Always willing to look for ‘treasures’ #713

#713 in a series of true experiences in real estate

No matter what, I cannot resist certain things, among them full-to-the-rafters basements and attics and garage sales. I’ve just got to know what is there, what people have saved and might go on keeping forever, or now have decided to let go, but at a price. I can be tired or in a hurry, but I will always take the opportunity to look at jumbles in houses or yards.

I’m not as willing and eager to bring home things from these wonderful places as I used to be. I’ve got plenty of things stored already. But sometimes I find a treasure. Just a few weeks ago, Anet and I found a table lamp with a metal base and a dirty shade on a curb in El Cerrito. It seemed to be free to anyone who wanted it. We put it in the back seat of the car and brought it home and plugged it in.

The lamp has 2 bulbs; one worked. We got invested in making the whole thing work although we didn’t have a spot to use it. We went to the hardware store and bought new cord and new sockets. Anet tried rewiring it while I looked up lamp rewiring on the internet. She plugged it in but it blew a circuit, scared her to pieces. We ended up asking a friend to show us how to rewire it, and he did. The lamp is in my basement. Maybe we’ll use it someday.

Good kindling is another irresistible attraction for me. We build fires in our fireplace in the winter and I am the fire builder. Every year I look for very dry kindling to start my fires of well seasoned almond and oak. The best kindling of all is old fir, usually removed from old houses, from lath that held plastered walls, from damaged window trim, and especially prized by me at least, pieces of old fences.

Sometimes I find old fir that is so beautiful that I cannot burn it. I keep it for heaven knows what. The rest I split into lengths about a foot long for kindling and store it neatly standing on end in old wooden boxes made of, what else, old fir. Old wooden roof shingles are great kindling too. If I drive by a house and see roofers scraping shingles off, I’ve been known to stop and ask if I can have some. Of course, they are glad to have me take any I want; they’re just going to the dump, what a shame. The only trouble is that they are usually already in a dump truck, they’re very dirty, and they have nails. Sometimes I bring home a bunch anyway, take the nails out and make them orderly and store them to use for kindling later.

Dishtowels are an obsession. I love them. I have far too many already, a drawer so full that I now have 2 stacks of overflow dishtowels in my hallway near the laundry. I like terry cloth towels but I like white flour sack-type towels, too. No matter how many I have, I am always tempted by more. In Crate & Barrel, Ross, the grocery store or (I just discovered) a good Dollar Store, I look at the dishtowels and, it’s kind of embarrassing to admit, but I almost always buy another.

I have a hard time letting them go even when torn along the edges and stained, even when they are so thin that they are about to rip, sometimes when they’ve already got holes. I like white towels to be very white so when I have the time and it occurs to me, I bleach them and hang them outside. Sometimes I iron the flat weave ones. It’s nice to have a smooth towel to dry off the tops of the glasses in the dishwasher.

Rags might be the worst one. I love rags. Cotton rags, some that used to be t-shirts or pajamas, others that were towels, some that were made to be rags. I like them new and I like them old. Lots of times sellers leave behind a rag bag when they move and almost every time I bring it home. I have stacks of rags already of course, some from my family’s clothes and towels, others that I have bought brand new because I couldn’t resist how new and clean and pretty they were.

One client left behind thin old worn bath mats from Alta Bates Hospital. They’re in my basement now next to my car cleaning soap and buckets. Another client left stacks of dingy white t-shirts. I only brought home a few of those. But when I found an old, very worn out quilt that a client was getting rid of, of course I had to have it. By folding and re-folding this pieced and embroidered quilt, I was able to find a small patch that wasn’t in shreds. I think we might use it in a closet as part of staging, but for now, it’s in my basement.

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