Category Archives: Attachment – Vairagya

Footloose and fancy free!

It’s been 12 days since my house closed and I left for California with a couple of suitcases and a bunch of holiday stuff tossed into the back of my minivan.

The family that bought the house emailed that they’re thrilled with their new home – especially to be moved in in time to enjoy Christmas there.

I keep waiting for the grief to sweep over me, but so far…NADA.

OK, a little twinge when I couldn’t gather greens from my yard for holiday decorations. And a little twinge when I realized that a particular thing I needed was no longer in the second drawer to the left of the stove, but is buried in some poorly marked box deep in the storage unit.

But mostly I feel very light. Light-hearted, light-footed.

The last few days I’ve stayed with an old friend, helping her get her house ready for her extended family to arrive for Christmas. She has a gorgeous home near the California coast, high on a ridge with spectacular views in all directions. Many people would kill to live in a place like this.

But she was not enjoying it. She fretted about getting the tree decorated. She fussed about food preparations. She was in a flap about cleaning the house (to her high standards) in time.  Would the yard person show up? Would the garbage man make a timely pickup? No way just enjoying where she is.

I’ve been there. Oh yeah, have I been there!

But not this year. It wasn’t my house, and it wasn’t my problem, so I just plowed through whatever task she set me to – no big deal. The more challenging the better. I had a blast.

No emotional attachment = no stress.

Must.Remember.This.

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Filed under 101 Reasons to Downsize, Attachment - Vairagya, Emotional issues, Envisioning a simpler life

On schlepping stuff.

So… all that stuff I threw into the back of my Toyota minivan just before I left town Friday?

  • 2 carry-on size suitcases
  • 3 boxes of important stuff I couldn’t live without for two months
  • 3 boxes of essential stuff required for our traditional family Christmas
  • 1 box of emergency stuff for winter driving over the Siskiyou summit
  • 2 boxes of random stuff that sprung out of hiding as I was doing the last minute sweep and cleanup of the house.

All that stuff. (Not counting my dog Molly, who’s staying with friends…)

I must have put it there to teach me a lesson, because it’s already rapping me on the noggin like a zen master  – it will not be ignored.

Yesterday I pulled up to my son’s apartment in the slightly rough Mission District of San Francisco, where he lives in an old Victorian, on the 3rd floor.  After he greeted me, he peered into the back of the car:

“Ma, what IS all this crap? I thought you got rid of most of your stuff!”

“It’s my stuff for the next couple of months.”

“Well, it can’t stay in the car. It’s a recipe for a break-in. We’ve got to take it upstairs.”

So up three flights we humped 2 carryon suitcases, 3 boxes of important stuff, 3 boxes of Christmas stuff, 1 box of emergency stuff, and 2 boxes of random stuff PLUS, for good measure, my traveling craptastic basket between the front seats and the faceplate off my car radio. This left only a couple of rags and a lot of pine needles on the floor.

Unfortunately, this is just the beginning. When I leave for a house-sitting gig in Oakland in a week, we’ll haul all the boxes back downstairs, and then I’ll have to hump them inside again for safe-keeping.  When I return to the Portland area for my next house-sitting gig, the cycle will be repeated.

And so on. I wonder how many more schleps before I learn a lesson…

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Filed under 101 Reasons to Downsize, Attachment - Vairagya, Baby steps

Costs of selling a home mount up

Yesterday I did the deed. Or more accurately, I paid Chicago Title a queen’s ransom to do the deed. For them to guarantee that there were no liens against my property I paid more than $1,500.  I also paid the realtors (mine and the buyers’) a commission of $21,000 and (state and local excise) taxes of $7,500.

In other words, it is very expensive to sell a house. Nobody mentions this when you’re in the lustful phase of buying a house. When you sell all those fees you avoided up front as a buyer come back to bite you. Too late you realize they should be figured into any profitability equation.

The pain in my purse would have been less if home prices hadn’t plummeted in the past couple of years.  To console me, my realtor brought a bag of handmade chocolate-coated toffee to the signing.

Ah well, what’s done is done.  I loved the house, I loved transforming it into a thing of beauty and functionality, I loved living there. The money I lost is just the money I lost.

Right now the house is empty but for the stuff I plan to carry in the car during a two-month stint of staying at other people’s house. So today is about packing the last remnants and final cleaning.

Here the kitchen looks as pristine as the day I finished the remodel.

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Filed under Attachment - Vairagya, Downsizing, Envisioning a simpler life, Rent or buy?, Selling stuff

Friends: indispensable during a move

Even my cat, Bama, wants to help.

Over the past week I’ve also had major packing and cleaning help from Chris, Patty, Skip and Sue. Down and dirty help, especially from Chris. She and I have cooked a half dozen charity dinners in my kitchen, so she knows her way around my house, and we work really well together.

