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Storage Auctions & Christmas!
By Keith John Paul Horcasitas   

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A short story about my first experiences recently at a storage auction and how that applied to giving me a better understanding of the real meanings for Advent and Christmas.

"Will there be any room at my inn for the Lord or will I turn Him away by what I have stored?"

Recently, it was fun to get together with family during the Thanksgiving Holidays to catch up on things and find out what folks had been up to lately. Besides celebrating the victories of LSU and the Saints, as well as not cooking, since we went in with our siblings and ordered turkey and all the fixings from Matherne's Supermarket, I was very intrigued by what my retired brother-in-law, Dale, shared with us about in his adventures with storage auctions.

Since I don't watch much television, I wasn't familiar with that phenomenon. When Dale mentioned about “Auction Hunters” on “Spike,” I had no earthly idea of what he was talking about. I certainly have had my share of fun at garage sales and flea markets. And I know that a whole slew of stuff gets exchanged on eBay and things like Craigslist. James, another brother-in-law, has obtained and sold-off some great buys for himself, including vintage Bose systems that he got for next to nothing!

I remember back in the 1980s when we were living in New Orleans and we got most of our neighbors who resided with us on Broadway to join us in what we billed in the Times-Picayune back then as a “Block-Long Garage Sale.” The T-P advertisement rep kind-of stretched things for me and came up with that term, as she was pressured to get more individual ads for things like that in the Classified Section. I had originally requested something like “neighborhood garage sale.”

So as Dale was telling me more about storage auctions, it finally dawned upon me about how many more people than I had previously realized do use those types of businesses when their belongings outgrow available square footage in their residences, whether they are renters or homeowners. Besides noting PODS popping up all the time in neighborhoods when I'm driving around, I think that I see almost as many storage buildings now available as there are “nails” and “payday check” businesses in town!

I couldn't believe some of the things that Dale was able to get on his fun storage auction excursions to varying storage units in the city. And more often than not, he has been able to make a profit by reselling some of the bounty from his bids on other venues, like James was noted to have done above. Sometimes, participants can bid as low as they want to after making a quick view from a distance of the contents to a storage unit being auctioned – without the benefit of actually reviewing the items more closely and thoroughly.

There indeed is a risk that one takes when involved in these solely cash transactions, but the rewards can be a-plenty! Also, you usually have 48 hours to remove the purchased contents from a unit or you surrender it. It helps to have a pick-up truck, like Dale and James do, for hauling away your prizes. Some folks have even found money, jewelry, and other hidden treasures in bags of clothing! Dale cited to me how once someone he knew had to contact the authorities involved when drugs happened to be found with the contents of a unit that had been purchased!

Since I had some time off the weekend after Thanksgiving, I decided to join him on a storage auction at the BR Mini-Storage located on Airline Highway. It was neat to be able to join Dale and Kevin, my nephew, and about 8 other folks in this fun outing. Neither Kevin nor I had ever been to one of these auctions, so we had lots of questions. The auctioneer wasn't one of those fast talking guys using a language particular to that profession like you hear at most other auctions.

After a few times of walking around the Mini-Storage site and randomly stopping for the bidding at the defaulted units, wherein we had peeked into the unlocked sites to peruse the contents but did not make any bids, something struck Dale's fancy about # 113. Sure, there was an old oven that looked decent, two old televisions that appeared operable, a bed frame, two large speakers that looked half-way good, a few bags with clothes, and a couple of boxes with mystery contents, but was it worth it?

The auctioneer opened the bidding to anything, at which Dale barked out, “10 bucks!” After a few unsuccessful tries at elevating the take, it was consummated with the classic “Going once; going twice; sold to the 10 dollar bidder!” Being prepared, Dale took out his padlock and passed on a crisp $ 10 dollar bill to seal the deal. Dale and Kevin made arrangements to take home some of the items just purchased and to return later for the remainder. While Dale didn't hit any big jackpot from this, he made out ahead per some subsequent sales of the contents.

After this outing with Dale and Kevin I can see why storage auctions are so popular – the great deals and the mystery involved. But I couldn't help but wonder who were the people whose misfortunes had led to the surrendering of their possessions? Could it have been one of my own neighbors? Also, it made me think about what values do I place on the possessions that I have? Are they more important than people? While the old saying may be true that, “One man's trash is be another person's treasure,” this usually pertains to freely discarded items by someone – not forced away.

So as I prepare for Christmas during this season of Advent, when I can “tune in and tone down” to be more simple in my faith-walk and relationship with God and others, may I ponder what I am being called to “auction off” to make room available in this “storage unit” that I have been blessed with from birth.

Will there be any room at my inn for the Lord or will I turn Him away by what I have stored? “Los Posadas,” (“The Lodgings”) a Spanish Christmas tradition, may be helpful for some folks at recapturing the true spirit of opening up lodging for God and man. Like the pinatas that have been penetrated each night during the nine day Los Posadas celebrations (December 16th - 24th), we can spill out many blessings to all!

Keith John Paul Horcasitas, LCSW, MHA, 1133 Knollhaven Drive, BRLA 70810,, November 27, 2011. 

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