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Anybody who knows me knows that I am not a phone person. I will text or email all day long, but talking on the phone is just not my thing. I guess that I did enough of that when I was young.

I used to joke that I didn’t even call my mother. As she got older, this became a problem – especially since she lived in Connecticut and I lived in Virginia. So my mother took matters into her hands and decided that she would call me every Monday.

And so began our Monday morning ritual. If she didn’t call me, I would call her and sometimes we didn’t connect until Tuesday or Wednesday, but at least we spoke once a week.

As she got older, I expected that her voice somehow would be different. Yet, it was always the same voice on the other end of the line. Her body changed – a few years ago, she broke her hip and stopped coming to Virginia. She had a cancer scare and had surgery. UTIs became an issue, and there were other medical issues. During these times, I would call on a more regular basis – and also visited her every few months.

And so she celebrated her 90th birthday. And then she turned 93, then 95. At 95, she broke her other hip and after spending three months in rehab, she came out unable to walk (or unwilling) to walk and used a wheelchair. Why they call it rehab isn’t clear to me. Because they are so concerned about liability, they only give older people one hour of therapy a day because they are afraid they will fall down (but that’s a whole other story).

Yet, throughout all that, her voice remained strong. A few times, she might be a tad forgetful, but for the most part, she was still the same mother that I knew and loved – and for the most part, pretty cheerful. She really enjoyed her time at the assisted living facility that was living in.

When her facility was locked down due to Covid-19, she was not happy. She did not like being confined to her room. She missed seeing her friends at meals, and playing bingo, poker, pokeno and joining in other activities. When I talked to her during this time, her first words were, “Things are not good here.” Yet, for the first month, they had no cases of Covid-19 and we were feeling pretty good.

On Monday, April 20, we spoke and she said that she had been tested for Covid-19. She had no symptoms, but they were testing the entire Assisted Living Center. I didn’t really think much of it and was glad that she had been tested.

On Wednesday, my sister called to say that my mother had tested positive for Covid-19. We still didn’t think much of it as she didn’t have any symptoms – and joked that she would die of boredom before she would die of the virus.

Because the facility was in lock down, we couldn’t visit but my sister, being the primary caretaker, spoke to the nurses on a daily basis. Even though she didn’t have the typical symptoms – cough, fever, etc., they said that our mother was going downhill. We weren’t really clear what that meant. I spoke to her on a daily basis and she sounded fine and she said that she felt fine. She didn’t want to go to the hospital – she wanted to stay where she was. My mother didn’t think that there was anything wrong with her but the staff was saying that she was starting to fail.

The assisted living facility said that one person could visit her one time. My sister’s husband is immune compromised so I was the logical choice, but I was six hours away.

Knowing that a transfer to the hospital was imminent, and that no visit would be allowed then, I started driving up to Connecticut on Sunday.

I got as far as Delaware when my sister called to say that they were transferring my mother to the hospital. The window of opportunity for a visit was closed. Ironically, the reason for the transfer was a separate issue – not Covid symptoms.

I spoke to my mother that Monday (a week after she tested positive) and for the first time, she no longer sounded like the mother I knew. Her words were garbled and she was not clear where she was. One of the few coherent thoughts that came out of the conversation was, “How did I get here?” Not sure if she was speaking literally or figuratively.

On Wednesday, my sister and I Facetimed with her. She was pretty out of it and kept closing her eyes, as if to say, “I’m ready to go.”

That was the last time we spoke to her. After Wednesday she was on morphine and hospice said that she was resting peacefully.

She passed away on Sunday morning, May 3rd. We buried her in Connecticut on Wednesday, May 6. She was two weeks shy of her 97th birthday. While it was hard not to be with her as she passed, we were thankful that she never really got terribly sick and didn’t suffer.

It didn’t hit me until the next Monday that I would no longer get calls from my mother on Mondays and I would no longer hear her voice. I am thankful for the many years that we had with her.

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As a child, whenever I got sick, my mother wanted to check my BM. For those of you who don’t know what BM stands for, it is, appropriately, a Bowel Movement.

I was never quite clear what my mother saw in these BMs – I guess it was like reading the tea leaves or something.

