It’s been six weeks since my first post and I now realize this sorting process is taking far longer than I ever expected. It all sounded so simple! A couple of years ago I first came upon Tim and Lynn Martin’s blog as they embarked on a similar adventure. They explained how they donated or sold their possessions including their home in just a couple of weeks. Not a problem…I thought, I can do that! Maybe I just didn’t take into account how much we had accumulated in the past 20 years, but having done periodic sorting I really thought it would be relatively easy! WRONG!

When Bob retired on June 13 we sat down and established a schedule setting aside a day per room, thinking we’d put things into 4 piles: things the kids needed to look at, estate sale, Goodwill or throw out, keeping only those things that we’d use in the next few months and keeping in mind, we want the house to look like a home as it shows to prospective buyers. My plan proved a bit too ambitious!

First obstacle: what do we do with the things that we will sell? And the things the kids need to go through? At first we set aside a room for those items, but when that room filled in the first few days, we realized that wasn’t going to work. So we began putting things in closets…those closets I had just been so proud of emptying!

A second challenge was trying to determine what items have more than sentimental value and if they do, then what do we do with them? For instance, we found two prints from the 1930’s with artist signatures. After researching on the internet we found an art appraiser in Holland, Michigan, and made an appointment to talk with him. Turns out they do have significant value and so we are going through a process to preserve them. (Amazing how when treasures are found, we have to spend more money to ensure their continued value!) Having accumulated costume jewelry from Bob’s maiden aunts, his mother and my mother, we literally have buckets of the stuff. What does one do with that? To sell it on eBay would take an incredible amount of time…something that seems to be pretty scarce right now.

Next came box after box of photographs. Bob and I spent more than 24 hours sorting through photos, postcards and notes (so much for the one day per room idea). Some dating as far back as the late 1800’s. Our mantra became: “If our kids don’t know the people, we throw the pictures out!” I did save about 10 sets of pictures to send to relatives and friends for whom the pictures would have some meaning. An added bonus are the notes and phone calls I’ve received when those mementos were received.


Then came the basement. The place where when I don’t know what to do with something, it’s placed in a plastic tub and taken down there…sort of out of sight out of mind. Our son, Stephen, who lives in DC offered to come home for a week and help us go through things. I’m not sure he knew what he was in for when he volunteered. (I’m sure the other 3 kids are thinking, “OMG what do they have in mind for me to do?”) But oh was his help a godsend! We sorted a lot, laughed a lot, and drank a lot of beer. I’m sure it’s an experience neither he, nor his father nor I will ever forget. Finding decades old pictures (yep, there were more down there!) of all of us, long forgotten school projects, souvenirs from family camping trips made for many recollections and while not exactly fun…the experience definitely had its memorable moments of hilarity.

So where do we stand now? The last remaining challenge is the garage. I think as we’ve moved through this process it’s become easier to know what to throw away and what to sell. (After 40+ years in education, however, I have found myself saying, “Oh a teacher could use that. Put that on the free table.”) While Stephen was here we did gather a lot of hazardous wastes including: some pesticides as well as hydrochloric acid, oil paints and motor oil left by the previous owner. Yep, you read that right. We have allowed that to remain in the garage and basement for the past 20 years. After much searching Stephen found a location about 80 miles from here that would accept these items periodically and how convenient that the next collection date (by appointment only) was only 2 days after his call. We traipsed down there with 4 tubs full of wastes. We were so pleased with ourselves that we were discarding these items in a safe way! When we got home after driving more than four hours, Bob said, “I won’t tell people how stupid we are, if you don’t. We left the oil paint and the Raid in the middle of the garage floor!” When Bob called to schedule a second appointment for the conservation area’s next collection date, the woman inquired, “Weren’t you just here?” Guess the secret’s out now!

I think we’re making good progress! We’ve contacted a realtor. The house goes on the market August 25. This gives us three weeks to get the garage cleaned out and the deck painted. Then hopefully the house will sell quickly. In early September we’re headed to Alaska for a couple of weeks. Wouldn’t it be nice if the house sold while we were gone?