Monthly Archives: May 2009

Baby steps…


I’ve had this antique ceiling fixture in my garage for 15 years, waiting to find the someone who wanted it enough to pay for it. It’s survived a couple of yard sales and a stay at a consignment shop without a taker. It graced my older home in Berkeley for 30 years so I didn’t want to just junk it.

This week I posted it on Craigslist for $60 and four people called about it – and last night the first caller came by with his wife (and the $60).  They were a darling young couple who were renovating their little Victorian cottage and they fell in love with the fixture despite its broken petal (which I had disclosed).  Rejuvenation Hardware had told me they could probably sell it for about $250, but so what.  I preferred seeing how happy these folks were and imagining the light shining on their home.

It’s ust $60, but it’s another baby step in getting rid of excess stuff.

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Filed under Art & antiques, Baby steps, Downsizing, Selling stuff, Uncategorized

Cute little house: Found. But now what?

706 W30This afternoon my realtor friend Lee took me to see a cute little 1920s house in the neighborhood I want (I think). Unlike the cute little dump I saw a couple of weeks ago, this place has had most of the glaring problems repaired. The hardwood floors are newly refinished and the paint colors are very close to what I might chose for myself. The basement is even dry and has no mildew smell.

The price is even right. Less than $200,000. (For the moment forget that the kitchen needs some major work – and let’s forget that the stated 1600 square feet is actually about 800 on the main floor and 800 in the partially finished basement – and I’m not much into basements.)

BUT. I can’t afford two homes, and my current home will not sell overnight in this climate unless I practically give it away. And damn it – I may have to give away the humongo-desk, but I’m not handing over the keys to the house.

So, I need to prepare for Plan B.  Get the house ready to sell, and once it does, which could take a year, trust that I’ll find what I want fairly quickly – which could even be a rental.


Filed under Downsizing, Rent or buy?, Selling stuff

Craigslist and Goodwill: friends of the downsizer

goodwill pile

When my son vacated his room as he headed out for parts unknown, he left me with a big bag of stuff to give away. Inspired by his pile, I added some of my own stuff from the garage (including a large non-descript picture frame that’s been waiting for just the right size piece of art for about ten years…) and a few things from my closet.

I put it all in the car and drove straight to Goodwill.  Feels so good!

Craigslist is working only on the inexpensive oddball stuff. Today a woman came all the way over from a town south of Portland to buy my two zinc florist buckets for $15… and she doesn’t even know what she’s going to use them for!

If I were paid for the time it takes to write up the listing, the net price I get for the stuff would probably be $0, but for now I’m enjoying the baby steps.

Listed the humongo McGuire desk again last night for $350. So far not a nibble on , however.  Eating humble pie – from $1000 to $850 to $350. I’m getting close to groveling, saying,  “FREE!!! just carry the !@#$% thing outta here!”

McGuire Desk

McGuire Desk


Filed under Baby steps, Downsizing, Selling stuff

Boomerang kid reverses direction

boomerangAnother downsizing step taken today, and I’m feeling pretty weepy about it.

My youngest child left home this afternoon.

It shouldn’t be a big deal; he’s 25 for godssake. It’s not even the first time – he went off to college at 18, and until the past few months he’s hardly been back home. But since September he’s been my housemate in order to save $$ for his big globe-trotting adventure – to parts known and unknown.

I have been totally happy living alone since I left his dad in 2001 (when he left for college, actually). I amuse myself quite well, and mostly handle what needs to be handled.

But “I’ve grown accustomed to his face.”  And his good-natured company, his music, his assistance, his goofiness. It’s been a real pleasure and privilege to get to know him as a responsible young adult who is quite capable of running his own life.

His room is now (mostly) empty of his stuff – his boxes line the walls of my once orderly garage. After some cleaning and buffing I could rent the space while I continue the process of getting rid of my own stuff.

Meanwhile I’ve got a couple of big bags in the car for Goodwill. And a hole in my heart.


Amtrak to Seattle. Seattle to Dublin. On to Prague, Sweden, Berlin, India, Thailand…


Filed under Attachment - Vairagya, Baby steps, Emotional issues, Family issues

Custom header picture by Splodge

My blogfriend, Splodge, over in England, offered to illustrate my downsizing journey by drawing a custom header image for this WordPress theme. Although we know each other only on line, she’s managed to capture – in 770 by 200 pixels – what I’m trying to accomplish – and the carefree feeling I’ll have when I’ve off-loaded most of my stuff.  She’s got Molly (my dog) and Bama the cat nailed.