I asked my mother about this one day. Actually it was in the elevator of the Copley Hotel in Boston – probably not the most appropriate place to ask such a question. But I had been on painkillers and hadn’t had a Bowel Movement in over five days so it was on my mind.

My mother did not recall ever doing this. It was funny – it didn’t matter what we were sick with. It wasn’t just for stomachaches – cold, flu, broken arm. “Don’t flush that toilet – I need to check your BM!” she used to say.

I am happy to report that I did not follow the tradition and check my children’s BMs when they were sick. But I have to say that there were times when I couldn’t imagine what caused the vile discharge in the diaper of my sweet, innocent, baby boy.

A few months ago, I stopped at McDonalds and got a sausage burrito. These are my go-to snack and I’ve had them before. This one, however, was not hot. It wasn’t exactly cold, but it certainly wasn’t hot. I should have either thrown it away or taken it back. But I was hungry and I was in a hurry so I ate it.

That was the beginning of one of the worst two-month intestinal issues that I ever had. I waited it out for a week or two and then headed to the doctor.

I figured that would need a stool sample so I collected a nice size sample in a disposable plastic container and put it in a paper bag. When I got to the doctor, I asked if they wanted the stool sample and they said yes. I said that I would get it out of my car, but she said that they just needed a very small amount and gave me one of those containers with the little tiny spoon that goes inside. Kind of like the ones that you get at Baskin Robbins when you ask for a sample of ice cream.

So here I am in the parking lot, opening my container of poop and spooning a little tiny sample in plastic container. Not a pretty site.

Turns out that I did not have a parasite and they weren’t quite sure what it was but it took three heavy duty rounds of antibiotics to make it go away.

Occasionally, I have to bring in stool aka fecal samples of my dog to the vet. Once again they give you the tiny container with the spoon in it. So you have to follow the dog, wait for it to poop, and then spoon some of said poop into container. All the time, hoping that your neighbors hope that you haven’t lost your mind and that you are just having a snack.

Collecting the poop is easy. Urine samples for a dog – not so much. That requires following the dog, waiting for it to squat, then trying to get a cup underneath before it finishes and not getting it all over your hand. Not an easy feat.

Cat samples are pretty easy – I just scoop it out of the litter box. Haven’t tried to get a urine sample from a cat.

A few weeks ago, my husband was very worried. He said that his stool was red and that his urine was also red. I reminded him that we had beets for dinner the night before.

My mother recently turned 96 and is in amazingly good health. But I imagine that there may come a time when I need to check her BM.

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Protecting Your Home While Empty

Many of the houses that we do estate sales for have been empty for months, and sometimes even years.

Unfortunately, by the time we get there, many items that would have been saleable have been destroyed.

While the first thought is to guard against personal intruders, there are many other more important – and destructive – intruders to worry about.

These are black mold, mice and moths.

If you think that the home is going to be empty for a while, I urge you to consider taking the following preventive measures.

To guard against black mold, install dehumidifiers in as many rooms as possible – especially the basement rooms. Moisture has an insidious way of creeping into a house and creating mold, making all of those “valuable treasures” worthless.

Plus it creates a health hazard to both our workers and our customers.

If you are worried about lower areas flooding, I suggest that you move anything of value to an upper floor.

If you don’t want to invest in dehumifiers, then try DampRid. Damp Rid is a very simple product. It is mostly made of anhydrous calcium chloride. The chemical is what they call deliquescent, meaning that it absorbs so much moisture from the air that it dissolves. It can be ordered from Amazon or hardware stores.

Mice are another huge problem. I can’t tell you how many boxes of “good stuff” that we have opened only to find that they have been destroyed by mice. Antique books, lace, fabric, furniture and vintage items are easily destroyed by mice

I suggest that you use mice sensors. These can also be ordered from Amazon or purchased at hardware stores. They plug in and are the most humane way to ward off mice and other small rodents. The last thing that you want is to have a mouse sitting in a mouse trap for several months.

The other destructive item is moths. We all remember the moth balls that our parents put in drawers and closets. They weren’t crazy – moths can be very destructive. I have seen them chew through entire closets of previously valuable clothes and linens.

To protect, get one of the items now available for sale. It will protect a lot of items that can be turned around and sold or donated.

