- Associated Press - Monday, October 24, 2016

MUSKOGEE, Okla. (AP) - It’s not even Halloween yet, and Sandra Wood’s house already looks a lot like Christmas.

Garlands wrap around bannisters. At least three Christmas trees have decorations. Santa Claus figurines are everywhere.

Wood, 64, said she starts decorating early because of the nature of her profession - conducting estate sales, according to the Muskogee Phoenix (https://bit.ly/2ea7P3V ).

“We’re booked right now until the 15th of November, which means the first of the year, as far as I’m concerned,” she said. “They either come all at once or we get a break. I always start early, so I can get all my stuff done when my kids come in.”

Wood loves old things - whether it’s items in her many collections, her 89-year-old house or her antiques.

The California native moved to Muskogee when she was a youngster. Family ties kept her here. She worked as a meat-wrapper for several years, then operated a consignment shop.

The collections multiply when Wood starts decorating for Christmas, often as early as September.

Santa Claus figurines of various vintages fill shelves, adorn tables, gather on top of desks and hang on Christmas trees. She said 350 of those figurines are Annalee models.

“I collect old Santas, and I like to get them all out,” she said. “And I still have a bunch more to get.”

She said most Santas date to the 1950s or 1960s. However, she has one skinny Santa that dates to the early 1900s.

“The reason I think it is so neat is because of the pipe cleaners,” she said, showing how the arms and legs are made of pipe cleaners. She said she found it one day at an antique sale and probably didn’t pay more than a dollar for it.

“And you’ve got to realize it was in a box for maybe 50 years,” she said. “How does something like this survive 50 years of attics and all that stuff?”

Other collections include children’s dishes and tea sets, mostly made of tin, that date to the mid-20th Century.

“What I like is stuff,” she said. “You just wonder how on earth it ever lasted through the attics and tubs and families.”

Wood said she started collecting when she was in her early 40s.

“My dad had a mother who collected everything, and I always thought it was clutter,” she said. “But I guess I’m just like her.”

Wood moved into her historical home about 12 years ago. She said she knows the house dates to 1927, when the area was dominated by Kendall College.

“When we moved in here, it was a filthy, filthy mess,” she said, recalling that, at first, her father didn’t want her to buy it.

“My mother told him, ‘She’s bought it, you get over there and help her,’” Wood said. “So, at seven o’clock in the morning my dad would show up and you better have your teeth brushed, because he wasn’t going to leave until 4 and you were going to work.”

Wood and her helpers pulled down ceilings, dealt with dead mice, pulled up green carpet and sanded the wood floor.

“We put a lot of effort in it,” she said. “When me and Ron got together, he did a lot of work fixing the ceilings, fixing the driveway.”

The trashy house turned into a treasure.

“I love my dining room because it’s big, huge,” she said. “I love my kitchen because it’s big and it’s off. If you’ve got a big mess in the kitchen, not everybody can see it. I love my yard.”

She said the historical style of the house “goes with the antiques that I love.”

“And it’s fun to decorate,” she said. “If you’re going to do Christmas, you get to spread it out.”

Wood considers her estate sale work more than a business.

“It’s more of a mission to help other people,” she said. “Older people, they’re just devastated because they have to think about moving to a retirement home and they don’t have anywhere to go with their stuff. They don’t know how to organize to even get out of their house.”

She said that, while some of her clients do have children, some “don’t have anybody.”

“They’re just at somebody’s mercy,” she said. “A lot of them are very sad. I just go in and make it easy on them.”

Wood said she’s done 300 to 400 sales over the years.

“Sometimes, we get so busy that we may go months without taking any days off, besides going to church,” she said. “Then, there are times we have a month or two and nothing happens. Which is good. You’re always ready for a rest.”

The need for estate sales often could happen suddenly, she said.

Wood said she first goes into a client’s home to mark every item. She calls more than 250 potential buyers on her call list, then advertises the sale.

“Then you have to organize it, get it set up, dig through trash, dig through cabinets. We have to make sure there’s nothing in the house the family doesn’t know about,” she said. “We go in and treat it like our home. Go in and get things marked.”

The sales usually open around 10 a.m., she said. “And when we open, there’s usually a line to the street of people. But they’re all good people.”


Information from: Muskogee Phoenix, https://www.muskogeephoenix.com

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