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Sunday, July 21. 2013
It's a dreadful task to break up one's parents' household but, with my Dad's death two weeks ago, we need to get it on the market before Labor Day in order to sell it before the lengthy driveway and parking area need snow-plowing and shoveling, and are covered with ice.
My parents raised most of us kids in this sunny and cheery 6-BR contemporary which my Dad designed, and my parents remained there until they died.
The realtors want the house emptied out, heavy-duty cleaned, and floors waxed, in the next 3 weeks. We 5 kids will draw a number out of a hat, then pick stuff we want in order (jewelry, silver, furniture, chatchkes, art, the Steinway, etc.), then call in Good Will to take whatever they can use. Then comes the dumpster and the cleaning crew. Thus does a home devolve into a house.
I took some photos to help my memory of home when my Alzheimer's arrives.
This is their kitchen with its fireplace with a wood stove insert at the far end of the kitchen area. The only sign that old people lived there, I think, is having things scotch-taped to the cabinets. Plus their refusal to put a/c in the house. That baby picture I was taking home was of me. I don't really want it, but I don't want to throw it away. Everybody has some stuff like that.
The garbage can was to empty the fridge:
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"Thus does a home devolve to a house." Poignantly stated. The photo is equally touching. My heart goes out to you.
I imagine you will be emptying the house with a heavy heart.
Perhaps your kids or grandkids will eventually want the baby picture?
A very hard task.
I believe you lost your mother recently as well, if I remember correctly.
My best to you and your family.
My condolences, I lost my uncle, brother, father, wife within 3 years in the late 80s, me at the time, 30s... So, I know your pain.
Real nice Kitchen/dinette, I'm not in real estate, but the printing business, and I know color, in this case they need to contrast, a designer may say different... spend 300 bucks and buy a black faced dishwasher. The black looks good with those cabinets! Best regards and chin up! Memories are almost as good.
Having done the same, but without a three week deadline, I do not envy you your task. But you gotta do what you gotta do.
I'm surprised the realtors wanted the house emptied (not exactly sure what that implies) because houses normally sell better when the furnishings are intact than when they are empty. A house for sale should not look cluttered but it should look as if people actually have been living in it. Maybe buyer psychology and realty practices are different in your part of the country but where I live the realtors believe the furnishings should stay. If the owners have already packed up and moved, rented furnishings are typically brought in as replacements to "stage" each open house.
I guess it depends.
3 realtors all said this house best sold so people can imagine what they might want. My Mom had it furnished with mostly country-style antiques, Sippican-style, and perhaps typical buyers of a house like this might prefer a steel and glass look.
Beats me. We just do whatever the realtor wants.
They want everything out. So out it goes.
I'll post more pics from my iphone because I forgot my camera.
For This Ole House, see Tennessee Ernie Ford. Ernie was a B-29 navigator for a pilot who became C-in-C of Strategic Air Command. (Forget the name.)
I can't speak for everywhere but here in my area (NJ) realitors want a house as emptied as possible. It's been that way for some time. I don't care for it myself.
I believe the thought behind it is to remove distractions from buyers as they pass through and allow them to imagine their own furniture or plans.
Sad times.... Been through this.
Here's a Rice Brothers song "This old House" on youtube. Poignant song where a home sings to its departing family...
A few words from the chorus in case the link does not work:
I've been strong and I've been sturdy
And I've weathered every storm.
I always kept your family safe and warm
Now you're packing up the laughter
And you're sweeping out the tears...
If this old house were built on memories
I would stand 1000 years."
Anyway BirdDog, thanks for all the work you've done. The house you sell will have something of you and your family left behind...
I know this is tough duty. It sounds emotionally wrenching. It is a rite of passage like so many others, but unfortunately, it is a more painful one then most of your previous rites of passage. My heart goes out to you and the rest of your family.
Sorry, BD. That's more than just a home being emptied out. Thanks for sharing what's going on.
BD, I empathize with you. Hard duty indeed. Preserve memories, but not stuff. Proceed with life. You're a good man.
My condolences. It's an unpleasant task but it needs doing. Best thoughts to all y'all.
My condolences as well. I had to go through that myself, living in another city and knowing that I could only keep enough to fill a suitcase. It took about a week but I learned a lot about my parents in the process and it brought back many good memories of family (our family albums, our parent's ledgers and correspondence) and many sad memories of our losses (my brother's medals from the Vietnam War and all of the correspondence of his loss). I just coincidentally had to reorganize all of this material today so your post was very timely.
Dear BD--don't forget you can always rent a storage unit for the things it hurts too much to distribute right now. You will ultimately get rid of most of the "regular" furniture, so might as well do that now. The "precious" stuff can go into storage. A year from now it might not be so important to you and your siblings.
Good Luck. I believe you said that your folks put the farm into some kind of conservancy. Is this a part of that? 1950's style ranch houses are very much in demand now on the west coast. It seems that your dad and his generation built better houses!
So don't be talked into taking too big a cut because of it's style, or age.
Sorry for your loss.
When I had to do this for my Mothers place I felt as though her life was being erased.
It was one of the hardest things I've had to do....again sorry.
--jeez --those two pix are enough to make a grown person cry --dunno why, it's the oldest most familiar story in the world --but every telling of it is like a mule kick in the chest --
"dreadful" is the word for the task. May the higher power shed grace on you and the sibs during.
