Saturday, June 13, 2009


* Organization for Organizing My Parent's (old) House

My parents own two houses, mainly because the first one was already paid off before they bought the second one. They live in the "new" house, and visit the "old" house on weekends. The old house is very rural and is located across the street from a navigable river, so it was a great place to escape the stresses of suburbia.
"Third Generation Porch Swinger"

Having two houses was very convenient for them, because they tend to be the type of people who form strong emotional attachments to objects and are therefore reluctant to get rid of anything. Add to that a growing yard sale addiction and a dad who can fix almost anything, and you end up with a vacant house that gradually fills up with stuff.
"Before: The Back Porch"

Not just a house, though - a two-story garage, a workshop, and a screened porch also served as convenient places to tuck box after box of old files, a pew from the (demolished) family church, a collection of small boats, a spare wall oven, every bicycle they ever owned, and a lovely selection of books they haven't had a chance to read yet.
"Before: The Garage"

"Before: The Workshop"

This was fine while my parents were young and healthy, but as they have aged, maintaining two houses became more difficult, and they began to think about selling the old house.
"When Ivy Wins and Ed Loses"

When they were approached by someone who might be interested in buying the house, they started to try to sort their stuff. When the potential buyer scheduled a home inspection for next week, they switched into a low-grade version of panic mode.

And that is why I spent last week at my parents' place, hauling stuff out of attics and porches and cabinets and closets. I toted and scrubbed, I cajoled and reasoned. I boxed and bagged and pitched and sorted. And I sweated - did I mention the lack of air conditioning?

The first day we cleaned out the screened porch.
"After: The Summer House"

Yes, that's the after version. Just imagine how much worse it was before we started ... think "25 years of accumulated grime on everything - now, with a bonus mummified headless squirrel corpse!"

Next we tackled some repairs on the front porch, which had rotted out around the edges. Don't want the home inspector to accidentally punch through the porch floor when he walks up to the front door, do we? Replacing the floor involves removing all the trim, jacking up the porch ceiling so the columns can be detached from the boards, then prying out all the nails and hauling out the 3/4" thick sheets of plywood. Oh, and before you can put down the new boards, you have to fill in the critter burrow, "now with a bonus fleshless pelvis of an unknown mammal!"
"The Woodchuck? Raccoon? Skunk? Skeleton Under The Porch"

As a "break" from the regular work, I took time out to weed some of the flower beds and tag-team mow the grass with my parents' help. The front bed was so overrun with grasses and some unidentified twining weed that you could barely see the peonies and iris. I swear, it looked worse than most of the bank-owned properties in our neighborhood, and that's saying something. But we took care of that, at least temporarily.

"After: The Front Flower Bed"

The final two days were spent clearing out the attic, closets, and kitchen cabinets, as well as the clutter in the mudroom and the worst of the stuff on the back porch. My dad still has to go through the income tax files from 1973 (no, not kidding) and I still have to convince my mother that the local library does indeed stock all of those Dick Francis books she might possibly at some point in the future maybe want to read again (if she finishes the six cartons of unread books first). But we're in a lot better shape now than we were last week.

Thursday I spent something like five hours on eBay, trying to find out which of the items we had set aside might actually be worth enough to justify the time and expense to list them for sale. There were a dozen or so record albums that seemed to be a good bet, so I photographed them, edited the photos, wrote the listings, and got them online. Some of the stuff that we thought was worthwhile turned out to be yard-sale quality rather than Antiques Road Show quality, which was both a disappointment and a relief. The extra money would have been nice, but damn, I was sick of listing things on eBay.

Through all of this my parents toiled alongside me, either toting and hauling or watching Liza ... I'm not sure which was more strenuous, as Liza was all about going down to the beach and running through the sprinkler and riding the scooter and trying to get into every room where we were working. And she spent most of the time insisting that she wasn't going to wear shoes outside, despite the fact that my parents recently had the roof replaced and there are still a decent number of nails and shingle bits stuck in the grass. Good thing she had her tetanus shot in May!

Basically, we got a lot done, but nowhere near what needs to be done if the place is ever going to actually change hands. If the buyer comes through with an offer, there's going to be another road trip (and a very, very large rental storage space) in my future.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go play my old Cat's Eye game, which I found in the closet cleanout. That, and 1980s Dallas Porn Star Barbie ... but that's whole different post altogether.


Anonymous said...

WOW! What an accomplishment! Looks like it was a lot of work.....I am in AWE!!!


John H. said...

But...they CAN'T sell the Port Herman house, can they...?

Gretchen said...

John - if you want it, you'd better claim it soon. The catboat is available, as are about 14 linear feet of old boat magazines, just in case you need any extra reading for the head at work ;)