The joy of rummaging through strangers' closets


Janet's World

March 21, 2010|By Janet Gilbert | Special to The Baltimore Sun

Cleaning out your closets can be overwhelming, yet satisfying. So imagine how it feels to clean out approximately 500 strangers' closets for a school yard sale: exhausting, yet fabulous!

Well, maybe it wasn't so fabulous when I opened a trash bag full of in-line skates and kneepads that had obviously been nibbled on by a mischief of mice. But most of the stuff donated to our public high school's music foundation flea market was in decent condition.

Still, it takes a special kind of volunteer to work all day unpacking and sorting other people's treasures. We arrived at the high school on a Friday afternoon to unload the storage units we had rented, appropriately called "Pack Rats." Fortunately, there were several high school football players who had been in the weight room and decided it might be more beneficial to try our "Approved Flea Market Workout." I joined them, and I am happy to report that I no longer have to suck in my breath to button my jeans.

The first part is strictly aerobic. You dash about the snow mounds left on the school grounds - still very much in evidence two weeks ago - and enter a storage unit. Next comes the anaerobic part: Lift as many oddly shaped items as you can. I saw one young man balance a hat rack on top of a carton of books, while holding a Bratz dollhouse in the other hand. Frankly, he could have burned considerably more calories by flinging the dollhouse across the parking lot.

Sorry, it is hard for me to walk by a Bratz doll without shouting: "Off with her head." This is because the Bratz doll epitomizes everything I dislike in a female role model. Please enjoy this profile of a Bratz doll named Yasmin from the toy's Web site: "She has her own blog where she updates her pals and family about what she's up to and what she's thinking about the world and gives them tips on staying involved with your community while still doing fun things like getting makeovers. To make sure she stays fit she takes long walks in her neighborhood (always looking her best, of course!) which also gives her the chance to catch up with her friends in her community."

Obviously, the message here is that you can be an accomplished young community-minded woman, provided you still enjoy makeovers and are always looking your best! I can only hope the young girl who is now in possession of the Bratz dollhouse has come to her senses and has turned it into the Bratz mortuary. But I digress.

Back to the Approved Music Foundation Workout. Once you have gotten good and steamed up about the stereotypes prevalent in toy marketing, walk briskly back through the mud pits with your load of items and hoist your stuff through the opened cafeteria window. There, someone is achieving his or her workout goals by rapidly stacking stuff on tables, while other volunteers dash about separating the books from the appliances from the tools.

Approximately seven hours later, everything will be set up and you can browse a bit. I found a beautiful set of classical ballet figurines that I hoped to purchase for my daughter, but the price - a bargain at a flea market - was still out of my budget. While I was working in the furniture section the next day, helpful flea market worker Eibbed Ttenrub (name secret-coded for privacy) would alert me whenever someone seemed interested in them. She reported that one such shopper remarked, "These will sell fast if you display them."

"I know," Eibbed said, quickly putting the top back on the shoe box of figurines.

When the half-price sale was announced, Eibbed alerted me, and I bought the set. I had been seriously sweating it. But I suppose that's just another beneficial aspect of the Approved Flea Market Workout.

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