Estate sale prep…not so easy

We sending this painting of our house to my sister Julie in California. Goodbye house, goodbye painting. Ah…goodbye sister.

They arrived on time, all five of them, loaded up with bins, tables, price tags, papers, armed and ready to begin sorting and pricing a lifetime of our stuff.

Suddenly, furniture was moved, drawers were emptied and the laundry basket I was using to do laundry was filled with items to be sold.  I quickly emptied it and filled it with my dry laundry to be folded, laundress that I am in the worst of times.

I felt panicky. I’d sent a few texts to friends, eliciting comfort for my stifled hysteria while quietly roaming about gathering endless piles of items to be moved out with us.  They responded with compassion, although I could sense that they were baffled by an appropriate response.

What does one say to a person who has loved to entertain guests, possessing all the perfect accouterments in an effort to make each experience a memorable event for every guest, when all those items become nameless and unattached?  

Wandering from room to room, I felt a sense of robbery, pillage, detachment, not over my personal effects: clothes, cosmetics, jewelry and trinkets.  The sense of loss was born over the those items that I had used for years to create ambiance, warmth, love and sharing with family and friends over a lifetime, or to design a romantic dinner for Tom and I with specially prepared food and thoughtfully chosen drinks, soft music and a fresh bouquet of flowers.

The arrangement of it all, pleasing to the senses with the ultimate desire to have the experience linger.  As they cleared out our aperitif, wine and shot glasses, a plastic enclosed piece of paper dropped to the floor.  I noticed that it sat there undisturbed for awhile while I was cleaning a drawer.  

Picking it up, my heart sank while at the same time a wide smile came across my face from the happy memory. It was a drink list I had prepared from which guests could choose their favorite wine, beer or cocktail.  We kept no less than 15 different brands of beer, 12 types of alcohol, 6 liquors and a wide array of mixes and popular concoctions to satisfy every guest’s personal taste.

Tom or I would said, “Pretend you are at a bar and choose your favorite drink. We will make it for you.”  And make them we did; in the perfect glass served with a  little napkin to catch the drips, an umbrella if appropriate, a decorated little stick to hold pickled mushrooms, olives, onions or maraschino cherries, a slice of orange or a perfectly cut lemon or lime.  This menu of drink options, elegantly typed, slipped through my fingers and into the trash.  No one will buy that. 

The estate sale people, although quite busy with the stuff, took the time to be kind and sensitive in handling all of our belongings and to the reality of the loss. Thank you Jim, Nadine, Jason, Lena, Sheri and Jessica. So kind.

I didn’t cry. Taking deep breaths, answering texts and taking calls from some of my amazing friends; Karen, Chere, Carol, Jamie and Steph, all brought comfort.  My thoughtful daughter-in-law Camille, looming in and out all day, aware of my angst, offered a safe haven every few hours by phone and by text, is coming today. We’ll  spend time with the three little grandchildren while she drives me around, laughter and stories coming from the three little passenger in the backseat.

Stranded that I am, we’ll go to the UPS store to mail the above painting of our house that has hung over the fireplace in the kitchen for years to be sent to my sister Julie in Los Angeles.  Goodbye picture!   

(We’re not ready to face the goodbye of loved ones yet. I’ll write about that  later).

As I sit here in my comfy chair, soon to be moved to a more “sales orientated location,” I write today, an off day.  Usually, I write this blog every other day but today was different.  Perhaps, I will write every day once we are “out in the world” but today was truly different.

We’ve decided to move to Karen’s home on Sunday, getting situated before the Vikings game at noon.  Tom can watch the game on her big screen TV while I go to Costco to order the food and supplies for his upcoming retirement party on the 27th.  So much to do.  So little time.  

Who am I to complain or feel sad?  We have the most exciting life that we could ever have dreamed, ahead of us.  But, that’s the magic of Life. We are allowed to feel, to laugh, to cry, to whine, only moments later to rejoice.  Who’s to say it should be different?

Are there rules regarding the order in which we feel? Should sadness only be reserved for sad times and joy for happy times?  It’s ironic how we often laugh at wakes and funerals and cry at movies, having little to do with the state of our lives at the time. 

I give myself permission to feel a little sad, however fortunate we may be, in the process of letting go of a lifestyle that has so much enriched our lives and filled us with a lifetime of memories.  

Perhaps a year from now while living in Kenya, we will cry when we witness a lioness and her cub sitting along the road as we drive to the grocery store or laugh when a zillion tsetse flies are flying around our heads while we cook outdoors at the braai.

