Tuesday, December 9, 2014

An Aversion to Shiny, New Things by Sherry Harris

LUCY BURDETTE: Is there anything more fun than an absolutely brand new, first-time-out-of-the-box, debut author? No, we don't think so either. And so we are delighted to introduce our friend Sherry Harris, whose book TAGGED FOR DEATH came out a week ago.

SHERRY HARRIS: Thank you, Jungle Reds, for having me today. When I moved to New England, Hallie, Hank, and Lucy

were running the New England chapter of Sisters in Crime. I’ve been in their classes, benefitted from their generosity, and am one of the attendees of the 2009 Seascape which produced an amazing number of published authors, many of the attendees became good friends.

Like my protagonist Sarah Winston, I love to shop at garage sales, flea markets, and antique stores. When I pondered what I should write about for today, I started poking around my house. I realized 95 percent of what’s in here is second hand. I think the only new things are the electronics (because no one wants an antique computer or phone), mattresses (you can come stay without worry), and a couch with matching chairs (which considering I bought them in 2003 and they’ve moved three times, push the boundaries of “new”).


I didn’t really realize I had an aversion to new things until recently – it was a gradual process. But I love to think about where something came from: whose house did that painting hang in, how did this chair end up on the curb, and who looked in the mirror of that dresser. I heard if you light a candle, turn off the light, and look in a mirror the number of reflections will tell you how many people owned the piece. Frankly, it sounds a bit spooky to me and being a big fraidy cat, I’ve resisted the urge to try this. 


My husband was in the Air Force, so having old things that came with nicks and scraps was an advantage with all the moves. One more ding on the table or a scrap on the bench wouldn’t really hurt anything. I do have a table I’m fussy about when it comes time to move. I bought it at a garage sale in Palos Verdes, California. 


It’s a side table with barley twist legs, a serpentine skirt, and my favorite part – claw and glass ball feet. I was lucky to get it because I arrived at the sale late in the day. It had a sign on it that said “price firm,” which puts off a lot of people who expect to bargain at a sale.  The table has a ring in the top where someone set something wet on it. But it was love at first sight for me so I paid full price (something I rarely do), loaded it into my friend’s car, and took it home. My husband had to warm to it, which he did when I pointed out an identical table (sands ring) in a store window in Solvang, California, for four times the price I paid.

When we were moving from Los Angeles to Dayton, Ohio, I went out to check on the movers and there the table, with its delicate glass feet, sat on the rough pavement. (Yes, I had a mini freak out, steam out the ears, cartoon bug eyes, and a thought bubble with all kinds of #$%^.) Fortunately, that all occurred in my head, but I insisted they bubble wrap the glass ball feet which they did reluctantly. Now when the movers arrive, I always double check the table before it goes out. 


None of my pieces are priceless antiques (far from it), but my furnishings are a tale of our moves: a side table from Ohio, a bench from a flea market in Santa Cruz, a bed frame from Florida, a bookcase from Virginia, a painting from Massachusetts. Even our dining room table is special to me. My parents bought it in my hometown of Davenport, Iowa, at a garage sale (probably the only one they ever went to) of the mother of family friends. I like it because of that relationship and because it folds down to a size that works behind a sofa or opens to seat ten (twelve if we squeeze in). 

So readers do you have an aversion to shiny new things or do you embrace them? Or do you mix them together? What’s the best find you’ve ever had at a garage sale?

Sherry Harris started bargain hunting in second grade at her best friend’s yard sale. She honed her bartering skills as she moved around the country while her husband served in the Air Force. Sherry uses her love of garage sales, her life as a military spouse, and her time living in Massachusetts as inspiration for the Sarah Winston Garage Sale series. Tagged for Death, first in the series, released last week.  She blogs with the Wicked Cozies.   



And Sherry is giving away a copy of TAGGED FOR DEATH to one commenter today!

67 comments:

Joan Emerson said...

I think our houses are similarly furnished: only the electronics are new. And while I do like sparkly, shiny, there is something very compelling about secondhand treasures. I don’t know as I’ve ever had the luck of making a spectacular furniture find at a garage sale, but I do have a pair of lovely cherry end tables that are pretty special.
My real “finds” are generally relegated to Precious Moments pieces, several of which I’ve happened upon at various sales and felt compelled to give them a good home on one of my Precious Moments shelves.

Congratulations on your book, Sherry . . . it sounds wonderful, and I’m looking forward to reading it.

Amy Pabalan said...

