Monday, October 11, 2010

Cribbage in the Wind - The Preparation

For 30 years, I have gathered, collected, bought or inherited stuff.  I’ve loved my stuff. I’ve treasured, photographed, and counted my stuff. I’ve saved my stuff for my children, but ultimately decided I was done packing it around. 
We gave stuff to the kids (primarily my eldest, who lived nearby), we gave stuff away, we had weekend after weekend of garage sales in the scalding Palm Springs summer heat. The inventory for the first few garage sales was easy (junk stuff).  After that came the dawning realization that we still had way too much special stuff to fit in a small storage area, and I begrudgingly agreed to sacrifice those to the garage over time (well mostly me – though Todd did have his cling-on moments too).
We weren’t taking any big furniture, so that stuff was sooner or later destined for the chopping block. …And really, did I need 3 sets of china? In all the years of doing the family Thanksgiving meals, I had used these maybe four times, and my kids didn’t want them either….And all those designer work clothes? Gone.  It’s not like we need much more than flip-flops and a cover-up, where we’re going.
 But  it also meant saying goodbye to so many items that each carried with them a treasured memory of a Baja trip, a thrift store excursion, a funny day, a family reunion….It was hard letting those things go (sigh)……..It got easier over time, but as God is my witness, I will never be a “collector” of stuff again. The memories live on – with or without the stuff. 
We scoured/depersonalized the house in preparation of putting it on the market. We repaired things. We painted, planted, planned, prayed. We interviewed numerous listing agents. We went to open houses and researched the real estate competition. We scrubbed, fixed, and sold more.
 The weather was glorious! The house dazzled!  We were ready.
We listed our Palm Springs house in mid-September. We toasted to the sale of our house within a few months (AT THE MOST) while gazing at the moon-lit San Jacinto Mountain, reflected in our quintessential, night- lit Palm Springs pool. 

 We cheerfully helped the listing agent with needed pictures, set out Open House signs, made ourselves scarce during those (visiting other open houses, playing cards in the park or—feeling flush – lunched at the old Las Consuelas). We bit the bullet, and depersonalized and sold/gave away more stuff (though it seemed that fewer folks had cash, so more and more was donated to make room in the garage).  We tip-toed around the house so it wouldn’t get dirty, and curtailed most all entertaining (which we had done regularly before) to be ready to show at moment’s notice. We gladly sold more big furniture, because after all, we weren’t going to need it much longer, and no reason to wait until the last minute, right?  One of our grimmer days was the rainy, gloomy Thanksgiving weekend when we sold our last bedroom set (master bedroom) to a couple of gals – but hey!- we’re going to sell this house soon, so what’s a few weeks sleeping on the floor…at our age?……And then….
No showings after numerous Open Houses. Lousy time to try and sell a home anywhere, but in particular, Southern California; we were competing with short sales and foreclosures. No one had any money or credit. We were in Riverside County (second only behind Detroit for ‘lagging economic recovery”) and the employable are car mechanics, nurses, hair stylists or exotic dancers. Take your pick.
The weather turned cold, dreary, and windy, and stayed that way all through the spring. Mostly it was WINDY.
Our furniture had been reduced to a kitchen table and a fabulous mid-century modern cocktail bar.  We banged around an empty house.  We slept on the floor and a borrowed sleeper couch for months. Every day turned into one predictable day after another (too many Open House days spent at the park, playing cribbage in the wind; too many days watching any and all TV episodes with “Housewives” in the title; too many days staring at computer screens).  Ground Hog Day after Ground Hog day.  We reduced the price of the house 4 times. We had at least abridged all of our other possessions (3 bedroom/3bath house) to a 9x10 storage area.
By May we decided to lease it, so we could move on. It is still listed.
 In mid-May, once we decided to rent, our focus went from Palm Springs to Ecuador, and we got very busy, very quickly working on our Ecuador visas (90 days on a passport/180 days with an extended visa), moving our meager remaining stuff to storage, and our last minute purge and clean (read here – our car was last on the list to sell).
Toward the end of our Palm Springs sojourn, we had a daily checklist that we adhered to religiously before our flight to a new life in Ecuador.

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