downsizing and stuff – part 4 – nature

Downsizing does not include nature. Except for a few small houseplants, you don’t take “nature stuff” with you…from a house to a condo. It usually doesn’t get donated or sold. For the most part, that’s okay. Some of the nature I don’t miss: weeds, massive wasp tree hotels, chipmunk holes, poop in the back yard from the cat next door, wasp nests behind the shutters, leaf piles, ants. Oh, right….and piles of snow that need to be moved. We left that “stuff” of nature behind.

The nature I do wish we could have taken with us? The flowers that came to life in our yard this time of year.  The little purple crocuses that sprouted up around the maple tree; sometimes so early they poked through the last of the melting snow. Purple irises that originated in my great-grandmother’s garden in Cincinnati – making it to my parents’ house in NJ and then to our home of almost 37 years. They multiplied over the years and we transplanted them from one side of the house to the other. And then next to the garage.  And later, we added trilliums, daffodils and black-eyed susans to the mix.

daffodils
2013
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
2007

My husband and I moved to that house in early 1980. No kids yet. We were first time homeowners eager to start “decorating,” so we bought over a dozen tulip bulbs that fall.  We ceremoniously planted them in a small patch of dirt next to the house (alongside the iris); with 2 little girls who lived next door watching over our shoulders.  We didn’t know it at the time, but although tulips are “perennials,” they don’t last forever. Gradually fewer and fewer showed themselves every spring. Perhaps the salt runoff from the icy driveway killed them off.  I think there may have even been a few years with no tulips at all. However during the last few years before we moved out, one tulip showed up. Hooray! A welcome survivor and salute to our first attempt at landscaping.

tulips 1981007 copy
1981
tulips 2015
2015

Lilies of the valley. I miss them most of all. Transplanted from my in-law’s garden in the late 1990’s, they multiplied like crazy – gradually taking over the strip of dirt in front of the house. So delicate. So simple, green and white. Their sweet scent was like no other…when that huge patch was in full bloom, it took my breath away. Literally.

IMG_2109
2014

IMG_2108

I drove by our former home a few months ago and spotted the crocuses. Next to the tree by the road…same as always. I slowed down, but didn’t stop.

One of those peculiar sad happy moments….

IMG_1666
Front yard crocuses – 2012

 

downsizing and stuff – part 3 – Craig’s List

IMG_0032 copy

SCHWINN Girl’s Bike – 18″$50

Lavender and white classic “coaster brake” style bicycle in excellent condition, few scuff marks. This is a Schwinn high quality bike, 18″ with adjustable seat and handlebars.

One July morning, I received an email:

I am interested in this bike and would like to check it out. I live in (town) so contact me if it is still available and when a good time would be.

The next day, a white box truck decorated with images of fruits and vegetables arrived and parked at the end of my driveway. It was from a local produce company which advertises “locally sourced produce…from farm to table!”
The driver – the man who sent the email – walked up towards me where I was waiting with the purple bike. We had saved it hanging on the garage wall for many years. To look at it was to remember our blonde 5 year old bound and determined to ride a big-girl bike all by herself. And she did.

I showed the man the original handbook I had saved. He looked the bike over, pleased it was in such good shape. He wanted to buy a “high quality brand,” even if used, rather than a cheap Walmart bike. He was planning to surprise his 6 year old daughter named Daisy. It would be her first big-girl bike too. I knew it was meant to be as I watched him wheel it down the driveway to the truck. I had to smile…my grown up daughter belongs to a CSA and is bound and determined to buy local whenever possible.

 ***

REDLINE 340 Boy’s Bike$60

Dark Blue 20″ REDLINE 340 “Motocross” bicycle in EXCELLENT CONDITION. Includes water bottle holder, adjustable seat and handlebars.

One July morning, 2 weeks later, I received this email:

I am very interested in this bike. I am a BMX collector. Not the type that “flips” bikes for money. I love older BMX bikes from the 80’s and 90’s and like to restore or refurbish them. However I prefer to have “survivors” like this. I feel your price is fair and would like to buy it from you but my wife has informed me that my bike fund is depleted right now. The soonest I’d have money to buy this would be next Monday or Tuesday. I understand money talks and BS walks but if you’ve still got it by next week I’d like to arrange something with you.
Thanks for your time.

