All My Life for Sale

All My Life for Sale

by John Freyer, John Freyer

The classic American passion for the road meets the current obsession with internet consumption in one of the most original illustrated books to come along in years.

One day, John Freyer decided to sell everything he owned on the internet. He invited his friends over to tag all the possessions in his apartment, and he systematically put them up for sale on eBay.


The classic American passion for the road meets the current obsession with internet consumption in one of the most original illustrated books to come along in years.

One day, John Freyer decided to sell everything he owned on the internet. He invited his friends over to tag all the possessions in his apartment, and he systematically put them up for sale on eBay. An unopened box of taco shells, half a bottle of mouthwash, almost all of his clothes, his favorite records, his sideburns (in a plastic bag), his family's Christmas presents (not yet given), furniture: John didn't let sentiment or utility stand in his way. Soon his belongings were sold all over the world, with a bag of Porky's BBQ Pork Skins making its way to Japan, and a chair ending up in the Museum of Modern Art. With almost all the objects in his life now gone, he started the second phase of his journey: to go visit his one-time possessions in their new surroundings.

All My Life for Sale is an extraordinary book that functions as an autobiography, a travel narrative, and a meditation on what the objects we surround ourselves with actually mean to us and what happens when we set them free. Designed by the author himself, it is visually striking, surprisingly moving, and will change the way you look at the things that surround you.

Editorial Reviews

The New Yorker
In ancient Rome, artisans sold luxury goods at their clients' homes; during the seventies, Bloomingdale's deliberately confused its customers with disorganized merchandise displays. "For better and worse, it is impossible today to imagine a world without shopping," Thomas Hine argues in I Want That!. Hine coins the term "buyosphere" to describe the spaces in which we acquire, and he traces the history of shopping back to the quest of Jason who, with the help of the Argonauts, was "trying to get his hands on a valuable object" -- the Golden Fleece. "For the hero (as for some shoppers) the struggle of finding is more important than the actual getting," he explains. In these strapped times, every shopper can be a hero. "Indeed," Hine writes, "our economic health depends on shoppers' ceaseless lust for the inessential."

That "ceaseless lust" may explain the success behind John D. Freyer's singular experiment, which he chronicles in the book All My Life For Sale. Freyer, who describes himself as "the type of person who holds on to things," made almost five thousand dollars by selling all the possessions in his Iowa City home on eBay. He began with his toaster (final price: $11.50) and then moved on to an Iowa City phone book, 1999-2000 ($1.25), a copy of the novel "Infinite Jest," one-eighth read ($7.50), a Jesus night-light ($8), and his sideburns ($19.50). Though the book is a catalogue, it is also an autobiography of how objects have defined Freyer's life. He almost took up smoking because a kidney-shaped ashtray ($8) was "so damn cool," and he felt a deep anger when his father returned a handmade book ($22.50) Freyer had constructed out of ads from old Life magazines.

(Marshall Heyman)
Publishers Weekly
When Gen-Xer Freyer decided he owned too much stuff, he invited friends over to tag anything they thought was "representative of [his] life in Iowa City" to be auctioned on eBay. He sold over 600 items and made several thousand dollars on the project, but one can't help thinking he had this book, which features pictures and descriptions of the objects, plus updates on where they landed, in mind from the get-go. The volume is a great conversation piece, or at least a compelling record of what alterna-kids thought was cool in the late 20th century, and Freyer's descriptions are quirky and faux-philosophical. Highlights include a box of Girl Scout cookies sold to someone in Mumbles, Swansea, U.K., Mexican chewing gum that went from Freyer's "weird food item" drawer to a wall display in Mitcham Junction, England, and Freyer's sideburns, which the new owner tried to donate to the Pittsburgh Museum of Art. Freyer's place in the world reveals itself through such amusing vignettes: there was the half-bottle of mouthwash no one bid on "no matter how many times I listed the item," and the annoyance of a friend when he sold her dad's ski hat. Items' new lives are priceless: a woman from Dallas, Texas, buys a white toy Cadillac and sends Freyer a still from the Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination that has the car superimposed in, while someone from the New York Times buys a Freyer shirt and then includes the sale in a book he writes about eBay. Of the latter, Freyer wonders, "Could my shirt be considered a legitimate business expense on his taxes?" Color photographs throughout. (Nov.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Pack-rat Freyer needed to eliminate the ever-growing collection of stuff that had accumulated in his home in Iowa City, so he decided that he would sell everything he owned on the Internet. Freyer invited his friends to come into his home and tag things that they thought were saleable. These items, including most of his clothing, kitchen utensils, furniture, an old Iowa City phone book, a bowling ball, books, electronics, food, photographs, toys, unprocessed film, and even his family's wrapped Christmas gifts, were sold on e-Bay without a thought given to sentimental value or the fact that he might need his winter coat in Iowa City in January. After most of his worldly possessions were sold, Freyer embarked on the second part of his project-to visit the items that he sold in the homes of their new owners. The book includes the description of each item that was posted, auction information, a photograph of the item, and the follow-up on what happened to each item. Freyer's funny narrative and the simple thought of selling all of one's possessions to strangers make this book oddly appealing. The selling of his stuff changed Freyer's life in both subtle and significant ways. He says: "After I sold my toaster, I stopped eating toast." This quirky book is great to browse through, but some readers will want to read about every item, and the outcomes of the trips to visit them. It is great for all school and public libraries. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2002, Bloomsbury, 224p.; Photos. Maps., Ages 12 to 18.
—Kimberly Paone

Product Details

Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
8.34(w) x 8.44(h) x 0.88(d)

Meet the Author

John Freyer was born in Syracuse, New York and is the fifth of seven children. After graduating from Hamilton College with a degree in Political Science, Freyer worked at Light Work, a non-profit arts organization in upstate New York. In 1999, Freyer co-founded Wind-Up Films, an action sports film production company. He has been a snowboard instructor, a cinematographer on ski and snowboard films, and a graphic designer. Freyer has created numerous web sites, including his ongoing travelogue He is currently a Bodine Fellow in the Department of Art & Art History at the University of Iowa and lives in Iowa City.

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