I can't remember the last meaningful item I bought all shiny and new. I like second-hand/thrift store finds.

My Mom bought a used kitchen buffet back in 1963, right before I was born. I think it was made in the 1940s. It's quite heavy so sometimes I think we should get rid of it ... but ... nah. It's a keeper.

I'm looking forward to checking out your book, Sherry. Congratulations!

susan b said...

As I type this, I'm sitting on a huge, gorgeous but very scuffed blue leather sofa purchased at an estate sale. The sofa and matching easy chair were $200 for both! We've used these every day for four years now, with hopefully several more years to go. We both love estate and moving sales!

Your book sounds wonderful, I look forward to reading it.

Mark Baker said...

I don't really shop at garage sales. Not that I'm adverse to deals. I just don't find much I want at them. It seems to pretty much be junk when I look.

Having said that, the furniture in my second bedroom, that my roommates use, is a bunk bed I did buy use and then furniture that various roommates have left behind over the years. I've got a dresser and table out of it. The current roommates have supplied the bookcases.

And the rest of you need to rush out and get Sherry's book. I've read it, and it is wonderful!

Reine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Reine said...

Hi Sherry! Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi! So good to see you visiting here from the Wicked Cozy Authors blog. Great pictures. I love your garage sale focus. Leaves so many avenues open! And You know I love Massachusetts. I also love Solvang, California! What are we, twinsies?

I'm so happy for you having this book come out now. Any plans for a yard sale book set by Nuttings Lake? Oooooo...

Edith Maxwell said...

Sherry knows I love her AND her book.

I really, really try to avoid yard sales these days, because I have too much STUFF as it is. That said, my favorite winter lap throw is a knitted wool blanket with a zig-zag pattern in pinks and purples (my colors, if ever there were some), that I bargained down to one dollar at a huge flea market on the Orange County fairgrounds in 1974. And my lovely wooden dresser, which I stripped and refinished about fifteen years ago, was left in an apartment I rented near Davis Square (Somerville, MA) in 1983. Reuse, recyle!

Karen B said...

I hate to haggle so garage sales aren't for me. I do have my greatgrandfather's poker table that turns into a chair.
I'm looking forward to your book!
kpbarnett1941[at]aol.com

Gram said...

My friends and I used to go to garage/yard sales every Saturday in the Spring through Fall. Now that I'm older I'm giving away stuff not collecting. The worst choice I made was not buying a very large oak dining table for $20.00 and then worring about how to get it home...lost it!

FChurch said...

My computer sits on a $30 Arts and Crafts desk I found at a flea market sale many many years ago--and so it goes from room to room--a mix of old and new (the sofa, to accommodate two boys, one auntie, and two dogs and a cat ten years ago). Old homes, old things, even clothes sometimes--amazing what you can find to reuse! Oh, and books--my favorite kind of re-usable thing!

E. B. Davis said...

I used to love rummaging through flea markets, antique sales, and when my kids were young, garage sales. Too much stuff has accumulated around my house now to buy more, but I love the premise of your book and characters. Good luck with the series, Sherry

Joyce Tremel said...

Sherry, I can't wait to read your book!

I love garage sales, estate sales, flea markets--you name it. I mostly look, but I have found a few things.

I bought a cute nightstand-type table at a garage sale for $5. I sanded it lightly, then painted and antiqued it to make it look even older. I have another similar table that I picked out of someone's trash at the curb that I need to do yet.

Another item I picked out of the trash was an antique Singer sewing machine. It didn't need much work at all--just a little cleaning up. I don't understand why people throw these things out!

My most recent purchase was an old steamer trunk I bought at an estate sale for $65. Quite a bargain!

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

A Singer sewing machine? that's a find..if it ran:)

I usually don't have patience for second hand shops--you have to sort through a lot of junk...but years ago, my sister found a gorgeous upholstered rocker with wooden goose neck arms. I looked for years to find one myself, and finally thought to advertise in the local paper. Scored two!

congrats Sherry, and when you have a minute, tell us more about the new book!

Margaret Turkevich said...

congratulations!

Buy new? I don't think so. After our last move we needed some chairs so I headed for the local consignment shop and grabbed some, which I had reupholstered.

Jack Getze said...

I picked up my wife at a yard sale.

Deb Romano said...

Most of my furniture is used, coming either from tag sales, consignment shops, or as hand-me-downs from friends or relatives. The piece of furniture I use to store bed linens and table cloths was something my mom bought at an estate sale and used as a desk. I'm not even sure what the original use would have been!