Ah, Life, thank you for being so rich.

Bye, bye, musical memories…

A few hours later the CDs were organized and ready to be sold at the upcoming estate sale. 

Having not moved in 26 years, it’s difficult for me to comprehend having everything in order in 20 days when the estate sale people arrive to start the process of sorting and pricing our belongings.  Ouch! Moving in the past seemed easier: pack, label and seal cardboard boxes, moving them to the next home, placing the boxes in the appropriate rooms to begin the process of unpacking. 

We’ve all experienced this at different times in our lives and although a stress laden experience, we all have managed our way through it to eventually unpack and put it away. The goal was to unpack neatly with the hope and expectation that the cupboards, drawers and closets would stay organized forever. Ha!

As I look around our house, decorative items still on the shelves, clothes still hanging in closets, pictures still on the walls, I see piles of boxes of photos and memorabilia ready to be mailed or dropped off to our grown children including boxes of special items to be distributed to the grandchildren as they mature; boxes of items to be sold at the sale and our never ending pile of luggage.  

Have I gone through every nook and cranny in this house, extricating the memorabilia or items that we may choose to take with us on our travels?  Our estate sale guy promises we’ll have one last time to peruse the items prior to the sale to ensure we haven’t missed a handmade treasure from our child’s or grandchild’s art class. That’s comforting.

In the past few days, I’ve removed every personal item from my car which is to be offered for sale next week on CarSoup where I had successfully and seamlessly sold my last car years ago, in a matter of a few days. 

In the process of cleaning my trunk, glove box and center console, I discovered no less than 15 music CDs most of which were installed in the multi-CD player.   Bringing them inside the house to sort and place them back into the cases, it dawned on me that I had yet to sort the 100+ music CDs we have accumulated in the house over the years.

As I handled each one, “memories flooded my mind” of disco dancing days, romantic dinners for two and quiet reflections to “new age” music so popular in the 80’s.  The thought of our magical Christmas’s, with music filling the air during our festive holiday celebrations, brought tears to my eyes. 

Ah, letting go of stuff, the process continues. One month and one day from today, it will all be gone.  What will remain? The memories. The memories. And the memories. 

Logistics of the final days…

Our estate sale will occur from Thursday, October 25th through Sunday, October 28th. Our estate sale guy, Jim Anderson of Caring Estate Sales explained that we must be gone for those four days.  

He’ll start pricing items a week before the sale officially begins.  At that point, we must have all of our personal effects and items we want to keep, out of the cabinets, drawers, cabinets and off of the walls and a week later, out of the house.

In regard to most estate sales the homeowner is dead, obviously not around, pestering with comments such as, “Oh, that’s not enough money for that!”  We must be out of the house the entire four days of the sale.  

Dilemma #1:  Where will I go for those four days with no car (mine will have been sold)?  Tom will be at work during the hours of the sale.

When the sale is complete on Sunday, October 28th,  Tom has to go to work three more days, planning to be done by 9 am on Wednesday, the 31st where he’ll go to work only to receive his “retirement cake” a tradition at the railroad for all retirees.  (I guess he’ll eat gluten that day.  Oh, well. After 42 years he deserves to eat cake).  

End result, we need to stop using our house as we’ve known it around October 18th.  We’ll be able to use the built in appliances to cook and a few old pans, plates and flatware that we don’t plan to sell, tossing them when we’re done.  

Dilemma #2: Do we stay in the house (after I find somewhere to go for the four days) until the 31st when Tom’s work ends, at which point we sign the papers on the house and begin the drive in Tom’s car to Scottsdale? Do we live in the house after everything is gone, TVs, our two comfy chairs, sofas, bar stools at the huge island in the kitchen?  How will it feel to watch everything we’ve loved and enjoyed dwindle down to a bed in which we’ll fitfully sleep until we leave?

Our dear neighbor Jamie kindly suggested I hang out at her house for those four days. (Our three adult kids have cats to which I am allergic. I can’t spend more than an hour in their homes  plus I won’t have transportation). How will I feel watching the cars driving down our narrow road toward our home, later driving away with our belongings in their cars, trucks, and SUVs?  Yikes!

Yesterday morning, thinking aloud to one another, we considered the following realities:

  1. I won’t have transportation
  2. The four days of the estate sale, we’ll have to be out of the house by 7 am each morning, most difficult on the weekend when we are both here. What will we do all weekend from 7 am to 5 pm?
  3. How will we live in our house, stripped of all its accouterments, with only a bed for several days, no chair, no sofa, no table?
After multiple possible scenarios we narrowed it down to this:  We must entirely move out of the house beginning Wednesday, October 24th, coming back to inspect the status, make decisions on remaining items and collect our money.

