The Best Things I Bought at Estate Sales Last Year

In 2012 I moved from Washington, D.C., to Atlanta with only what fit in my car. The three-bedroom house I share with a roommate was pretty large and pretty empty when I moved in, but I work for a non-profit, so there was no budget to trick the place out—which is one reason I spent lots of weekend mornings in 2013 digging through strangers’ belongings alongside other strangers at estate sales all over the greater Atlanta area. has a terrific email alert that will send you listings for sales in your area. Most listings come with photos, so you can get a decent sense of whether a sale is worth the drive.

Here are some of the best of what I got this year! There are question marks following prices because I didn’t keep track of what things cost. (One reason I live with a roommate is so I don’t have to sweat impulse buys at dead people’s houses.)

Used Foley Pastry Cloth $1? (New ones retail for about $20.)

“A pastry cloth makes an excellent work surface for rolling out pie crusts, biscuits, cookies, and other doughs,” but I have no intention of ever using this as its manufacturer intended—it hangs on a wall in my kitchen, a silent reminder that some people bake.

‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’: A Portrait of Bourgeois Crisis

The film is ostensibly about finding the true spirit of the season amid a hellish, slapstick descent into suburban holiday dysfunction, but the film’s “fun, old-fashioned Christmas” is remarkably steeped in wealth’s economic markers, which I’ll discuss in 2013 dollars.

How Flannery O’Connor Did Money

American novelist Flannery O’Connor was real about getting paid. In The Habit of Being, a book of her letters, she writes about theology, literary theory, and life on her family’s farm, but she also talks about money.