My desk was something my dad saw in someone's garage back when I was in second grade (so you know it's old!)The people were getting rid of it. Dad offered to buy it from them but they wouldn't take the money! It had numerous coats of paint on it. My parents worked on it for a couple of weeks, removing layer after layer of paint, and then refinished it. It's not in the greatest shape (the bottom fell out of the one drawer ages ago) but I love it because of all the work my folks put into it.

Sherry Harris said...

We all need to meet some place and do some shopping!

Sherry Harris said...

Joan, I've taken to collecting smaller things -- giving the Precious moments a home is perfect.

Sherry Harris said...

Very funny Amy Pabalan!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

YAY Sherry! SO thrilled for you..and for all your happy readers!

I'm always intrigued by yard sales--but I never go. I guessI think --if they're throwing it away or selling it, it can;t be anything I'd want. But from all your stories, I guess that's wrong! Happy hunting!

I do have a few things from consignment shops--but you know, I never wear them.

Hallie Ephron said...

Sherry I'm SO DELIGHTED to see you here, and can't wait to read your book. I've been inspired by yard sales, too -- to fill my house with well used treasures AND to write about it.

While I do not have an aversion to shiny new things (bring 'em on! just not too many...) vintage/used furniture and tableware has a special place in my heart. Our mutual friend writer Kate Flora turned me on to secondhand clothing. eBay is my friend.

Once again, Yay, Sherry!!!

Sherry Harris said...

Susan -- that is a great deal for a sofa and chair!

Ann said...

I've got a whole house full of old stuff mostly from family (lots still good or beautiful as new even if over 100 yrs old) but some I bought at estate auctions. The quality of stuff today loses in the comparison to old stuff.

Sherry Harris said...

Mark and Jack -- can't we lure you to the dark, no fun, side of shopping?

Sherry Harris said...

Reine, we must be twinsies! But Solvang always seems a little pricey to me! Nuttings Lake...hmmmmm!

Sherry Harris said...

Karen -- a poker table that turns into a chair? I've never heard of that before. I'm going to have to google that one! Some of my favorite pieces are actually from my family.

Sherry Harris said...

Gram -- I hate it when I leave something behind. I stopped at an auction that had chairs that matched our dining table. My husband convinced me to leave saying we could find them somewhere else. It took 15 years to find another one.

Sherry Harris said...

FChurch, the table sounds amazing.

Sherry Harris said...

Thanks E.B.!

Sherry Harris said...

Wow, Joyce you have had some great finds! I've picked a few things up off the curb - one is a small wooden chair that I love.

Sherry Harris said...

Oh, Lucy you are so smart -- have the people come to you! The rockers sounds fabulous!

Sherry Harris said...

Margaret by two desk chairs came from consignment shops -- one in Monterey, California and the other in northern Virginia.

Sherry Harris said...

Deb, I love the story of the desk. It's why I love old things -- because of the love and effort someone put into them.

Karen in Ohio said...

Sherry, you're a woman after my own heart. Most of our home is furnished with secondhand or handed-down things, too. Or that were bought new, but so long ago that they almost qualify as antiques now.

We did buy a new couch a few years ago for the family room. Everyone likes to loll on our couch, and it's one of the best places ever to have an afternoon nap, so it was important that we had just the right one. It replaced a couch I bought with my first husband in 1973, which is still part of our life, just down at our farm.

The best thing I ever found at a garage sale was a wonderful wicker coffee table. It's meant for a porch, I think, but it's way too nice to be used outdoors. And it's huge, with shelves for books at each end, a storage area in the middle, and a tray around the edge. All my organic gardening magazines are stacked on top right now.

I've been waiting for your book, Sherry, since you're friends with some of my other author friends. Best of luck to you!

Sherry Harris said...

Hank, thanks for having me. You do have to sort through a lot of junk to find something at yard sales. I guess it's my modern day treasure hunt.

Sherry Harris said...

Never Tell a Lie is such a fabulous book, Hallie. It still brings a chill to me when I think about it -- not many books linger like that. Thanks for having me -- I've never shopped much on eBay but Kate posted recently about some fabulous finds!

Karen in Ohio said...

Jack, that's the best comment, ever!

After reading others' comments, I need to change my "best" find. We went to a friend's estate sale--he was my husband's age, had taken care of his mother until she was nearly 100, and then he died unexpectedly just a few months later. His family had to liquidate everything, so we went, not needing anything, but hoping to help out.