Thank you Splodge! You rock!!


Filed under Baby steps, Downsizing, Furniture, Selling stuff

Rule out the fixer-upper…


They say the secret in buying property is location, location, location. “They” also say to buy the worst house in the neighborhood and fix it up if you want to get the best bang for your real estate buck.

A house in a great downtown Vancouver neighborhood came on the market recently – a short sale – meaning it had been foreclosed on, and the bank just wanted to get its money out. The price was very low for that neighborhood of mostly 1920s craftsman bungalows – certainly in my ball park  if I could sell my house fairly fast. (A gamble right there inasmuch as it’s not even ready to go on the market…)

Streetside it had a lot of curb appeal. So my realtor took me to see it.

On the plus side, all the houses around it are darling, and I have several friends nearby. The house, once fixed up, could be every bit as darling.

HOWEVER. The place on close inspection is a mess, even if you ignored the fact that it was piled high with the owner’s crap in every room. Dry rot around the windows, mildewy basement, bathroom and kitchen redone badly in the 1950s, other random and ill-considered “improvements” made recently.

My current home was a fixer-upper when I bought it in 2002, not because it was in bad shape; it was just dated.  Luckily back then I had the money to hire a great contractor.

This little Craftsman is the perfect project for a couple in their 30s – one of them would be a contractor, the other an architect.  They’d have oodles of energy and enough money to buy quality parts. Every spare minute they’d hammer and wire and plumb away together. Sweet sweat equity.

Alas, not for me any more. My heart just sank at what it would take to make the place livable. I’ve already spent decades of my life dealing with home and hearth issues; I’m ready to do something else.

So, scratch the “fixer-upper” option from my list.

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Filed under Baby steps, Downsizing, Envisioning a simpler life, Rent or buy?

It’s MY house…


Or is it?

We speak so possessively of our homes and our things. “This is my house.” “This is my couch.” “Molly is my dog.”  As if the house, couch or dog were really ours to own.

Even if you built the house yourself stick by stick, if you built it well it will live long after you’ve moved on. Someone else will call it “my house.”  The couch existed before you bought it and you hope will be useful to a new owner after you’re done with it.  And think about it:  is your dog really yours?

As I try to loosen my attachment to “my” house and “my” things, it seems helpful to step back from the whole possessive pronoun description of it all.  Many languages describe our relationship to stuff quite differently – “the house of me” – which is more like “the house I’m in relationship with” than something that I have dominion over and is part of me.

Before I came to live in the house of me, which was built in 1972, three other families lived here. After I move out, other families will consider it theirs. And I hope they treat it with the reverence I feel for it.

Thinking of myself as just one in a line of people who live here for awhile, (slightly) eases the pain I feel knowing I must relinquish the house sooner than later.  And I can even rejoice that “my” books will soon be the books of new readers.

After all, in the grand scheme of the universe and over an infinite period of time, me, my house and my stuff   are barely specks.


Filed under Attachment - Vairagya, Downsizing, Emotional issues, Inspiration & encouragement

One way to go about downsizing

Over at DailyKos today, blogger Timroff describes what he and his wife are doing this weekend, as they prepare to move from a 4 bedroom home with full basement to a 2 bedroom apartment with little storage:

So how does one decide what stays and what goes?

What we did was take some graph paper and a copy of the apartment’s layout and dimensions, then we measured all of our furniture and cut out shapes to match. (see, those thousands of hours of D&D playing finally paid off!) We then positioned the furniture on the layout and feng shui’ed until we were happy with what we were looking at.

We then took the many little pieces of paper that were left over, matched them to their counterparts in reality and labelled them “for sale.” I then spent the last three days slowly moving it all into the garage. We’re going to be selling a Futon, a desk, a large office chair, a dining room table, and two sets of storage shelving. We’re also sending a twin bed, drawing table and a large overstuffed chair to Dania’s parents’ basement thus using up all of the storage we have available to us.

He also tackles their stockpile of books . I like his discernment process (bolded):


Dania and I own more than 500 books — with shelving for only about 350 of them. So we went through every single title, and asked ourselves whether we would buy that book today at full price from the local bookstore? If the answer was yes, it got packed away for the move. If not, we considered whether we thought we might read it again, or is it was worth keeping for our children-to-be? If no, it went on the sell pile.

