The Value of a Couch

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, or in our case, another man’s dining room set. Despite the time and effort it takes, one of the best decisions we made as home owners was furnishing our home through estate sales. Basically, this means Daniel and I have spent countless Saturdays driving from house to house to sort through someone else’s expensive junk until we found one priceless item for $20. Okay, maybe the item wasn’t always $20 or priceless, but I have certainly spent a lot of time in stranger’s homes, sifting through their junk.

The morbid side of estate sales is that most the time you are buying something that belongs to someone who is either dead or close. Typically, someone born years before myself owns a lot of stuff that no one wants or desires to deal with. When this happens, companies are paid by the owner of that someone’s stuff to sort, tag, and sale the estate. Hence, estate sales. Obviously, there are exceptions to this, but for us, most of what we purchase comes from generations before our own.

After being inside many different homes, I noticed that each unique house held certain commonalities with each other. Whatever the styles of the houses were—Art Deco, Country French, Contemporary, Asian, Coastal—each house had common traits. Even though I probably shouldn’t be, I was surprised that humans everywhere (everywhere in Northern Virginia at least) whether rich, middle class, Indian, Asian, Caucasian, city dwellers, or from the country—they all possess the same things.

Here’s my list:

Religious objects. Every house I’ve been in so far has either a cross, altar, or at the very least, a book on Islam, Christian Science, Mormonism, or Catholic teachings. Some had multiple faiths represented, but everyone had at least one. People care about religion.

Art. Seemed like people have more art in their homes than I have food in my pantry, and I have a lot of food. And they want to put it everywhere. On the silverware, toilet seat, bed sheets, napkins, over the fire place—art to home owners is like sunshine to me after a long span of dreary winter days. I can’t get enough.

Books. Even if they just have a few, everyone owns books. Not just a book, but at the very least ten.

And music. Lots of music.

And furniture and plants and dishes and rugs and all the other common things you’d expect to find in a home. All our houses have commonalties because we all want the same thing; to live in a comfortable home that suits our idea of beautiful.

But you know what is the most common thing you will find in a house? Worn out stuff. Couches that have been sat on. Tables that have held dinner for many, many nights.  Books that were read, dishes that were used, burnt candles, stained linen, used stuff. If you try to say, “Um, excuse me, this has a scratch on it.” They will say, “Duh, this is an estate sale.” (Although, doesn’t hurt to say that because they also might knock a chunk off the price.)

The other day, though, we went to an estate sale where the bragging rights of the owner was that all their stuff was barely used. And they were right. The couch was immaculate. This of course thrilled us, and we happily bought it. But on the way, I started to wonder was it worth it? Here was a woman at the end of her life, selling a couch to a couple at the start of theirs. She didn’t have any children, grandchildren, and I suppose hardly any nieces or nephews, apparently, none that came visiting. And I guess her friends visited enough to mean she could own a couch at the end of her life that, though bought many years ago, was practically brand new. I wonder if we paid her enough for that? Was a like-new couch worth the money we paid?

Only she knows. But I got to thinking as I admired the couch in its new home. I hope that it doesn’t stay that way while we own it. I hope my niece accidentally drools on it while she takes her nap. I hope crumbs get lodged behind the seat because of the movie nights Daniel and I share on it. I hope I’ll need to flip the cushion eventually because a friend accidentally spilled their drink and left a stain. I hope this couch gets used by the people in this home and the people that come into this home. Because, for me, the value of a couch is rather worthless when compared to the value of knowing people were here, in my home, using my couch.

Also, the turtle photo has no connection to the post. I thought someone might enjoy a photo of a turtle sunning himself. I took that shot in Maui, and that turtle in particular was a favorite of mine simply because he seemed to delight in posing for the camera.