After going through the house, Steve asked me if there was anything we should buy. I kept going back to the sideboard in the dining room, for some reason. It was covered in years' worth of grime, but it had a pleasing shape, and lots of storage, so I chose it.

Got it home, and started checking it out more carefully. It turned out to be a cherry Stickley piece, one of the last signed by Gustav Stickley, and it cleaned up beautifully. It now has pride of place in my big kitchen, gleaming and holding tons of linens.

Sherry Harris said...

Karen, your wicker table sounds wonderful! I did a lot of antiquing and going to garage sales when we lived in Ohio! There's a small town called Tipp City that was one of my favorite places to go.

Sherry Harris said...

Here is a little bit about Tagged for Death: Starting your life over at age thirty-eight isn't easy, but that's what Sarah Winston finds herself facing when her husband CJ runs off with a 19-year-old temptress named Tiffany. Sarah's self-prescribed therapy happily involves hitting all the garage and tag sales in and around her small town of Ellington, Massachusetts. If only she could turn her love for bargain hunting into a full-time career.
But after returning from a particularly successful day searching for yard sale treasures, Sarah finds a grisly surprise in one of her bags: a freshly bloodied shirt…that undoubtedly belongs to her ex, CJ, who now happens to be Ellington's chief of police. If that's not bad enough, it seems Tiffany has gone missing. Now it's up to Sarah to prove that her cold-hearted ex is not a cold-blooded killer…

Pat D said...

I'm looking forward to reading your book Sherry. When a furniture salesman asked what our style was I answered Eclectic! Meaning a mix of old and new, bought or found or passed along. Although it is fun to look at used stores, flea markets and so forth I don't have room for any more. I need to get rid of stuff.

Libby Dodd said...

This sounds utterly delightful!
Well loved, used things do seem to have more character. Many newer, shiny items seem lacking in soul.

Sherry Harris said...

Karen, that is an amazing find! So many people would pass it up!

Sherry Harris said...

Pat D we are thinking about downsizing so I'm much more selective in what I bring home.

Sherry Harris said...

Libby I agree with you!

Shari Randall said...

Hi Sherry! I love hearing the stories behind yard sale finds - the hunt is so much fun.
My parents have an antiques store, so I spent many a day cruising yard sales, barn sales, you name it. I've pared down a lot with all of our moves, but my current favorite is an aqua slab of vintage boomerang linoleum that I turned into a coffee table (I'll be honest, I made my hubby turn it into a coffee table by affixing some paperclip legs).
So happy that it's a rainy day today - I'm curling up with TAGGED FOR DEATH.

Sherry Harris said...

I love the sound of your coffee table, Shari It is the perfect day for reading a book!

Kathy Reel said...

I love furniture with a history. I have quite a lot of antique furniture from my parents and a lady that was like my grandmother (both sets of grandparents were dead when I was born). There's a big burl walnut chest where we kids always had our pictures taken in front of for dances; the drop-leaf table that was the only piece of furniture my mother and her mother saved from a fire that consumed their house; the cherry corner cupboard that my mother bought for 50 cents when she was first married and is now worth in the thousands, an ornate desk that I used to enjoy as a child in my adopted grandmother's house; and a walnut bed that I bought at an estate sale in north eastern Ohio, the first piece of furniture I ever bought on my own, for $35. There are other pieces from my parents and a couple from my husband's grandmother that have special meaning, too. I have found a couple of old tables at Goodwill that I really like, too. I'm now in the market for a desk, one that I will actually use, and there's a second-hand place I'm planning on visiting. I love furniture that has been repurposed, too. I recently saw an old drawer that had dividers in it turned on its side and used as a small bookshelf. So cool.

I used to enjoy going to auctions and moving sales, and I have a few small pieces, such as a small bench and an small ancient step stool. Oh, I also have an old Tiffany style lamp that I got at an auction. I haven't been to an auction in a while, but then, my house is full and there are pieces that my husband will want from his parents' house.

The only pieces of furniture that I definitely want as new are couches and comfy chairs. Well, I do have a couple of chairs from my mother's, but they're not comfortable to sit in.

Deb, the story of the desk is wonderful, and I can see why it means so much to you. Jack, you are too, too funny! Lucy, great idea to advertise in the paper. I'd do that for a desk, but I'm not really sure what I want. It's like, I'll know it when I see it.

Sherry, your book sounds like a read I would thoroughly enjoy, so it's head for my TBR and wish lists. Thanks for a great post that has had me traveling down memory lane and remembering dear people that are no longer with me.