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This is the first in a series – if you have questions please send to


I can’t tell you how many times people come to estate sales and see a price tag on an item and say, “but you only paid $1.99 for that.”

There are a few reasons that items aren’t always priced according to the price on the item.

The first case is when the item was purchased 20 to 50 years ago. The fact that an item was priced $1.99 in 1960 usually means that item is now vintage and has increased in value. A Holly Hobby doll purchased for $4.99 may now be worth $20. Items are priced according to what their current value is – NOT what it cost 40 years ago.

Another case is when an item’s original price at, say, TJ Maxx was $24.99, but the owner, who was a savvy shopper, purchased it on sale for $10. That discount is not always going to be reflected in the price. Instead it is based on the VALUE of the item.

On the flip side of this, there are cases when the original price was higher than we think the item is worth. In that case, we will price the items lower than originally priced.

We do try to remove the original price labels, but it is not always possible, so hopefully this will remove some of the confusion.



The customer’s safety – and shopping experience – are very important. Every house is different and if the house is large enough, and items are spread out, then most people can usually be accommodated.

However, if the house is small and items are hard to get to, it is very important to limit the amount of people that can enter the house.

Too many people in the house at one time can cause chaos, crowding and make it hard to maneuver.

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Many people like to shop at estate sales because they love the fact that they can get a bargain. They can also find fun things that are unique, vintage or that add to their collection.

However, if a shopper is looking for something that is in perfect condition, there are some things that they need to know.

While estate sale companies don’t knowingly sell items that are defective, broken or unclean (unless marked ‘as is’), there is not enough time to plug in every toaster and iron the make sure that they are in perfect working order.

We also can’t guarantee that clothes and linens (some of which may have been sitting in boxes for years) are clean or soil free.

That is why I tell customers to TRY IT ON, TURN IT ON AND CHECK THE VALUE.

We tell people this because most estate sale companies do not give refunds, including SALE by GALE. If you are buying anything electrical (toaster, weed whacker, hair dryer, etc.), ask if you can plug it in. This is a request that we are always happy to accommodate.

For the handyman in the group, they may still want to purchase the item (knowing that they can fix it), they may ask for a discount. If reasonable, we will negotiate.

If you are buying CDs, DVDs or LPs, check the box. Some sales have hundreds of these items and we don’t have the time to check each one. We don’t want you to be disappointed if you get home and find that you have empty containers.

Try on whatever you are buying to make sure that it fits. Check linens and clothes for snags or stains. All items should be washed after being purchased.

Ceramics may have cracks and other items may not be perfect. However, some times, that adds to the charm of the item and may be fine.

We also suggest that you look up the value for higher-end items. While we try to price things reasonably, you may decide that an item is priced higher than comparable items. This may be totally worth it to purchaser if it is something that they have been looking for, but it is good to have the information.

If you buy food items, check the expiration date. It is up to you to decide if you want to purchase it. We can’t guarantee the contents of unopened items.

The most important thing to remember is that we can’t give refunds for merchandise and we want you to have the most pleasant shopping experience.

Thank you for shopping SALE by GALE!!!



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Summer Games

Long before we had cell phones and video games, we had to figure out how to spend the long hot summer.

The only camp that existed then was with the town Rec center where you went for day and made braided gimp bracelets and clay pots.

Some kids went to Boy Scout or Girl Scout camps but there wasn’t anything like what the kids have now.

There were a lot of hours IMG_2653to fill, so we made our own fun and used natures ‘toys’ to entertain ourselves.

The weeds with the thing at top was used as a camera. You wrapped the bottom stem around and then popped the top bud off.

Punks found down in the swamps could be used for a variety of things. You could pretend that they were cigarettes and smoke them.

Hours could be spent looking for the elusive four-leaf clover in a field with mostly three-leaIMG_2441f clover.

Daisies helped us determine if that special guy liked us as much as we liked him. “He loves me, He loves me not.”

The propeller-like seeds that fall from trees were peeled apart and placed on the nose.

The little yellow flowers were placed under the chin to see if there was a yellow reflection. That indicated that you liked butter.

Not high-tech but it did provide for hours of amusement back in the day.