I emailed him that it was still available and he got right back to me.

That is GREAT!
I get paid again on Monday afternoon and will be ready with cash in hand as soon as Monday night. I would love to have this all original survivor BMX in my collection. I love collecting and riding BMX bikes, I’ve included a picture of a few of the bikes in my collection. All the ones that are just frame and fork are ones that are currently being restored by me. The one that stands alone is my own personal survivor bike from when I was a kid, I bought it new and have held onto it ever since.
Not that most people selling a bike care about where it goes but I just wanted to let you know that if you decide to sell your bike to me it will be going to a good home. (Lol)

Three days later I emailed him that the bike was still available.

His response:

Thanks! I’ve been into BMX since I was a young boy. I’ve gotten really into collecting and restoring over the last five or so years. It’s cheaper than collecting and restoring old cars! Lol. I’ll have the money tomorrow but won’t realistically be able to get out to (you) until probably Tuesday or Wednesday if that’s ok with you.
Feel free to call or text me with any questions
Thanks again, George.

George, my favorite and most enthusiastic buyer ever – probably in his 40’s – lived 1-1/2 hours away and arrived with his pickup truck one hot July day. He told me the story of his BMX bicycle collection, adding more details to the email descriptions. After very carefully inspecting the bike and pronouncing it “a score,” he paid the asking price. I noticed a woman – probably his wife – sitting in the passenger seat, rolling her eyes, with a profound look of resignation on her face. George later emailed me and included photos of my son’s bike all cleaned up and shiny; looking almost like new.

I just wanted to send you a quick message to say thanks again for the Redline BMX bike you sold me. I have been working on it and getting it cleaned up. I was able to finally get it out for a ride the other night and I gotta tell you this bike rides awesome. It has now become my new favorite bike to ride!
Thanks again, George

Before George bought it,  it had hung in a special place on the garage wall next to his sister’s. Our son was also an avid collector…of bottle caps, sports cards, pennies….  Selling his bike to such a dedicated collector also seemed meant to be.

 ***

Wurlitzer Piano$200

Wurlitzer spinnet style piano and bench. Manufactured in 1967.
Very good playing condition with some minor wood finish discoloration on top.

One morning in early June, I received this email:

May I look at the piano tomorrow on Sunday? I live in (town), so it will be a fast trip. I want to teach my three year old son how to play and this will fit into the house. Please call…

A young man from a few miles away arrived that sunny Sunday to check out our piano. It had been handed down to us from my mother-in-law, who took lessons on it in her 70’s.  He wanted a “real piano” and not an electric keyboard for his 3 year old son to learn on. The water stains on the top did not concern him.  The bench came with the music books – even ones I had learned on including Teaching Little Fingers To Play with the red cover. He handed me $200 in cash to hold it until the following weekend. I insisted on giving him a receipt. He did come back with a friend the next weekend as promised.  I wonder how that (now 6 year old) little boy likes his piano.

***

Vintage Hutch Credenza$25

condition: fair
Solid wood credenza with 2 doors and 2 drawers (one with felt areas for silverware).
This is a very old piece of furniture that is structurally very good.
It is very scratched, but could be easily painted.
Dimensions:
60″ W
20″ D
27″ H

This would be the final Craig’s List sale…
Three days before we closed on the sale of our house, the Salvation Army truck arrived to collect the leftover giveaway stuff which filled the 2 car garage. The one thing they would not take was this credenza because it was too scratched. Originally belonging to my husband’s grandmother, it was handed down to us and then used for storage.
Within an hour of posting this, a young man emailed me. Two days later he bought it and narrowly missed popping a hernia getting it into his car.
On to its next home. A narrow escape from the dumpster.

***

Downsizing from a 3 bedroom house with a full basement, garage and attic takes time. Lots of time. Well, it does if you want to save the earth and not add your unwanted stuff to the local landfill.

Many friends have asked  – how did you do it?

One major player? Craig’s List.

