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RENEE INSKEEP, host:

Let's hear now from Commentator Kevin Mims. He and his wife are getting through the economic downturn by selling some of their belongings. The experience has changed them, but not the way they expected.

KEVIN MIMS: Nothing says money trouble quite like a personal liquidation sale. It wasn't an easy decision, but like a lot of people, we have struggled a bit financially for the past few years.

Then, a few months ago, my wife lost her job. And so, to stay solvent, we decided to rent space in a local antiques co-op and sell everything we could bear to part with.

During our 30 years of marriage, Julie and I have amassed a modest collection of antiques. They are mementos of our lives together, snapshots of who we were when we bought them. I thought selling them would be like throwing out our old photograph albums - or, even worse, like leaving those albums in a public place where all the world could view them.

Our eight-by-eight-foot space looked like an abridged version of every home we've ever lived in: Against one wall, we put a drop-leaf table at which we must have eaten a thousand meals. Above it, we hung a framed poster from the Jack London State Historic Park in Sonoma County. Any friend of ours who happened to visit the co-op would be sure to know where it all came from and to guess why our stuff was for sale.

A few days later, we returned to the co-op to discover the Jack London poster and a few other items gone. We earned $220 that first weekend. It more than compensated for the loss of our old friend Jack.

I thought it would be depressing to see my home recreated in an antiques shop, but it turned out to be exhilarating. Like a lot of Americans, Julie and I have way too much stuff. Now we have an opportunity not only to strengthen our finances, but to lighten our load of material goods.

We replaced the sold items with a travel poster from our kitchen wall and a figurine from my home office. And we have begun to haunt estate sales and thrift stores, looking for more old furnishings we can doll up and sell from our co-op space.

We may succeed as antiquarians, or we may fail. But one thing is certain: We are moving into the future and leaving our past behind, 64 square feet at a time.

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MONTAGNE: Commentator Kevin Mims is a writer, a notary public, and now an antiques dealer in Sacramento. You can comment on his essay on the Opinion Page at npr.org.

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