The estate sale guy will remove all refuse, haul items to be donated to various organizations and our dear long term house cleaner, Teresa, will do the final cleaning.  We’ll pay fees for this additional support, but have determined it will be well worth the cost, reducing our stress at such a crucial time.

Sure, we could stay in a hotel for a week. Used to the reasonable cost of vacation rentals, I cringed at the price of a decent hotel, a car rental (or I’d be trapped in a hotel room for a week) and meals for a week at a total cost of around $1500, a cost for which I hadn’t budgeted.  

One of my closest friends has offered that we stay at her beautiful and spacious home, a mere 15 minutes away, an offer made with the utmost of sincerity.  Tom and I adore her and her two sons and have been to their home many times, as they have ours.  It will feel comfortable.  They eat the same healthful diet as we do.  I can prepare dinner for all of us each day.

Alone at her home during the days, I will work out when Tom returns when we go to see the house in the evenings during the sale. My laptop on hand, I’ll continue to write here, do additional research for our travels and fine tune our spreadsheets. It will be fine. Thank you, dear friend.

On Saturday afternoon the 27th, we’ll head out for the hour’s drive to Tom’s retirement party for his co-workers and family members, close to his work at a large hall. Youngest of 11 children, his family alone will account for over 100 guests. Add 42 years of co-worker/friends, we could be looking at 100’s. Oh.

Busy planning the food, the invitations, the cake and other necessities of party planning, need I say, life is busy. It’s no doubt, that we’ll need a multi-year vacation!

Its all in the details…

Our crab cracking and dining tools 

As a person entrenched in the details, it’s not unusual to me that I have six tools one could use to crack crab legs: two types of crackers, two types of crab scissors, a pick and a small fork, service for eight. It’s not coincidental that I have service for eight.  Who would want to “shell out” (couldn’t resist) enough crab legs for more than eight people? 

This came to mind yesterday when I recklessly spent $48 for two bags of king crab legs plus $28 for the accompanying grass fed New York strip steaks.  

This is for three of us for Sunday night’s dinner; Tom and I and our friend Sue, who comes for dinner every Sunday night since the passing of her dear husband and our beloved friend Chip. She’s a trooper. Our hearts break for her. They were our role models as a happy, retired couple. Now, we are witnessing the depth of the loss of a beloved partner, excruciatingly sorrowful, a double whammy.

We laugh, we cry and we tell endless stories of our 26 years here on the point. (You can read about Chip in my post on June 1, 2012 found here in the archives).  We three deserve steak and crab.  

The combined cost of the meat at $76, plus the veggies and the salad, it may prove to be a $90 dinner at $30 each. We seldom eat in a restaurant.  However, each of the past two Saturday nights we did, first at Osaka in Coon Rapids with daughter and family and then at Biella In Excelsior with son and his wife.  

Dining in those restaurants, the average cost per person was in the $40 range. This justifies my $30 per person cost dining at home on this special night. After all, this is one of five remaining Sunday nights we have left before we leave for our world wide adventure.

Around the 15th of October, the processing of the estate sale begins leaving us no longer able to cook while everything in the cabinets and drawers; the dishes, the silverware, my gadgets and the pots and pans will be marked for sale. Ouch. My gadgets. Bye, bye, gadgets.

So today, while Tom is off to our oldest grandson’s football game, I’ll stay behind and begin the process of going through my many cookbooks.   

Most of my favorite recipes have been scanned, leaving hundreds we’ll never enjoy again due to our low carb, gluten free, grain free, starch free and sugar free diet.  

This diet gave us back our health, evident in the amazing blood test results we each received this past Thursday after Monday’s final doctor appointment.  Best results ever.  Everything perfect. The diet worked.  We’ll never fail to remember that we wouldn’t be able to travel the world for the next number of years if we hadn’t greatly improved our health by eating in this restricted manner. A small sacrifice in the realm of things.  

However, king crab and steak is no sacrifice, allowable for our way of eating. Besides, I can’t wait to set the table one last time with those six crab utensils before some crazy detail orientated fool such as I, buys all eight sets for a ridiculously low price. 

Hum, could I fit two sets of crab tools inside a shoe in one of the six orange suitcases?  Or perhaps, four sets in case we have company.

Estate sale, pantyhose and Eggs Benedict…What???