My friend Chris gave me very good advice about using Craig’s List…
Don’t be surprised if the person never shows up to buy your stuff.                           Always get the cash before handing over what you are selling.

Here’s what I learned:

  • Timing is everything
    If you want to sell 22 year old working, but noisy, window air conditioners, post them on a humid 95 degree summer day. Boom! Gone in hours. As I recall a buyer wanted one to keep her cat cool when she was away. I hope the cat didn’t go deaf.
  • Use positive descriptions such as Vintage, Classic, Antique.
  • Avoid old unless it’s absolutely necessary (see “credenza” above)
  • Include the Owner’s Manual if you can find it.
  • Look up any serial numbers for describing old (i.e.: vintage) items.
  • Search eBay for pricing ideas
  • Measure anything that you can measure.
  • Take photos in natural light, outdoors if possible.
  • Dust/clean old (i.e.: vintage) furniture. Make simple repairs such as tightening screws or replacing a hinge. It can make the difference.
  • Set up a time during the day for buyers to look at your items – preferably outside or in a detached garage.
  • Never assume there isn’t a buyer for something you want to sell. You have no idea how many times I heard….Nobody will buy that!  – and then someone did (well most of the time)

A few success stories:

Classic writing desk, vintage bureau, vintage shelf, vintage Silver Streak sled, vintage Yankee Clipper sled, LP Record Cabinet.

What never sold:

Cassette tape storage racks, video cassette player, Mad Men – Season 3, very large vintage speakers that still worked (and why couldn’t someone see how great they still were?).

And, last but not least, when you use Craig’s List to off load your stuff, you may meet some really cool people in the process!

[NOTE TO SELF & READERS: definition of spam….
An earlier response to my son’s bike posting – after I emailed back to a short inquiry asking if the bike was still available…..
Thanks you for the response according to the description,am okay with
the price and the condition pasted on cl. I am ready to make instant
purchase.My mode of payment would be in CERTIFIED CHECK and i will
arrange for a local pick up as soon as you get the check, because that
is the only inconvenient means for me and due to my work frame i can
not be able to get there and i promise everything will go smoothly.I
really wish to be there to check out the item but i don’t have chance
cause am very busy person (US MARINE). Concerning the pick up, i will
arrange for it after you receive the payment and it clears… Pls get
back to me with below info so that i can proceed with the payment
immediately if you are selling to me.
Full Name:
Address: Not P.O.BOX
City:
State:Postal Code:
Total amount for the item
Phone Number: That i can send text
And as soon as this is provided, the payment will be overnight to you
and i will let you know when its mailed out. Thanks and i hope we
handle this in good faith while waiting to hear from you. i will add
an additional $50 so that you can hold it for me till the check reach
you. Best Regards]

downsizing and stuff – part 2 – photos

It shouldn’t be surprising, but too much stuff can still survive the process of downsizing. Despite the carloads and truckloads and endless Craig’s List posts and sales, too much stuff snuck into our new – smaller – home.

I wonder…so what? I found room for it – piled in closets and the 2 tiny storage units that we own. And there it stays…possibly mocking me.

Hundreds of photographs, negatives (remember negatives?) and slides (remember slides?) neatly organized by month and year in those fancy decorated shoe boxes you get at Michaels on sale for $2. Who will ever want them? Will they all end up in the nearest dumpster someday?

Photos are now mostly digital…poof! no boxes. No spaces to fill up. You can fit thousands on one of those little flash drives that fit in your pocket.  But nothing to hold in your hand….in their hands. Pieces of photo paper – glossy or pearl finish, with borders or without. Images of history.  Flip them over and if you’re lucky you’ll find  dates, names, places. The older ones may be faded or yellowed. Well loved ones may be creased or lightened from the sun where they were tacked to a bulletin board or hung near a sunny window.

Remember this? When we went to watch sunsets at Sunset Beach? Remember when she was learning to eat with a spoon? Remember when he shot a 3 & pretended to be on the Dream Team? When Opa and I played Pinochle for hours? Look at us sitting there, both of us with cigarettes alight. Memory triggers….