The storage shelves are now covered with books for the house sale …. Anything that doesn’t sell will be taken to the local Half Price Books, so they’ll hopefully all find a good home.

We went thru the same process with our clothes, our kitchen items, our tools, and virtually everything else we owned, including three of my six guitars, a guitar monitor, and my entire beer glass collection (we have better ones that match that we’re keeping). We’re basically channelling  the Clean House crew now, and more and more stuff is piling into the garage — so much that the car spent last night outside for the first time since we bought it.

Since I don’t watch TV, I’ve never seen this show, but there were some inspiring videos at the Clean House link. The strategy seems to be to pull out the small percentage of any category of goods that you MUST keep, and let the rest go. Which makes more sense than asking yourself, “could I part with this?” – because the answer to that question is too often NO!

The Clean House clutter-clearing sessions always seem to end with a blow-out garage sale. I could get behind that!

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Filed under Attachment - Vairagya, Baby steps, Downsizing, Paper and books, Selling stuff

Ruling out a condo…

condosWhen you have to make a decision, it can be easier if you first eliminate some of the options.

My current options:

1. Remain in my 3000 sq ft home

  • gradually spend all my money to keep the place up or
  • rent two rooms to help with expenses

2. Sell my home and  then:

  • buy a much smaller house
  • buy a condo
  • rent an apartment
  • rent a house
  • move into some sort of adult community
  • move in with an adult child or friend

I have no adult child with an extra room, and I’d have to be really hard up to ask a friend to let me move in, so that option is out.

I am not old enough, and may never be old enough in spirit, to live in an adult community.  Yecchh! That option is scratched.

And last night I scratched the condo idea from the list, after visiting a friend who lives in a very nice condo of just four townhouses.

It was great at first, she said. But then the quiet older woman next door sold her place to a noisy and disagreeable couple. The couple was friends with the people on the other side of them, and they sided with the new couple at condo meetings.  Condo meetings have become very unpleasant, needless to say.

The covenant is extremely restrictive – it won’t allow my friend to knock out a wall between the kitchen and dining area, which would open the place up significantly.  She can’t even change the curtains in the front window.

Another friend belongs to a much larger condo association, where 30% of the units have gone empty.  As a result everyone’s condo fees have skyrocketed, to cover the costs of the empty units.

So I’ve scratched the condo option. That leave me with

a) rent out rooms (which still leaves me with a lot of responsibility I don’t want, though it’s a temporary alternative)

b) buy a little house (but to do so will be near impossible until this one sells)

c) rent an apartment or small house (not easy because it means paying rent as well as house payments till the house sell)

More and more it looks like the only feasible option is to rent rooms while I fix the place up to sell (and get rid of lots of crap), put it on the market and when it sells see what’s left in my pocket for my next living space.

Argh. I want so to have a specific place in mind, so I know what MUST go and what will fit into the new place.

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Filed under Baby steps, Downsizing, Emotional issues, Rent or buy?

Baby steps on eBay

ebay-logoLast week I listed four items on eBay: a collection of vintage “Reprints from SingOut!” which are probably worth about $25 (sold for $3  – oh well); a set of 6 CDs on ear training for improvising musicians (sold for $20 -yay!); a CD-music set Bluegrass workout (sold for $12 – yay!).  $35 more in the kitty!

Thank god the fourth item got no bids, because I suddenly realized that it was in the batch of stuff I delivered to the Friends of the Library…

You do not want to besmirch your eBay 100% rating.

Building a good eBay reputation

I started selling online last year in a very modest way on, eBay’s little sister, where mostly books, CDs, DVDs and games sell for fixed prices.  My geek son had suggested that this was a good way to get a good reputation as an eBay seller, so that when I wanted to sell things of greater value on eBay proper, I wouldn’t be viewed as an amateur who could screw things up or be dishonest.

Still, I spent altogether too much time tonight watching the bidding for these three items, rooting for the underdog, waiting to see if the price would go up again… and in two cases it jumped at the last second, which was nice.

I know that people have all sorts of fancy eBay buying systems – what I don’t know yet is if there are some cool selling secrets, since I’m done with the buying phase of my life. Mostly.

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Filed under Baby steps, Downsizing, Paper and books, Selling stuff