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

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”.



Tips For Staying Organized In The Summer

It’s easy to let the house become disorganized in the summer. With the kids and their friends in and out all day, games and toys being played with and needing to stay out and all the clothes and gear from camp and being outdoors, it’s easy to just throw your hands up and say forget it! But summer doesn’t have to be a time of disorganization and throwing the rules out the window. Summer is the perfect time to ease in to new ways for the kids to help and teach (or re-teach) how to keep the house in order.

Whether you’re planning family time into your summer or putting together family vacation plans being organized is probably the easiest way to make it through the heat and humidity. Join me at Enough Time Moms to learn, share and discuss how you keep your family and home organized in the summer without losing your sanity.

Disclosure: I am a compensated blogger for Enough Time Moms. This post reflects my views and opinions and was not reviewed or edited by a third party. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Image Credit


End Of The Year Purge

I may be alone in this, but for some reason the last few weeks of December bring about an unnatural urge to throw things away (or donate them). It seems that I can clearly see all the junk that hasn’t been used and I want to get rid of it. It’s like freeing myself.

Sure, some of the stuff should have been discarded long ago. And maybe it’s having to rearrange stuff in cabinets and bins so I can get to things I really want. Or possibly it’s wanting to put away all the new stuff from Hanukkah and realizing there is no more space.

I’ve often thought that moving would be a good idea. After all, we’ve been in the same house about 14 years. I’ve got 14 years of stuff accumulated. And I have the desire to trash most of it. Because, well, most of it was probably not worth keeping in the first place. And isn’t the rule 7 years for maintaining documents? I guess that’s what it is if you’re not a lawyer and bound to keep all this paperwork until the end of time. Ugh!

And because I have what could amount to my own small drug store, I do have some dedicated space for my stockpile. But that doesn’t include the cabinets and such inside the house. Or the boxes that seemingly overtake the guest room.

The impetus for all this is often just one thing. This year it’s photo albums from my childhood and one that belonged to my mother. I had them in a cabinet in the garage. Fully exposed to all the elements, although lying to myself that they were safe because it was a metal cabinet. The reality is that the hot and cold fluctuations, the dust and varmints aren’t doing the preservation job I had thought.

Because I don’t have many photos of my mother, or of my childhood, these are actually very important to me. And I know better than to just put them in the garage. Well, in theory I know better. But in reality, 14 years of life begins to add up.

I’m not a hoarder by any stretch of the imagination. It’s crazy, though, to look at the stuff I have saved. Honestly, I can’t tell you why I saved some of this stuff. Other than because it has some meaning of some sort that I’ll recall if you give me a few minutes. Truly, things I’ve never used but are cute, adorable, sentimental in some way.

I don’t live a minimalist or zen lifestyle, although I do think that I should move in that direction. It will make it easier when CycleGuy and I move to France for our next phase in life (which he may have some inkling of but doesn’t really know about). But getting rid of things is really hard. Especially when those things mean something.

It took me 15 years to get rid of my books from college. Seriously! I could have sold those bad boys, but instead I schlepped them around the country because I might need them one day. Thanks to the internet though, I realized I didn’t and finally let them go. The other stuff, and I say stuff because I can’t really tell you exactly what it is, I’m not ready to let go.

Maybe it’s the beginning of a sickness? Now, though, I have this very strong urge to move the cars out of the garage and start discarding things. Things I haven’t used and likely never will. Things that honest and truly have no real meaning other than they’re mine. Seeing what I’ve accumulated over the years but no longer use gives me anxiety and makes me wax nostalgic at the same time.

It’s time though. To let the stuff go to a new home (or landfill, although the granola chick in me is very averse to that idea). 2012 holds new adventures and experiences. The past is over and not everything needs to be saved. Right?

It’s hard to let go. I imagine I’ll find all kinds of weird things. And at the same time I’ll find things that will make me wonder why on earth I ever saved it.

Do you get the urge to purge?


Where Did I Get All This Stuff?

I think my house is normal size. It’s about 3,000 square feet. OK, that’s HUGE! What am I doing with all this space? It’s just me, CycleGuy and BabyGirl. Sure, we used to have a dog. But Janers was a Jack Russell Terrier and small. But this is what we bought. Probably so we can put all our ‘stuff’ somewhere.

My first house was 1,900 square feet and seemed giant compared to the 1,000 square foot patio home CycleGuy and I rented. That first house was pretty sparse for quite some time. But after a piece here, a rug there, guest room furniture so Bubbie could visit it did start to fill up. Then we moved.