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  1. It is possible to buy just about anything out of your window at traffic stops in the larger villages. That includes food, drink, windshield wipers, cell phone accessories, fabric, bread, pots and toilet paper.
  2. IMG_2128  can carry just about anything on their heads – including a pail of water for the entire day, basket of fruit or vegetables, or a platter with three dozen eggs.
  3. Most women of child-bearing age have several children and they balance things on their head while carrying a baby on their back.
  4. White people affectionately known as ‘yovos’ are still a rare sight in many of the smaller villages and children will wave and cluster around you.
  5. There is no such thing as trash pick-up so it is littered throughout the IMG_2139villages. Some of it is burned but the ubiquitous ‘sachet’ or small black plastic bags that people can’t seem to live without are littered throughout the country. There is very little recycling.
  6. There is no such thing as a weight limit for a vehicle. “Bush Taxis” pile enough stuff for a small household on top of them. And yes, they do sometimes tip over. Small cars will carry 15 large bags of charcoal crammed into seats, trunk and the roof.
  7. “Moto Taxi” IMG_2132Scooters can hold FIVE people, or one person and three chicken coops, or two people, a container of water, firewood and groceries.
  8. Just because an item is on a menu doesn’t mean that they have it on hand. In fact, expect that at least two of your party’s items will not be available.
  9. Just because the lights are on when you go into a store or restaurant doesn’t mean that they will stay on all night. But that’s what cell phones are for.
  10. Children walk miles (literally) to school and they do not complain.
  11. Just about all prices are negotiated.
  12. Used American clothes are purchased by the bagful and resold on the street. It would not be uncommon for somebody to see their son’s former soccer shirt.
  13. It is commonplace for men to pee on the side of the road – anytime, anywhere.
  14. Instead of using hazard signs when a car breaks down, they use leaves or branches.
  15. People sleep anywhere – on a wooden bench, floor, etc.
  16. A road marked on a map doesn’t mean that it is paved – and if paved, there is no guarantee that it will not have major potholes in it.
  17. Water is an extremely scarce commodity.
  18. People are very poor, but very welcoming.
  19. There is a huge need for water and schools in the villages.
  20. Please consider donating to: ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­
    1. Bread and Water for Africa.
    2. Your local Rotary group.
    3. Peace Corp.

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Given that Blind Copy has been around for a long time, I’m not quite sure why few people seem to take advantage of it. Instead emails are sent out with pages of email addresses that the reader has to wade through.

This is especially annoying when reading the email on the cell phone because you have to page down through the list of multiple emails when all you want to see is the email itself.

It’s so easy to include the same list in Blind Copy rather than in the TO: or COPY: section.

Not only is the Blind Copy option a great way to cut down on the clutter in your inbox; but it also prevents user’s names from being inadvertently copied.

Even more annoying that Blind Copy is Reply All. Certainly some instances call for it, but the majority of the time, there is no reason that EVERYBODY needs to see who is coming to an event; what they are bringing; etc. More often than not, the person who sent the email – or the coordinator – is the only one who needs to get the reply.

I received an invitation to a holiday party recently and I heard from over 25 people on this list who could not attend the party. Because I was included on their replies, I heard about the fact that their mother-in-law was ill, or they were going to Ohio, or that they had the flu. I mean no disrespect but I didn’t know any of these people so I didn’t need to hear about their respective reasons as to why they could not attend the party.

There are times when it is necessary to Reply All if people need to see who is coming so that they don’t duplicate dishes or they need to see what the latest consensus is for a date.

However, I suggest that you make a New Year’s pledge to cut clutter and START using Blind Copy and STOP using Reply All. Happy New Year!

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Shoppers buy all sorts of things at estate sales – and for all sorts of reasons. Some are collectors who are looking for a piece or two to complete their collection.

Others are looking for furniture or other household items to furnish a new home or child’s apartment.

Many are just looking for the penultimate bargain. There are certain items that one should look for at estate sales if they are in the market for these items.

Candles. Go to a Yankee Candle store and you will pay $20-$50 for a candle. Candles at estate sales are usually priced between $1-5.

Printer paper/labels. This can also cost a lot at a store, but estate sales are usually looking to get rid of them and sell them for a dollar or two per package.

