Households face their overflow after an aggressive spring cleaning. Every Saturday people are reclaiming a garage, combining or dividing households, just shaking up their stuff status quo. “I’m tired of it. You take it.” The mundane mercantile forms the bulwark of every yard sale population.

Abundance does not guarantee diversity. Here’s where we offer more than most. People host or visit yard sales for a variety of reasons. Those motivations are the root of our diversity. Eugene’s yard sales reach into the far corners of human concerns. We tell stories with our stuff that don’t get told in most other places.

Many of these personal stories revolve around another word we love to use: “bliss.”

People follow their bliss to Eugene. Anything that reminds them of that bliss may strike their fancy. We have plenty of artists and even more would-be artists. They want things they can make into other things. You’re selling hubcaps, but they’re buying beady eyes in an ominous mural that hasn’t been painted yet.

Bliss sometimes pulls people away from Eugene too. The Bliss Train has two tracks and some people buy express tickets. They see themselves as John Bunyan’s pilgrim, about to make progress — just as soon as they lighten their load.

“Everything Must Go” sometimes means exactly that. Most of these sales don’t bother with price tags, because everything is negotiable. The heavier it is, the lighter the price. Pocket change matters less when the point is to empty your pockets.

Whether it’s college graduation, acceptance into the Peace Corps, pursuing a faraway love, or buying a live-aboard, Eugene embraces new beginnings. Your neighbors here may not tell you to hedge your bet, or to curb your enthusiasm. You’re more likely to hear that you can do it — “you’ve got this!” — and how much for these three house plants and this half-empty bottle of turmeric?

Some of us “Must Go” — but others among us “Already Went.”

Eugene lures plenty of active retirees, busily determined not to think of what comes after retirement. They collect their favorite things, pursuing their hobbies with full-time abandon. Until one day when it all disappears — the pursuit, but not the stuff.

Away it goes, or will go, some Saturday soon.

It may be a professionally managed Estate Sale, with everything meticulously tagged. Some of these sales feel like Hiron’s, only with more carefully managed inventory.

Other end-of-life sales feel deeply personal. Each room is preserved to portray the next-of-kin’s grief, as if a Dickens widow lived three doors down. Their ashes will be spread in the river they loved best, but those rods and reels will be cast into neighborhood garages.

This way the love can continue, under another name. The bliss sometimes stays right here, overstuffing a new host, until their time comes.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) blogs at www.dksez.com.