We lived for a while, waiting. Rushed, yet in limbo, we were waiting till the day we were to be officially and completely moved out of and free from our house.
It took us over a year to sell the house and it is probably quite good that we had so much time. We had a lot of stuff, accumulated over 14 years of being in the same house, plus stuff brought from past homes.
Our packed four floors of stuff overwhelmed my mom. She threw up her hands and turned away her head to all of it. Which means of course that all the stuff fell into my hands.
I helped paint, fix, and remodel the house as much as I could, but the main job of fixing and selling the house was taken on by my mother. She had 14 years of fixing that house up under her belt already. It was a job she was capable of and more comfortable doing.
There was a two car garage, a massive attic, a crawl space, and two regular house floors. There had been six of us in the house to start with, ending up with three (plus three cats!). But a lot of the other three’s stuff had been left behind.
I began with the attic after first really deciding that we were going to do this move. First to go was my brother’s and sister’s stuff. There wasn’t much to do but to break the silence and notify my dad. I lugged all the many boxes of my siblings’ stuff out to the driveway and let my dad come and whisk it away.
A dear neighbor I babysat for informed me of a KidsXchange option that helped me tremendously with the rest of the crap up in that huge attic. KidsXchange was held in two large complex buildings where parents, or anyone, can sign up to sell anything kid related.
My neighbor helped me sign up and print out price tags. I easily spent three full days sitting on the floor, sorting through and tagging the items in boxes and boxes of childhood toys that, for some reason, we still had.
Every now and then I had to get up and ask my mom’s advice on what to price an item. Before getting an answer I would hear, “Oh, you used to play with this when you were a baby! You loved this toy! I can’t believe we are getting rid of it.” Yes it was a lovely toy, I’d say, then ask again how much it should be. She’d frown, give a number, sigh, then leave.
It was a blessing that my mom and I are so dissimilar. I loved the gratifying feeling of getting rid of useless stuff. But more than that, it was my way of pushing to get out the door of the USA. As the selling rolled on however, the nostalgia seemed to wear off a bit and my mom began to enjoy it as well.
I actually made back about how much I spent as a kid on Littlest Pet Shop. My childhood best friend Devon and I used to get rich selling cookies and lemonade and then spend it all on LPS’s. My mom cringed whenever we would buy those plastic things, but we had a ton of fun with them, and since we were paying for them ourselves, she had less of a reason to protest.
I can’t tell you how many hours I spent taking pictures and putting up every single item from our property onto craigslist. Craigslist made it worth the effort. It was a major success.
Craigslist, for those who haven’t tried it, is a website for specific cities where anyone can post items they have for sale, in addition to a great many other uses. People from your area can respond to your ad via encrypted email. From there, you can coordinate a time and place to trade an item for cash. Most of what we got rid of was sold in this manner, and every single stranger (and there were many) we met was friendly.
For a good span of time, we were selling at least one thing per day.
One lady came right to our house (I had gotten adept at seeing who was friendly and safe just by email. You do have to sift out the weird and spam ones) to look around at what we had. She pointed to my sister’s multicolored lamp and asked how much. I had gotten so sick of that lamp that I quoted $5. She lit up and said “so cheap!” and bought a few other things too. I helped her pack her car completely full.
Most of what we sold was sold for more, the same or close to the same price that my mom paid for the item, despite the years of use.
One lady was in her 80’s and bravely came to our house to buy a rug all by herself.
The man that bought our ping pong table gave me $60 too much. After counting and realizing this, I let him know and handed it back. He stared at me with such a shocked face. I don’t think I’ll forget it.
Some young couples came to get things to start a life together. Some well traveled people came and gave advice and stories about where they had been.
Once a big, burly tattooed man stopped by to pick up a kitchen counter in our garage. As with many times, it was just me doing the trade, so I could’ve been scared, but he, like all others, was decent and polite.
I once had my mom meet someone to sell a rug. She later told me that she spent over an hour talking with the person.
Perhaps our most interesting craigslist story was the story of our kitchen cabinets. My mom suggested that, because we were remodeling the kitchen, we should put up the cabinets for free, as long as the person who wanted them took them down themselves.
I received over 60 emails from that one posting in two hours. I emailed every single one of them back and, in a way, let them know about the competition. I stated that we were also in need of the help of a plumber, so anyone able to provide some additional plumbing help would be the cabinet winner.
One man replied promptly to the ad and said he was in fact a plumber. My mom noticed as he came by and started helping us that he was in fact not a plumber. He did spend quite a bit of time, with his grandchild, putting in a sink and trying (unsuccessfully) to fix a leaky bathtub though. We ended up giving him other things in addition to the cabinets he took out, so we were happy all around.
My mom gave a lot of furniture away, I sold some things to neighbors through our neighborhood site, and we donated many van loads full of stuff. We even donated our green couch to a charity organization called The Green Chair. My mom traded some of her outdoor equipment in exchange for work on the house.
We once did a yard sale, but that was a very, very bad idea. Sure, we sold some stuff, but at yard sales people expect everything to be $1.
At the end, we still had a few valuable items of furniture left. We had a company pick them up for us and sell them, though they took 50% of the profit.
The most worrying was our washer machine, which was a beastly, heavy machine. At the last second, a neighbor came with a trolley to bump it out and buy it.
To get through it all, my mom and I adopted a four pile system: keep, give away, sell, or trash.
In the end, my mom only had a 5X10 container full of what she wanted to store and keep. Now though, after 7 months, she wishes it was all gotten rid of. But hey, you can only do what you can do at the time.
I’m keeping my instruments and books at a good friend’s house. I’ve recently informed her that I’m ready to send all my collection of books back to the amazing second hand book store where I bought most of them. 🙂 I’ll be okay without them. There are libraries all over the world and most books I want to read are free online.
I do miss my piano, flute, piccolo, home videos, and kitty cats, but that would be all!
A backpack sized bag of stuff is big enough for me. I feel strangely fuller, and fully freer.