My house is gone, sold, cleaned out
The Resale Evangelista
And oh, what hell it was! But I’ll get into all that later. Suffice to say for the moment that what I thought would take 4 days took 10. I missed two flights and rescheduled four others. My arms and legs are bruised from packing and moving. And this was an operation that went relatively smoothly. The simplified life is not as easy as it might look.
For the moment, I’m just offering a few verbal snapshots of the experience–and repeating my advice: If you think you will ever move out of your current abode, begin sorting, packing and discarding now! Trust me–start now!
Telling Time, Bird by Bird
I’ve always enjoyed spring’s predawn cacophony of birdsong. The earliest chirps break out around 5 a.m., soon escalating into full-fledged orchestral tune-up. The first fingers of sunlight begin tracing shadows on the window shade by 5:30. Secure in the knowledge that another day is dawning, I turn over, pull the pillow over my head and sleep another hour or two.
Not this time, Missy. I closed on the house Tuesday morning, got my hair cut and had a quick lunch with a friend. The buyers were closing the following day. Needless to say, there were a few things left to pack and haul away. Luckily, I had realized Monday evening that I was a little behind and changed my departure from Tuesday at 6 p.m. to Wednesday at 6 p.m. Thank you, Southwest Airlines, for your no-change-fee policy. (Which I used again on Wednesday to reschedule for a Friday flight.)
Back to the birds. There I was, sorting through a few things (okay, a lot of things) when I heard the tell-tale predawn chirp. Nah, couldn’t be, could it? I checked the windows: Still dark, but with the unmistakable bruised-blue tint of approaching sunrise. The bird orchestra was soon in full-throated warm-up. I’ll say this about working through the night–deciding to get rid of things is a hell of a lot easier at 3 a.m. than it is during the day. That’s about when I decided to give my television to my son’s girlfriend, rather than pack it for storage. The impulse evaporated with the realization I’d still have to pack and transport the TV. Simple solution? Just walk the television (in the dark) over to the neighbor’s porch. Imagine their surprise in the morning!
Misery Loves Company
By Thursday, everything was at least out of the house and in the garage. But there were boxes, so many boxes. Boxes I hadn’t opened in 10 years. Why start now? I determined to save time by pitching without sorting. After all, what could be so important in boxes stored for so long in the garage or basement?
Well, my son’s baby book, which I found when I noticed his name on a folder in one of the boxes. A brand-new-with-tags Coach laptop bag, origin unknown. Four years of journal entries from the late Nineties, which I long ago gave up on finding. A copy of my parents’ original family trust, now the subject of sibling dispute. Several pieces of writing, the only other copies of which are locked on obsolete floppy disks. Pitching without sorting was no longer an option.
Enter my neighbors. Chris and Maryann (you may remember their sons, Joe and Matt, as models of my top hat) pulled me away from the garage on Wednesday for hamburgers and Matt’s special fries (crinkle-cut), and again on Thursday for chicken curry. Maryann wrapped the delicate kitchen things left on the shelves when I couldn’t stand touching another sheet of butcher paper. Jason and Christie said I could leave anything I couldn’t carry, and they would dispose of whatever it was, one way or another. Mike and Linda stood with me for two hours while I went through boxes. Mike took anything technical and all the foreign language dictionaries; Linda claimed odds and ends for a charity garage sale and even accepted the two under-the-bed drawers that would in no way fit into my rental SUV. And when it was dark and cold and I just wanted to leave a bunch of crap–er, stuff–on the lawn until the following morning, Mike helped me put it all in the garage.
Thanks, guys. I couldn’t have done it without you.
What’s the Worst That Could Happen?
