Someone sent me a short TED talk by filmaker David Hoffman whose house had burned to the ground nine days before he came to the TED conference. For a man who lost his entire film and photo collection, not to mention his STUFF, he was quite chirpy about it all.
I just looked at it, I didn’t know what to do. I mean…was I my things? I always live in the present – I love the present. I cherish the future…
[I lost it all in] Twenty minutes! Epiphany hit me, something hit me. “You’ve got to make something good of something bad.”
Maybe he’s telling the truth and this stunning loss is just another minor pimple on the ass of progress to him. Or maybe after nine days he’s still in shock and denial.
I knew a woman who lost everything in the Oakland hills fire back in October 1991. She had been a marriage counselor, married to a (overbearing asshole) psychiatrist. A year later she had divorced him, quit her counseling practice and gotten a real estate sales license. She had also begun studying for her own Bat Mitzvah (which she finally had, at 55).
Although she had had a beautiful home filled with lovely things, she told me it was the best thing that ever happened to her.
I don’t think I want to take that route…
Bye-bye oak dresser and table
I listed 8 items on Craigslist Thursday night. Five were instant hits – lotsa calls, the other three….total silence. Of course you always hope for the serendipitous possibility that your listing of the stuffed armadillo and the one stuffed armadillo collector in the universe happen on Craigslist at the same moment, but most transactions are very mass-market-ordinary.
Here’s what I’m learning so far.
1. What’s hot is hot, and what’s not is not. Combine the word “antique” with “furniture” and add a cheap price – that’s hot. Describe an item that’s large, unique and (relatively) expensive – that’s not.
2. “Free” is hot. Whether folks NEED the thing or not. So my next strategy with the !@#$ humongo McGuire desk is to offer it free. (I’m very close to taking that experimental plunge.)
3. Cheap is hot. People love a bargain and will travel great distances for it. The folks who hauled off my two antique oak dressers drove about 40 miles each way.
4. Selling on Craigslist is time-consuming and not terribly profitable. So far I’ve netted $398. Better than a stick in the eye, but at some point I will consider my friend Gretchen’s suggestion: have a big party (friends) and invite people to take what they want, leaving some money if they wish, or not.
Until that time, enjoy this song about Craigslist by Weird Al Yankovic, who is still going strong.
Just came upon a great poem by the late great Jane Kenyonabout a yard sale at her father’s house after he died . This is just an excerpt from the poem, “Yard Sale”:
Under the stupefying sun
my family’s belongings lie on the lawn
or heaped on borrowed card tables
in the gloom of the garage. Platters,
frying pans, our dead dog’s
dish, box upon box of sheet music,
a wad of my father’s pure linen
hand-rolled handkerchiefs, and his books
on the subsistence farm, a dream
for which his constitution ill suited him.
Hours pass. We close the metal strongbox
and sit down, stunned by divestiture.
What would he say?
Garden Way Cart
Baby steps, I tell myself, baby steps. I posted the cart on Craigslist and probably should have priced it higher because eight people responded excitedly in short order. But the cart has lived outside for fifteen years and my son had scoffed at its saleability. “Who would want that old thing??? You should pay someone to come get it!”
So I asked $35 for it and could have gotten $50.
If I were to sell, donate, or toss one item a day, I’d be fully down-sized by maybe 2050. Down into my grave, actually.
Perhaps I need to pick up the pace?
Especially motivated since yesterday, when I went on a house tour in the downtown neighborhood where I’d like to live, once I sell this place…
The Hough (pronounced “howk”) neighborhood is waking up from a generation or more of neglect. Nobody wanted an old Craftsman bungalow from the 1920s, because McMansions were the hot thing around here.
Then the market collapsed.
But now those cute little bungalows are HOT, people are doing fabulous renovations and the neighborhood is really coming up. Six homes were on the tour and I could have been happy in any of them, though three were really too big.
Between my travel lust and now bungalow lust the motivation is getting stronger. I begin to see that alternatives to my current life could be extremely attractive…
My25-year-old son mooched off his kindly old mum from October thru May, stashing away heaps of money from his job – like so many autumn leaves in giant trash bags.
And then poof! He took off for Wylie’s Excellent Global Adventure – to travel in distant lands till his money runs out, or I yank on the invisible apron string I tied to his ankle the night before he left (whilst he slept).
To make his money last, his plan is to work for room and board wherever possible. Right now he’s helping a Swedish family renovate their old farmhouse through the WWOOF program (worldwide opportunities on organic farms). He’s strong, smart, and a hard worker (when motivated… i.e. not working for his mother).
Suddenly I’m thinking, hey! Instead of downsizing, why don’t I just sell/store everything and get the hell out of town myself. Way out of town. Far away. I would be an aged oddity at a WWOOF placement, but I sure have done my share of garden work and have the experience. (Not quite the stamina or strength though…).
I know if I really put my mind to it, I could do it. But first I gotta figure out how to sell this place for a decent price. Oh that.