Off to Ohio and yet another house. This time a 2-story house with a basement. That house seemed downright gigantic! Partly because the master was on the main level so we didn’t spend a lot of time upstairs. All the rooms were furnished and everything was in its place. But we rarely used half of it.  Fast forward to our move back to Arizona.

Our house in Arizona is about the same size as the Ohio house but doesn’t have a basement. Not that we kept a ton of stuff down there anyway. But, evidently we kept plenty which now has to be stored in the garage. We have a 3-car garage mainly so we could have storage. It’s starting to look very full. Boxes upon boxes upon boxes of paperwork that I have to keep for work. Tax documents. Sports equipment, my stockpile of household items and so much more. And that’s just the garage!

As I spent the last week in the Bay Area looking for a place for CycleGuy and realizing that when BabyGirl and I move up there that there is no way we’ll be moving in to a house anywhere near the size we have now. We’ll definitely need to downsize quite a bit. And then it hit me. Where will I put all the ‘stuff’? Which led me to then wonder how I have amassed all this ‘stuff’.  Seriously, where did all this stuff (and junk!) come from?  And why do I have it in my house?

I’m not a hoarder. About 3 times a year CycleGuy and I go on our cleaning spree and thin out the junk, uh, I mean valuable stuff. I’m always amazed at how much we toss. And yet, it never looks like we’ve touched a thing. We do this every 4 or so months, so where does it all come from? It’s like it multiplies while I sleep.

I don’t shop a lot, so I know I’m not adding a lot to the growing amount of things I have. I purge! Bags to the local donation spot, some to the trash heap, other things given to friends or passed along. Still, it looks like I’ve done nothing and all these things are making their way back in to my house.

Maybe I’m just used to seeing it that I just think I have a ton of stuff. Yes, I know BabyGirl has a lot of toys and craft stuff and books and dolls and there are many incarnations of school materials. Truthfully, I wonder where all this stuff came from. If I sit down and focus I can detail how most things came about being in my house. Maybe the better question is why do I keep all this stuff.

I recently had a friend who moved back and rented a small place and kept most of her belongings in storage for the past year. Upon taking her things out of storage a few weeks ago as she moved in to a bigger place, she was excited to see all of stuff again. At the same time she realized that things which used to mean so much to her and would never part with weren’t more than just things. Maybe some sentimental value, but mostly just things. Widgets. Fungible items that were just taking up space.  When you live without your stuff for a year you realize what you do and do not need.

I can’t imagine living without all the stuff in my house. But the reality is that I probably could get rid of most things and not miss them.

Would you miss your things if you had to get rid of them? Which things can’t you live without?


When Is It Time To Declutter?

Awhile back I wrote a post about things we save and hide away, never to use the because the time isn’t right. This evening I had a few of my blog-world friends over and as I was putting things out I was realizing that I have so many things I never use – cups, platters, bowls, chairs. Then, as CycleGuy was helping me wash and put things away I was handing him some glasses and asked him why we don’t use them everyday.

It’s not like they are super fancy or crystal or anything like that. They’re regular drinking glasses. He just looked at me and said ‘Because you’re saving them for some reason’. He didn’t say it in a mean or rude way. He was just matter of fact. And he was right.

I have all kinds of things hidden up in the pantry and cupboards and even in the closets, just waiting for the right occasion. We used to entertain a lot more, but when you have a young child it changes up your schedule. And, well, our friends also have young kids too so they wouldn’t come anyway. Or, that’s how I saw it and thus rationalized my actions.

Why do we have things we don’t use? I often think of my friends who live in New York whose entire apartment would fit in my living room and wonder if they have stuff they don’t use. But, I wouldn’t think so. When you have 500 square feet you don’t really have a lot of room for ‘stuff I only use one a year or even less’. Maybe they share with their friends? How else could they live without eleventy billion serving platters or glasses or table cloths?

Some days I want to move solely for the fact that I’d have to get rid of things. BabyGirl’s French teacher is moving this weekend into a larger home and we got to talking about how excited she was to finally have all her stuff out of storage. It’s been in storage about a year. At the same time she wonders what in there she really needs since she’s lived without it for an entire year.

I know I have stuff I haven’t used in a year. At what point do I just get rid of it? If I could get rid of (as in sell for cash!) some of this stuff, I might have enough money to do something cool and worthwhile.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has stuff filling her house that doesn’t get used, so, tell me, why do you keep your stuff instead of getting rid of it. Maybe you have good reasons and I’ll just co-opt them as my own. Ok?