--if i may ask, what is the painting in the middle distance, hung on the flying wall? On the photo plane it's just right of center-top --lots of near-primary color, blue sky, yellow road, a building it looks like? It looks like an American Primitive but it's less than a half-inch square from here. It has a place of honor --must be a favorite of ma and/or pa.
That is a painting, in primitive style, of a bus full of people in Haiti. It was done about 80 years ago by a cousin of BD's mother. It has been hanging there for at least 40 years.
Hard to imagine it hanging anywhere else.
Haven't read all the comments, but "been there, done that" and I know how difficult it is. God Bless.
BD, sorry for your loss. My Dad decided to sell the family house after moving to an assisted living place. Frankly he didn't really care about most of the "stuff" in it but it was fun to hear stories about things. Label all the pictures because now its hard to know who everyone in them are.
Sorry again for your loss, you've had a tough year.
My condolences on your recent losses, BD. After my father died my brother and I took what we wanted from the house and then hired some estate sale people. They sold or donated the rest and left the house completely empty and broom clean.
Feel your pain, BD - wife's Granddad passed, and we've been making weekend trips into P-burgh to assist with cleaning up\out, to satisfy the will.
He was a machinist, and had MANY (and I mean MANY) machinist tools in the basement (more files, sinks, counter-sinks, tie\taps, and other tools I cannot even name) in various boxes (ever see a wooden toolbox? He had three of oak... full of tools).
I asked the dad-n-law to contact one of the local union halls to see if there is someplace to either donate the tools, or, to up and coming machinist whom could use these gems. There are just too many of them to throw away with the metal trash.
In our throw-away society, its quite remarkable to see how our parents were frugal and retained stuff for "just in case". I found a spool of that old 2-strand TV wire for an old aerial antenna, and my daughter asked what it was.
*sigh.... I'm beginning to feel old...
At least you can get to the refrigerator....When my in-laws passed away, it took 20, 30 yard dumpsters to clean out the house. We should have had the show "Hoarders" filming to help offset the cost!
When we broke up our parents house, the four of us, my two sisters and my brother we used the same method of drawing numbers and taking turns. My brother who is an accountant and had been through this with clients over the years had an excellent suggestion. He requested that we exclude spouses as we went through the process since he had witnessed some real messy situations over the years.
We spend a really fun evening with a bottle of wine and a lot of kidding as we carefully made out choices and cajoled others into taking stuff we did not want personally but did not want to throw away. We took great care to honor our parents and preserve our sibling relationship.
Now that I am approaching 70 and my wife and I have recently downsized for a second time, we make an effort to push most everything of value off onto one of our grown kids each time we see them so the task will be much smaller when it is their turn to make a final clean up.
I second the notion of putting in a black dishwasher--it will make a huge difference, and it is a cheap investment.
My second comment to this - After having gone through this myself, I thought sometime later that this situation would make for a very good screenplay. When my children saw "Saving Private Ryan", they were awed to think that grandpa crossed that beach. In a similar vein and for similar reasons, it would be interesting to have a movie where a child has to go through the belongings and life of his parents as a reminder to society of what these folks accomplished and endured, each in their own way and using their own resources.
My wife and I have buried all four of our parents so we have also gone through this dreadful task.
One of my takeaways is I don't want my kids to have to dumpsterize all of the stuff I have collected and will appear completely disorganized to them.
I have embarked on a 3 year scanning project and have managed to scan a good number of things I felt bad about tossing away- childhood art, letters from my parents to me in college, Moms hand written recipes,even old phonebills I squirrelled away in textbooks from 30 years ago.
By taking scans, I have been able to "toss" some sentimental stuff without reaching back into the trash can to pull it out.
That is what I have done with every professional photo in every picture frame- sure I have kept some that my kids will have to go through, but the real memories will be on multiple hard drives I keep at my kids houses and update about once a quarter. Currently manage about 40,000 images between photos and scans and it keeps growing.
I also find posting the most arcane items on Facebook gets all sorts of chuckles from friends and family...
My mother is 93 and may live to 100. But I saw her and one brother go through a very difficult time when her mother died 1984. I'm certainly not looking forward to taking my turn sometime in the coming years. However it's good to read how others go about it. Thank you for sharing
Difficult duty Bird Dog.
However, the house was always destined to be someone elses. That's how it is with all of the stuff we have. The nice thing is that obviously, from the picture, your parents cared for the home that would someday be someone elses. Perhaps someday even be filled again with the laughter of children.
That's how I think about things when I work around my home. I know that it won't be too many years before it belongs to someone else. I hope that I have been a good steward. I know that the love and care that your parents spent on their home will be appreciated by the families of the future.
Someday you'll drive by and see cars in the drive, bicycles on the sidewalk out front and hear children playing in the back yard. It will be sad and yet it will be good.
I am so sorry for your losses. Your post and your photo are so moving. Prayers to you and your family for strength, peace of mind, and patience.
Selling off the family homestead can be a lot of physical work and emotional turmoil. I sell real estate for a living and I've watched families go through this a good deal. It can bring out the best, and the worst, in siblings. But most all of us have to go through it at some point. My mother died two years ago and Dad is 93 and still living at home so I and my brother and sisters will be navigating those waters in the not too distant future ourselves.
Good luck and I hope things go well and smoothly for you.