Household cleaners and other products. More often than not, a sale will include a few boxes of the above items. Normally priced between $1-2, this can be a real bargain, especially when a box of detergent can cost as much as $10.

Books. Books are often very plentiful at sales, and are heavy and hard to pack up and move. Unless they are rare or otherwise special, most sell books at $.50-$2 for paperbacks and $1-$10 for hard cover.

Record albums. These have come back in fashion and can be picked up for a few dollars apiece at most sales.

Clothes and shoes. Some estates include a beautiful collection of clothes and shoes – both for men and women. If they are your size, then you are in luck, because most sales don’t price clothes higher than $10 for designer labels. You can typically get small items like socks, hats and belts for a couple of dollars. Some items are newer, while there is often a nice collection of vintage items as well.

Linens. These are often plentiful at sales and range from the most delicate lace to the funkiest patterns to hand-made quilts. Pick up a set of towels and sheets for much less than you would pay at discount store.

Gale Curcio is the owner of SALE by GALE, an estate sale company specializing in full-house sales Northern Virginia. Visit her website at to see other blogs.

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People have been repurposing items for as long as man has been alive. The cave men turned rocks into arrows and branches into spears.

There are always new things – and new ways to repurpose and I will highlight some of the items that I have seen lately.

I think that sometimes people hear the word repurpose and think, oh no, this requires sanding and painting and I will never get to it. While some repurposing projects do require painting and sanding, there are just as many that merely require some cleaning – or just using in a different room for a different purpose.

Last year, I sold a Portuguese Meat Scale at one of my sales. It’s hard to appreciate in the original photos as none of the scales are hanging on it – nor are all the individual weights in the designated slots below. But this thing was solid brass – and a beauty.

brass - after brass - before

Fortunately, my neighbor purchased it so I was able to see what it was used for. This woman is an incredible artist and I was so thrilled when we went to her house for a holiday celebration and there it was. She had polished the brass and used it as an amazing holiday decoration. It fit perfectly into the space where she had envisioned it and was cleverly festive.

This required elbow grease and a little creativity.

Dining room hutches and buffets are great for repurposing. You’ve probably all heard how hard it is to sell ‘the browns’ – this applies especially to dining room hutches and buffets in cherry, walnut or mahogany.

dinging hutches

People get tired of bumping into them and just don’t have room for them in their dining room. But they can’t sell them – and sometimes they want to keep them for sentimental reasons. They just don’t want them in the dining room.

This is a case of merely moving them to another room. I had a beautiful hutch at a sale that didn’t sell. I couldn’t stand to let it go, so I purchased it and put it in one of my guest rooms. It holds linens, toiletries and other items – and is perfect in that room.

dinging buffets

Another time I purchased a buffet. This item was very large but I realized that it would replace an area in my study. Instead of the smaller multiple cabinets that were taking space in that area, I was able to replace it with this one piece. It looks much nicer and is much neater looking.

Old wooden chairs – this is nothing new. They look great in a garden with a plant and require no touch-up since they are going to be outside and will quickly weather anyway.

There are several great ways to use wine corks – bulletin boards, hot pads, etc., but did you also know that you can bring them to Whole Foods and they will recycle them?
My son had hundreds of Lego pieces and while I want to keep some of them, they can also be creatively encased in a shadow box and hung on the wall.

Have you seen the kid’s crocs hanging on a shed with little plants in them? They look adorable.

Glass canisters are great for making terrariums. Just buy some rocks, dirt and a small plant that doesn’t need much water. They are just as easy to maintain as they are to make.

Baby Dresses can easily be turned into hanging bags for plastic bags, clothes pins, etc. Just sew a seam along the bottom and insert into hanger. If you don’t want to sew, you can use some heavy duty tape to seal the bottom.

Old wooden ladders are great for displaying a variety of things – from purses to tablecloths to blankets. Some of them will need some painting and sanding but as long as they have a good coat of shellac, the items hanging on it will be protected from ‘catching’ on the wood.

These are just a few items that can be repurposed. Sign up for our monthly newsletter to get more useful ideas. And if you have something that you repurposed after purchasing it at one of my sales, please send before/after photos with description to

Gale Curcio is the owner of SALE by GALE, an estate sale company specializing in full-house sales Northern Virginia. Visit her website at to see other blogs.