April 16, 2013

In The End, All Our Stuff Isn’t Worth Much

by

Grundig Stereo

This is the stereo my grandparents bought in Germany in 1965. It’s now in my home.

For the past two weekends I’ve travelled to Texas to pack up my grandmother’s home. She hasn’t lived there for nine months, but she still calls it home. Probably why I haven’t been able to sell the house.

At the beginning of April I drove my Grandmother back so she can get her “important papers”. Never mind that if it was so important to go without it for nine months, it’s probably not all that important. But, I’m a dutiful granddaughter so I took her. I was going to figure out what state of disarray the house was in given that my grandmother hired an estate sale lady. That trip resulted in me calling 911 at 12:30am and my grandma spending the weekend in the hospital while I packed.

When I got to the house there was no water. Who knows how long the water to the house had been shut off, but it was. And I wanted to figure out why. So I finally figured out that the main water valve to the house was turned off, so I turned it on. Only to enter the house and hear gushing water. The hot water valve to the (now non-existing) water was corroded in the on position. So flaming hot water was spraying all over the garage. I think it only took me 4 giant leaps to get from the garage, out the front door and to the street to turn off the valve. After which I proceeded to clean up this huge mess. With bed sheets I tore off the bed because there were no towels of any sort in the house. Ugh!

Yes, this woman my grandmother hired sold the washing machine and knew there was a water issue but didn’t say anything. Fortunately, someone had enough sense to actually turn off the water. For that I’m grateful. For everything else, this woman has caused me so much grief. So with the water main turned off, I call – on a Friday night at 6pm, mind you – a plumber and wait around until 9pm. It was a quick fix, luckily.

All the while, I’m seething. I walked in to my grandparent’s house to what could be described as a ransacked mess. It was no wonder the house wasn’t getting showings or attracting a buyer. My Grandmother hired this “estate sale” woman. I didn’t know her name until I took the card from my Grandmother to call and demand this woman show up the next day to hand over the money she collected. While the house was a disaster, I knew quite a few things were gone (dare I say “sold”). It was easy to identify the larger pieces, but having gone through the house documenting everything I knew how much of the china, crystal, and collectibles were gone too.

My Grandma often describes her things with adjectives like “valuable”, “expensive”, “collectible”. She’s fond of telling me how much things cost, how they’re worth a lot. And while she does (or did) have some valuable pieces I was handed an envelope with $1,400 in it. This woman my grandmother hired sold about half my Grandmother’s belongings for less than $2,000. And I was left to deal with the fall out.

There’s nothing I can do. Except to pack up the rest of the house and wash my hands of this “estate sale expert”. I’m frustrated on so many levels. I’m the granddaughter. I give my grandmother her autonomy as much as possible. But she’s 93 and while she does not have Alzheimer’s, she has signs of vascular dementia which have caused her to exercise poor judgement and decision-making. And this was just one more example.

This past week CycleGuy and I packed up the house and brought it all back to Phoenix. It’s virtually empty, except for a few things in the garage I need to donate. My grandparent’s life has been packed up into 43 boxes and put in storage. A few pieces have been taken to my Grandma’s apartment (which is already bursting at the seams).

I’ve locked up the storage unit filled with boxes, many of which have “sell/donate” on them. My Grandma lived in her house for almost 45 years. But as I locked up the house, the “things” that were all so important and valuable meant nothing to anyone else. There is no dollar value for much of the things we have. I’m finding this out first hand. People may buy your things, they don’t buy your memories. And it’s the memories that  are most valuable. Everything else is just “stuff”.

 

Sara

{ 4 comments }

Christi @ Love From The Oven April 16, 2013 at 11:34 am

Wish I had some great words of wisdom, there is just nothing easy about any of this in any way. You have done an amazing job with an incredibly challenging situation that is hard in the best of times, when you aren’t being criticized or blamed for things, much less when the appropriate appreciation isn’t there. You are an amazing granddaughter, and even if she can’t express it, she is beyond fortunate to have you and your wonderful family.

Sara April 18, 2013 at 9:08 am

Thank you, Christi, for all your support. I’m glad to have someone who understands the challenges of relocating a family member and managing their affairs. ~ Sara

kim/the maker mom April 16, 2013 at 11:38 am

You are doing good by helping her like this. My parents are also collectors of this and that and it makes me crazy in part because it’s just stuff, as you say and in part because I am the one who is going to have to dispense of it all some day.

I go to plenty of estate sales in my community and they reinforce the message you’re sharing. It’s oddly fascinating feeling walking through a midcentury house that appears almost frozen in time. The tchockes and knicknacks that are curiosities or good finds for me meant so much more to someone else long ago. In the end, it’s just stuff.

Good luck with the house sale!

Sara April 18, 2013 at 9:04 am

Kim, thank you for your kind words and support. It was interesting to see how people would get so excited with something in my grandmother’s house, but knowing my grandparents probably paid so much more that what I was selling it for. I find comfort in knowing these things are going to a good home, though. Maybe that’s lame, but it helps. ~ Sara

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