They all tell stories if you look close enough. I think that’s what fascinates me the most. Body language. All lined up sitting on the couch but not touching. Or with arms entwined. That smile, that frown, that wink, that grimace. Who is there and who isn’t. It all tells a story. Some happy. Some not so happy. Some painful. It is all important. To someone. I am the keeper of all that.

And there are the photographs from a hundred years ago – long departed relatives and friends posing for photos only taken a few times in a year. Most are carefully posed with older women and men standing stiffly in a back row behind the younger women or children. Or, as in the case of my grandfather’s family; his father and uncle standing with arms crossed, others grinning, others not. Three generations together. What was the reason for the photo – bow ties and all? A turn of the century family story.

1915
circa 1915

 

This still doesn’t solve my problem. All those photos in the Michael’s boxes. And the rest in file size storage bins – including the aforementioned old photos plus polaroids and instamatic prints. Then there are school pictures of….everybody. I can’t imagine that my adult children will ever want the full extra set of their toothy grin fifth grade photos. Plus the bookshelf stuffed with 40 years of photo albums.

A new friend said to me recently – do you want to leave behind a gift or a burden? Not that I am planning to get to the “leaving behind” stage of life for a while.

So what to do? I still have no idea.

BUT…..It’s so much less than before.

I insist

(to myself)

downsizing and stuff – part 1 – the nest

Many of us are:

  1. thinking about downsizing.
  2. talking about downsizing.
  3. reading articles about how to downsize.
  4. going through stuff wondering “where did this come from?” as if it had snuck in when we weren’t looking. Or better yet “why did I buy this?” and having no answer to “why did I keep 6 shovels or this roll of ‘perfectly good’ rug scrap for 30 years?” [My favorite – “I swear these hangers are reproducing overnight. I keep finding more.”]
  5. purging piles of stuff or at least trying to.

And what is stuff? Well, everything is stuff. The hardest stuff to deal with….are those once precious belongings or mementos and, yes, diaries and journals that we hold on to for….”later.” Boxes and bags gathering dust in remote corners of houses and apartments and basements and attics; the stacks increasing year by year. The packing tape yellowed, cracking & falling off. This process is often jump started when adult children move out. Really move out.

The thing is…the term “empty nest” is misleading. The nest is not empty when the kids who inhabited said nest leave all their stuff behind…crammed in the nest they flew out of. Hmmm… That is not helpful.  A good friend of mine suggested Rubbermaid storage totes. “Put all their stuff in those totes. Let them come get them.” I knew we could never downsize with buckets of toys, sports cards, dolls, stuffed animals, books, clothing, magazines, saved schoolwork, etc. The Molly doll that my daughter saved up money for? — upside down in one of those buckets, glasses askew. That didn’t seem right. She once had a seat at our Thanksgiving table. Sigh.  Well, the kids flew the nest and and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Back to stuff. The solution to getting rid of the kids’ stuff ending up being fairly simple. I offered to ship it all to them via a pod. They could put it in storage where they lived (400 miles away in a major city). Panic ensued. “We don’t have room. Wait. WAIT.” They arrived a few months later, sorted through (most of) it, pared it down and rented their own storage unit nearby – a vastly cheaper alternative. It’s been 4 years and Molly remains safe and sound and upside down a few miles away. She is surrounded by 10,000+ carefully catalogued sports cards, a dog-eared collection of Babysitter Club paperbacks, and much more. Sorry Molly.

Adult children these days (when did I get old enough to say “these days”?)….do not want their parents’ (free!) old furniture or dishes or silverware. Ew. Old brown furniture. Ew again. No sentimental attachment to the kitchen table where one made earrings out of Cheerios? Or displayed the college acceptance letters? Or spread out racks for cooling Christmas cookies? They politely decline. I am not sure what the deal is there; but it is comforting to have this ice breaker discussion with any downsized empty nester. I am not alone. Look in any Goodwill, Salvation Army or Habitat for Humanity Restore facility – it is packed with old brown furniture that baby boomers have donated. Their kids don’t want it. An antique dealer I spoke to about this phenomenon snorted “all they want is that cheap Ikea stuff.”