James Montgomery Jackson said...

Sherry,

First congratulation on your new baby. I hope it treats you very well.

While I enjoy old (especially if it has family history), I also find the attraction in new. A hundred years ago they did not make standing desks that at the press of a button can convert to sitting desks.

I tell myself I'm trying to help the economy keep humming.

~ Jim

Sherry Harris said...

Kathy, thank you for sharing your stories! They warm my heart. I love the idea of a drawer turned into a bookshelf.

Sherry Harris said...

I saw a picture of your desk on Facebook and it looks fabulous, James! There are some things that one needs new.

Susan Elia MacNeal said...

Welcome, Sherry! Wow, such great comments! I don't get to shop much, but I love eBay and easy for either used or handmade or repurposed things. But, in general, I try to steer clear of "stuff" — NYC apartments don't have attics and basements, which is probably good.....

Mary Sutton said...

I'm probably an in-betweener. I like old things if they have characters, but sometimes I want new. It really depends.

On I don't do garage sales. Ugh. Estate sales, yes. But garage/lawn sales? No way.

Dianne Carson said...

Hi Sherry and Friends! I love having and going to garage sales, especially when you are not looking for anything specific...then you are sure to find something. Also, I collect vintage Barbie dolls, so there is a thrill of the hunt element as well. I once learned that in decorating a room, you should have an item in the room that is a "surprise", something unexpected--a conversation piece. Having an antique, whether furniture or accessory, usually does it! I also enjoy going to consignment shops. It's like having the nicest things from a subdivision garage sale all in one place. I have bought pictures, pillows, a sofa, a ponytail Barbie, and some beautiful cordial glasses from my friend who has a consignment shop. You never know what you will find, and there are some great bargains.

I loved your book, Sherry, and look forward to reading it again!

Carol W said...

The absolute best bargain I ever bought at a garage sale was a homemade stuffed clown the cost 25cents. Once my daughther got her hands on it she would not let loose of it. We named him Happy and he went everywhere with my daughter. She was one when she negotiated (crying is a form of negotiating, right?)for this, her first garage sale item. My daughter is now 36. Happy has since been restored and passed on to my granddaughter. I can remember it like it was yesterday!

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

Sherry. so glad to see your legions of fans here today. I meant to say, one thing we don't mind shiny and new here on JRW is BOOKS! Hope you're selling lots of them!

Is anyone besides me getting creeped out by the possibility of bedbugs in second hand stuff???

Sherry Harris said...

Susan, thanks for having me! I learned the concept of something in, something out from a friend in NYC!

Sherry Harris said...

I like estate sales too, Mary. Garage sales can be hit or miss!

Sherry Harris said...

I love the concept of having a "surprise" in every room, Dianne! I've surprised my husband many times.

Sherry Harris said...

Carol, I love your story about Happy. Crying as a form of negotiating -- I'm might have to add that to my repertoire!

Sherry Harris said...

Lucy, I am leery of upholstered things and rugs. It doesn't mean I wouldn't buy them but I'm really careful. Thanks again for having me!

Shirley said...

My garage sale buys are my favorite pieces - the ones that will be passed on to my daughters. Your book sounds wonderful and I can't wait to read it.

Sherry Harris said...

Thank you so much, Shirley!

kathywaller1.com said...

Nearly everything in my apartment came from family, some pieces four or five generations. My parents' house had large rooms and could hold it. My apartment is tiny. Since I have no children, I've shared some things with cousins, and I need to share more. We're wall-to-wall furniture. I want to give away a large, heavy sideboard, but then I'd have to figure out what to do with my mother's china . . . The problem is that the younger folks in the family don't want old things, and I have an emotional attachment to them. So we continue to walk through the maze.

storytellermary said...

Eclectic tastes here, and a tendency to keep what I have until it stops working . . . and too much stuff, so I'm buying less and letting the younger relatives know that they can come here for extras . . .
Congratulations on the book!! <3

Sherry Harris said...

Kathy, since my husband was in the air force the size of our living quarters went up and down with every move. We have lived in houses with a maze on many occasions. It is lovely that you have shared some of your things!

Sherry Harris said...

Mary, I keep stuff for a long time too!

Dianne said...

Hi Sherry!

I love stopping at yard sales, but never buy anything. I only like shiny and new. As much as I love quilts and linens, they have to be brand spanking new!

Looking forward to reading your book!