Ha, ha!  A lifetime of panty hose that I pulled out of a dresser drawer!  I can’t imagine these would sell at the estate sale!

Over the past many months in preparation for unloading all of a lifetime possessions, I’ve emptied drawers, closets, and a few cupboards. After all, we are living here, continuing to prepare meals, do mountains of laundry, endlessly entertain and amuse ourselves utilizing copious technological devices.

As time marches near, two months and four days from today, I peruse the items left on the shelves, in the closets,  packed into kitchen cabinets and overstuffed drawers and of course, the intimating array of tools and miscellany in our old basement, Tom’s domain. 

What’ll we do with all of this “stuff?”  

We’ve packed no less than 15 totes of items (the tip of the iceberg) to sell at our upcoming estate sale beginning on Thursday, October 25th, jammed into one of our three guest rooms.  Good grief!  No overnight guests, please! There’s no room to walk around the bed, let alone lay in it!

Another guest room is jammed with banker’s boxes of six years’ of tax returns, plastic totes filled to the brim with “can’t part with” Christmas decorations, photo albums and memorabilia, to be stored by our adult kids (thanks kids!).  

Other than the storage of these six totes, we will have no storage, no “stuff”, nada, nothing when we own other than the luggage in our possession.  

Months ago, we arranged with Jim Anderson, owner of Caring Estate Sales to conduct our sale.  We’ve met with him twice, spoken to him on the phone a few times, feeling confident about having chosen him.  

When we met with him, he specifically stated, “Take everything you want to keep out of the house before October 25th;  luggage, totes for the kids to store, food in cupboards, leaving behind everything to be sold, including the clothes in the closets.  Leave everything in its place!  Don’t pack.”

I packed the 15 totes.  Why?  I don’t know why.  I just did it.  It made sense months ago to start going through everything, tossing unwanted unusable items, taking usable items to Goodwill (which I did) while sifting for morsels of memorabilia.  Now I must stop.

Speaking to Jim again yesterday, apologizing for asking the same question over and over, acknowledging this would be the last time I’d ask, “Do I really leave “stuff” in the cupboards, closets, drawers?  Does Tom need to go through everything in the basement, sorting and tossing?”

His answer, “Yes, leave the stuff in its place and no, Tom doesn’t have to go through anything in the basement.  We prefer to do everything ourselves, pricing as we go.  You will inspect and approve the items and the pricing before the sale begins.”  

I’m flabbergasted! It finally sinks in: leave everything in its place. Stop packing except our luggage and the totes for kids.

What does this leave me to do in regard to “stuff” only, that I haven’t done thus far?  (Bear with me, it helps to make a partial list to which I continually add as I really dig in after Labor Day. I’ll copy and paste the list to my “to do” tab in Excel).

  1. Empty and clean the two refrigerators and huge freezer in the basement, the Subzero in the kitchen, distributing all usable food to our kids and neighbors.

2 Clean out all the food in the storage room in the basement and all food in kitchen cabinets.

3. Remove all wine from the Subzero wine cooler in the kitchen, beer in the basement and distribute them to family and friends.

4. Empty and clean cabinets in bathrooms of all toiletries.

5. Finish cleaning dresser drawers of all personal effects such as underwear and pantyhose as in above photo (who’d buy used pantyhose or underwear, anyway?)

6. Clean Tom’s walk-in closet. He has the equivalent of three large totes of relatively useless papers to go through. 

7. Go through all the kitchen drawers in search of memorabilia

8/ Go through all of my approximate 100 cookbooks, scanning favorite recipes, keeping in mind our low carb, gluten-free, sugar-free, wheat and grain-free diet. (Good job to start today!)

Of course, this list does not include trip related tasks: second passports, visas, banking, doctor appointments, final immunizations, prescriptions, insurance, selling our cars, setting up our mailing service in Nevada, changing addresses for all of our insurance, credit cards, banking, etc., on and on.

I’ve had way too much time to think about all this. Realistically, if we waited until the last month, we’d somehow get all of this done.  

Now, I have to go dig out my favorite recipe for Hollandaise Sauce from The New Antionette Pope School Cook Book, published in 1973. 
This is my double boiler which  purchased years ago at an estate sale for $2. I gave it to my friend Karen who kindly offered her home when we’ll need a place to stay before the sale begins at our house.
It is this very recipe that assisted me in winning First Place in an Eggs Benedict Contest entitled, ‘The 1986 Eggs Benedict-Off”.  Here’s the recipe for the sauce. Its much easier than it looks.  