It was Friday. I had packed the last, most difficult load of my belongings into the rented SUV. A bed frame with slats, which I couldn’t–or wouldn’t–take the time to disassemble, therefore requiring that it be fitted diagonally into the SUV, stretching from the front seat, passenger window and protruding out from under the hatchback on the driver’s side. That necessitated tying the hatchback down with an extraneous piece of some sort of cable (of which I had many baskets that ended up at Goodwill). The load consisted of other bits of flotsam and jetsam, including the most problematic–several gallons of old paint. I hadn’t been able to locate a disposal center and was, therefore, planning to illegally dump the paint at my storage center.
My flight was to leave St. Louis at 6:05 p.m. I was heading for Public Storage at 4 p.m., thinking I might actually make the flight–which I had already rescheduled three times (thank you, again, Southwest, for your policy of not charging for changing flight schedules.)
Driving down Manchester Avenue, another driver started beeping his horn and, when I met his eyes, he gestured toward my tailgate. Shoot, I thought (no, that’s not exactly what I thought), maybe the bed frame is slipping. I pulled into a bus-stop lane, put the emergency flashers on and got out to check the tailgate. The bed frame was secure. But a can of cream-colored paint had tipped and was spilling over the bumper of the black rental vehicle. “Fudge,” I thought. No, that is definitely not an exact quote. I pulled the offending can of paint out of the car and dumped it in the public trash basket at the bus stop.
Since this was not my car, it wasn’t equipped with the wealth of rags and shammies normally available in the back of my Subaru. I headed–hyperventilating–for the nearest gas station, hoping for a hose or faucet. No such luck–there was only an air pump for tires.
I dashed inside and bought two bottles of water. No cleaning rags available. I poured the water on the paint and used the windshield cleaning wand stocked by the gas pumps. This was not going to work or, at least, not quickly enough. I ran back inside and bought a gallon of windshield washer fluid and grabbed a big handful of paper towels. Thank God the paint was latex, and hadn’t spilled inside the car. I managed to swab off the paint before it dried, thus saving myself thousands of dollars in charges for repainting the vehicle. (I have to admit it: I also disposed of two or three more cans of paint at the gas station. What can I say, I was desperate.)
Maybe it’s my sporadic practice of Buddhism. After the paint spill, I realized I was going to again miss my flight. I think in my whole life–the child of a TWA pilot, so one who flew often–I have actually missed three flights. In the past, I would be cursing, sweating, racing to the airport. Now? Phhfft! There will be another flight tomorrow. (Thank you yet again, Southwest.)
Ending on a bright note
Here’s the best part. In pitching stuff–I did empty about 30 boxes, consolidating them into three or four–I tossed out a lot of film negatives and slides. Joe Musial, 15, retrieved many of them and asked if I minded if he kept them. Of course I didn’t–I sense a fellow dumpster diver in the making.
Over dinner, we looked at the negatives and slides. And you know what? Joey, who (along with his brother) is one of the two smartest kids that I know, said he had never seen a slide or negative. Isn’t that amazing? I once interviewed a man in Iowa who remembered seeing his first steam engine chugging across the prairie, spewing smoke. I felt like that old man, having witnessed a bygone era of technology.
We held the negatives up to the light over the dinner table and, without having my glasses, I was able to identify myself by the shape of my hair. Maryann explained that negatives reverse the dark and light areas of a photograph. I had developed some of the film myself; Joey was unfamiliar with that concept. And when Chris mentioned that, if you wanted to magnify a slide image, all you had to do was use a thumb and forefinger to swipe the picture, Joey–a computer jockey–didn’t get the joke. Made sense to him.
Did I learn any valuable lessons through this ordeal…I mean, experience? Not really, nothing that I didn’t already know about myself.
- I am overly optimistic. I always assume a task will take much less time to accomplish than is realistic.
- I live by deadlines, even when I miss them. Having a deadline at least gets me started.
- My first instinct in a crisis is panic. I hyperventilated twice while moving–I’ve never hyperventilated previously in my life.
- After the hysteria passes, I do what needs to be done. What choice do I have?
- Friends are the best.
And for you all? I can’t say it often enough: Start getting rid of stuff now!