June 3, 2018
During the few weeks before I get my hair done, I often wish I was invisible. My hair grows fast, so every six weeks or so it starts screaming for attention. During the “purgatory period” (beginning at week 4, until I find a hair genius) my hair looks pretty sloppy, like I don’t own a comb, and my skunk-ish grey roots begin to show. I just wear a doo rag to cover up the rat’s nest on top of my head, until I can get to a hair miracle worker. And then…and then…after I’ve had it snipped, shaped and shaded, I feel like a new woman, freed from the shackles of bad hair prison.
An estate sale is a lot like this.
One year ago this past weekend we sold everything. We had a life haircut.
In November 2016, John and I made the decision to join the ranks of traveling, housesitting nomads which was, for us, monumental. In February 2017, we arranged our very first house sit (June through November) on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico, which was super exciting. We were in a euphoric state of glassy-eyed bliss for a few days, at the prospect of how our lives were about to change. Then, KA-BOOM, reality set in. We had a business and a lot of STUFF we had to get rid of to make our dream life happen.
So, here’s how we did it.
John is an itemizing, organizing fanatic. So, with him writing everything on a whiteboard, we made a list of our possessions that needed to go away:
Piece of cake, right? Doh!
We had already sold our house and were renting, so the real estate “biggie” wasn’t an issue for us.
As a medical equipment installation engineer, John was an experienced traveler. Trust me, the man knows how to pack. But paring down everything you own to only absolutely necessary items and then making sure it all fits into 2 checked bags and 2 carry-ons was an arduous task, even for him.
It took every spare moment we had, from February to June 1st, to get to Point B, leaving for Vieques. I combed the web, visited with my IT cronies and concentrated on selling our business. John spent his time on unloading the “everything else” part of our lives.
We knew we needed help.
Hiring an estate sale professional is not something you can do in a snap, since the really good ones are booked months in advance and require a big pre-sale time notice. We knew our drop-dead, “get the heck out of Dallas” date was June 1st, so, we started putting out feelers immediately. Prior to our decision to hit the road, we had been redecorating our house. Go figure. We had purchased new furniture, and frequented many estate sales. In fact, every Friday we had “date” day, which included going to as many estate sales as we could before it got dark.
There were only a couple of companies that we even considered for our sale. They both had a good following, were nice people and were very organized. The first company wanted us to move out a month in advance, so that the house could be staged, but when John told them our situation they agreed to 2-3 weeks—which was a really long time to be living with relatives. Eek! The other company, Attics to Basements, were available for the Memorial Day weekend, had a team of 26 that would stage on the Sunday before the sale, and then start the sale on Thursday. On top of that, they were very, very cool people. We chose them.
We set an appointment for 3 weeks later, with the owner of the company, Mark, to meet us and check out our “stuff.” This gave us time to go through all of our closets, make several runs to donation centers and pick out items that were to be given to friends and family. At the end of that 3 weeks, we realized that we hadn’t put even a dent in anything!!! Panic! But, when Mark arrived, he calmly walked through our house, opened a few closets, and checked out the garage. Sensing our anxiety, he smiled and said, “No problem. This is a piece of cake! We can get this staged in a few hours!”
With tears in our eyes, we both hugged him. We knew we had made the right choice in estate sale companies. Even now, a year later, we stay in contact with Mark–he’s our brother.
The next 7 weeks were hectic. After I found an awesome company to take over our business, one of the biggest tasks was to digitize files and photos. Closets were ransacked, the attic and file cabinets were emptied, the garage was somewhat organized and every day we scanned or took phone photos of everything!
We found photos and files that we didn’t know existed or had completely forgotten about.
Regarding the files and documents, we suggest that everyone go through ALL of your files and digitize them and shred them, or just shred them–you’ll find a lot of stuff that is worthless. For example, we found things like: manuals of things we no longer owned, tax filings from 20 years ago, closing documents from 2 homes bought and sold over 10 years ago (neither of which we still owned), birthday cards from many years past, receipts for things we no longer owned, phone and utility statements marked PAID, old car registrations and insurance, etc. You get the idea! Of three jam packed filing cabinets, we ended up keeping our birth certificates, marriage license and current insurance policies. Everything else we either digitized or shredded.
Digitizing photos was a different story. We spent hours holed up in our offices scanning and photographing photos. If something happens to us, whoever gets our photo archives will giggle rather than grumble about having to throw away mounds of old photos. And, for us, our memories and story validations are just a click away. It was so worth it.
On May 1st, we transferred our business. Whew! A big check on the whiteboard list.
We still had our 2 cars. We decided to sell Saabie (our sweet convertible Saab 9-3) first, since we could still use TT (tan truck) to move stuff to the donation drop-offs and relatives. Saabie sold within days, so we now had plenty of staging space in the garage. The plan was to sell TT during our last week in the house. Easy peasy! TT sold in a day. Thank you Craig’s List!
Family and friends visited to peruse our belongings and claim whatever they wanted. Sentimental items were given to whoever we thought would most appreciate them, while just plain stuff was sold for a fraction of what it would be bought for at the estate sale. That worked out well, since some things, like John’s monster barbecue grill and my 36” high-res computer monitor, are now being enjoyed by friends and family. I don’t know who got my I Love Lucy memorabilia or my collection of comic strip bobble heads, but I’d like to think they found good homes.
Our final week was insane. We barely slept and were rummaging around at all hours, going through everything, to make sure that nothing was overlooked. It’s just amazing at how all of our stuff fluffed up when it was out of closets, drawers, boxes, nooks and crannies. It was time to load up our bags and get serious about what went with us and what went in the estate sale.
John, being a long-time road warrior, prided himself on packing his bags in 20-30 minutes and out the door. This was a completely different place for both of us. It was tough sorting through and trying to decide what we would really miss a month or two, or yea rs, down the road. Spoiler alert! Not much! In retrospect, there are a few things we wish we had kept, but having been at this a year now, we know that just about everything can easily be replaced.
We didn’t sleep at all the night before estate sale staging. The bulk of our travel bags were already at my parents’ house, so we only had bare necessities for the night and a change of clothes.
The estate sale crew showed up 15 minutes early and were in no hurry to get us out of the way. At first there were 6-8 people, with Mark of course. They looked around and started opening closets and drawers as we talked about the process and why we were having an estate sale, before we were dead! We made instant connections with everyone and felt very comfortable with them taking care of this for us–again, we knew we had made the right choice. Then, four more people showed up, and, as we were walking out the door they were hauling in folding tables, with Mark instructing them how things were to be set up.
As we drove away we looked at each other, with big grins, and said “well if there are any secrets hidden in there, they are no longer secrets.” And frankly, at this point, we really didn’t care who touched our stuff, bought our stuff or knew our secrets, because WE DID IT!
We got a life haircut and now, a year later, we’re still loving our new “do!”
2018, House Sitting, Travel Tips
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