Posted by: HAT | September 24, 2014

Everything Must Go

Image of a Staffordshire platter

One of the things Mom meant when she made me promise, more than once, “not to put everything in a yard sale.”

Hi, Gang!

The estate sale at my dead parents’ house starts today.

I have been referring to Mom and Dad as “my dead parents” for a while now, as in the phrase “I am cleaning out my dead parents’ house” or “I am selling my dead parents’ books” (which I probably said to someone or other on every one of the approximately 18 trips I made to Half Price Books, about the approximately 160 BOXES of books we didn’t put in the sale, or take to recycling after we found out that Half-Price Books would give us $0 for books of the kind those books were and in the condition those books were in, because I’m just that self-revealing and implicitly confident that total strangers would care what I’m going through). It is true, of course. I think it sounds matter-of-fact and mildly hard-boiled, which I find charming, because I like to think of myself as a realistic and relentlessly unsentimental person. I enjoy Raymond Chandler. I am the one who likes to say, when people at church start talking about being the hands or head or heart of the body of Christ, “I vote to be the pancreas.” But maybe I am just posturing. From time to time I connect with the emotional reality of both of my parents being dead, and most of the time it is “just the way things are,” but every so often it is pure misery.

Over the months of working on this project – not alone, mind you, but with the aid of my cousin, and the professionals at Everything But the House who are handling the sale/auction – I have taken enough stuff out of the house to practically swamp my office in boxes of memorabilia. It has taken up residence on the bookshelves, it is cluttering the floor of the office so that I have to step over things to get to my desk, it has moved into the garage, and the bedroom, and the basement, and the aquarium (thanks, Mom, for all the shells from various American beaches). I have stashed 8 or 10 boxes of personal papers – letters, journals, that kind of thing – in the storage locker. And I haven’t even moved the pictures yet – that is, the family photographs, those kind of pictures – out of the 10 x 3 x 5 foot space they are occupying in the back corner of the upstairs closet. I am still trying to figure out where in my domain I have that kind of space, even temporarily.

My family thinks I have brought home way way too much – as if I have brought “everything” back to Corydon. And yet it is such a tiny fraction of “everything.” I have given 20+ boxes of genealogical records, and 3 shelves of reference books, to the local library. I have made at least one trip to the recycling center, with a full (that is, side to side, back to front, floor to ceiling) car-load of recyclable paper, magazines, and cardboard every day; some days I made two trips, to make up for Mondays, when the recycling center was closed. (I won’t count the days I made trips on Mondays.) Everyone involved has made multiple trips to various Worthy Causes – towels and pillows and sheets are comforting abandoned animals and small appliances are gathering dust on the shelves of thrift stores and homeless men are wearing clothes that still smell vaguely of Irish Spring, all thanks to my dead parents, and we still need to empty a couple of closets and the linen closet, but we can still do that after the sale. I took 5 boxes of office supplies to church, where they are in the way of the secretary and the pastor, although they have said nice things like “oh, we can definitely use the legal pads.” That makes me feel better. Sweetness isn’t always a bad thing. I have given gifts to friends and relatives. Someone has a fully furnished kitchen, someone will be able to put a table under church potlucks, someone will be able to sleep on a practically new mattress, etc. We have filled up two (yes, 2) medium sized dumpsters – that is, two genuinely cavernous metal rooms 20 feet by 10 feet by 4 feet, with non-recylable, non-saleable, non-donatable physical matter that is not chemicals or liquids or tires but may include glass and electronics and mattresses, nothing sticking up or hanging over. I have taken tires to be recycled. I am working on solving the toxic waste problem (“Who knows what to do with ancient gasoline, bug spray, ortho kill-the-mold-on-your-roses, and a practically unused drum of Thompson’s water seal?”).

I have tried to explain: I know, it looks like so much here. But it is less than 1% of “everything.” I understand that I probably need to get that down to .1% or .01% of “everything” to begin to be reasonable. But that further refinement process will take a little more. “Letting go of everything” sounds relaxing, but like everything else, it depends on context. Letting go of everything can be surprisingly arduous.

I still have to consign the good jewelry. (I was waiting till I had some time.)

We have sold the house. (Yay, by the way!! A miracle. An answer to prayer. Abundantly far more than I, at least, imagined.) I think the new owners will want the house plans and the user manuals for the stove and fridge etc. And, I hope, the gray metal shelves in the garage, since they are as good as built in. We still have to close.

So “everything” is not done, quite, yet. “Everything” has a literal meaning, hard to imagine until you have to execute it. The closest I have ever come to this before in my life was when we moved from Chicago to Indiana. I vaguely remembered that I didn’t want to do that again. Now I remember why. And in those days, I had two parents, alive and well. Everything was different.



  1. I sympathize with you about how much this process can take out of you. However, I have to wonder, being an estate sale professional, why the company you are working with isn’t doing more of this. And why you are giving things away instead of selling them at the estate sale?

    • They would have done more – for a larger percentage of the proceeds. As for why not sell everything: I think it is a question of volume and ancitipated profitability. We are selling a lot. A LOT. But not everything. We decided against putting the cents-on-the-dollar things into a yard sale, for a variety of reasons, including restrictive covenants that apply to our parents’ neighborhood.

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