I must make this recipe one more time before the sale using my absolutely perfect 1950’s glass double boiler that I bought 30 years ago at a garage sale for $2. OK, I will go get the double boiler from the storage room in the basement and take  a photo which is below. Bye, double boiler. Hello, world.

Page 1 of recipe. Click to enlarge
Page 2 of recipe

Selling most of my jewelry, precious or not!…

Jewelry displayed on our 60″ square table

A simple pair of sterling silver, minimal dangling earrings are my only accouterments these days.  For some odd reason, as I have aged, jewelry feels heavy and cumbersome.

I’m annoyed by the feeling of rings on my fingers difficult to get over my slightly swollen joints, then feeling too loose once in place, necklaces with the clasp invariably finding its way to the front of my neck and bracelets or watches flicking at my somewhat bony wrist.  

This disdain for jewelry started in my 50’s after an obsessive period of making jewelry, trendy at the time.  Working 12 hour work days, I somehow found the time to seemingly spend countless hours perusing beads in various bead stores, almost getting a high off the selection of beads from around the world.   

With Tom working weekends at the time, I busied myself with a professional sized lighted magnifying mirror content to sit for hours, eyes squinting to create an endless array of what I considered at the time, to be uniquely designed necklaces, bracelets and matching earrings.  Surely, there was a career as a jewelry designer looming there!  Ha!

Upon completion of a “set,” I’d leave them out for days on a meticulously folded piece of black velvet with the intent of frequently admiring my handiwork.  

As a result of my job at the time, we were often invited to fancy affairs, resulting in an opportunity to wear the fruits of my labor.  A piece of my jewelry served as the inspiration for my outfit fit for the night, sending me to shop online for a great deal on a dress.

It was 1998, eBay’s early years, and I relished in the opportunity to shop online to find the perfect designer dress at a fraction of the retail cost.  Always easy to fit, it wasn’t unusual for me to find a dress for under $25 to which I supplemented my selected jewelry pieces for a finished look.  

Tom, dressed to the 9’s as the proverbial penguin (albeit, with a degree of disdain), looked polished and handsome at my side.  We enjoyed the ambiance of elegant venues, the experience, the gourmet food and the idle conversation amongst ourselves and our table mates.

Five years and 100 or so necklaces later, I left the company for greener pastures along with the experience of the elegant occasions in tow.  I stopped making the jewelry, placing them in an oversized wooden jewelry box, where they remained for the past nine years, seldom to be used, never to be displayed, subsequently resulting in little, if any, emotional attachment.

Yesterday, I began the painstaking process of preparing the handcrafted jewelry and my many years-of-accumulation other jewelry including a little gold, a little silver and a few diamonds, to be perused by the jewelry guy Bill, recommended by our estate sales guy, Jim Anderson of Caring Estate Sales, coming to visit on Thursday. 

Of course, while polishing and preparing my handmade pieces, I discovered a few that called my name, to travel along with us, to occasionally adorn a colorful summery outfit. Not too many, just a few, none of which would be sufficient bounty for a thief, of which we’ve been warned over and over again.  

No rings, no gold, no big silver pieces will travel with us and draw attention to us as likely prey.  Over the past several months in an effort to get used to it,  I stopped wearing my wedding ring, placing it in a safe deposit box.  Tom, never wore a wedding ring, fearing injury at work nor anything other than a watch that he swears to “throw away” on his retirement date!

Eventually, when we are unable to continue to see the world, we will go the bank, retrieve the ring, perhaps to be worn again if I can get it past the burgeoning ring finger knuckle.

I will update you on the results of the upcoming visit by the jeweler, unlikely to purchase any of my “costume” jewelry which ultimately will be offered for sale at the upcoming estate sale at the end of October, three months away.

Months ago, I wrote about our purchase of four old fashioned ice cube trays. We love ice in our drinks, but in several locations the water won’t be fit for our consumption. Thus, each day we will freeze the four trays with bottled water  to maintain a steady stream of ice.

Iced cube trays packed with smaller jewelry items to be sealed with plastic lids for traveling

When discussing our desire for ice with Tom, I suggested an alternate use for the four trays and filled the little cups with my jewelry, covering each tray with the accompanying plastic lids.  

Today, while separating the jewelry I’d like to bring for our out-on-the-town nights, and dress up nights on the cruises, I went ahead and filled the ice cube trays.  With the trays, lids and jewelry, it was a total of two pounds including a few larger pieces that needed to go into a plastic bag.

Bye, bye jewelry.  Hello, world.