I can’t imagine tackling a job of this size alone. Friends are indispensible. A friend:

  • sees your stuff objectively and isn’t emotionally attached to it,
  • talks you through challenging decisions,
  • helps you stay on task,
  • keeps you from getting discouraged,
  • makes the work much less painful

And I believe they take perverse pleasure in being able to deal cavalierly with Stuff that’s not their own. A thousand hugs to all of you.

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

Downsizing my closet, with help.

My well-dressed and ruthlessly honest friend Judi came over this morning to help me tackle that which I’ve been unable to tackle alone… my closet.

I thought I’d done so well this summer when I filled two large bags for Goodwill. But when I thought about squeezing my clothes into a couple of suitcases and a wardrobe box, it was clear a radical clothesectomy was required.

Mostly I dress very casually because I work from home. When I’m not at my desk I’m pulling weeds in the yard or muscles at yoga.

But I do like color, so I’ve got sweaters, tops and scarves in a rainbow of colors that look good on me. Some have the patina of age on them. Some were good ideas worn once.

Judi hauled them all out of the closet and arranged them by color in stacks on the bed. It became clear that I had an over-abundance of tops in certain colors, and an over-abundance of tops with round t-shirt necks which I recently decided are extremely unflattering on a person with an older shorter wrinkled neck. Not naming names.

An article I read awhile back said that we hang onto our clothes for three reasons:

  1. They represent a financial investment we don’t feel we’ve recouped;
  2. We have associations, memories, feelings attached to them; and
  3. We imagine a time in the future when we’ll need or want them.

Since I rarely spend much on an article of clothing #1 isn’t a real problem for me. Nor is #2 (at least in terms of clothes… we’re not going to talk about books, photos, art, vases, paper… ).

My problem is #3 – imagining the future. Unlike so many I’m not hanging on to a wardrobe in four different sizes, because I’ve been a size 6 for decades. But I do imagine a future in which that shade of purple will come back, that shape jacket, that style of bell-bottoms. I imagine a future in which I will be invited to a costume party, a rodeo, the Black and White Ball, a hike in the Arctic, and dinner with Barack Obama.

Judi disabused me of all those fantasies, and long story short, we filled three LARGE trash bags with Goodwill material. Whenever I faltered, she had me try the thing on and look in the mirror. If the mirror didn’t convince me, the look on her face did.

What was left will indeed fit into 2 suitcases and a wardrobe box.  A personal triumph. It will be easier to choose what to wear and I bet none will be missed.

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Filed under 101 Reasons to Downsize, Attachment - Vairagya, Baby steps, Emotional issues, Inspiration & encouragement

How am I doing?

People who know how much I love this house ask me how I’m holding up under the impending sale and move (of my stuff) into a storage unit.

Surprisingly, astonishingly even, FINE. I’ve been too busy to get emotional – or something like that. It’s been a process that I’ve thought about for a few years and began actively working on this summer. At this point the edge has softened and it’s just WORK.

The endlessness of the work and the logistical organizing of what needs to be done when is the most stressful. I am not good in the logistics department, so I’ve been fortunate to have friends and family members talk me down and through some mental tangles.

Once you start getting rid of stuff, and once you realize how little other people value your stuff when you try to sell it, it begins to lose value in your own eyes. It becomes, well, STUFF.

After my mini-sabbatical in California after the house closes on 12/11 I’ll be back in town, staying with dear friends, taking my time to figure out what’s next.

What’s clear is that my friends and family are my greatest treasures. All else is just STUFF.

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Filed under Attachment - Vairagya, Downsizing, Emotional issues, Envisioning a simpler life, Getting organized, Inspiration & encouragement, Priorities, Selling stuff, Spiritual lessons

What’s your stuff worth? (Hint: not much…)

Lenox plates

I delivered a couple of antiques, some lovely old china and several nice paintings to a local auction house today. The guy had come out a few days ago to eyeball my holdings and estimate what they might bring at auction next month.

It was really depressing.

P1000048This 2,400 year-old ceramic water jug from Greece, for example, was brought here from Europe by my grandfather in the 1930s. It was appraised four years ago at $1000. But the auction guy said cheap copies of such antiquities are now readily available, so no one wants to pay for the real thing. Besides, who wants to worry about the real thing breaking?  (!)  “Well, fine,” I said (suppressing harsher words), “I’m keeping it then.”

Then there is my Grandmother’s gold-rimmed Lenox china (see above). It’s 100 years old, and yet very modern and simple in design. 6 place settings plus platters, serving bowls, etc. all in perfect condition.  “Maybe we’ll get $200,” he said. I muttered something crude under my breath.

Becker clockA lovely Austrian clock from 1880 (which cost $600 at an antique store in 1976 – $2278 in today’s dollars – and is still in perfect working condition)? “I estimate $300 to $400…” This was something that should have APpreciated over time, not DEpreciated.

OK. I can deal with the indignity of being told my Preciouses are worth shit today. They’re just things, I tell myself.

And mostly I’m all right with the financial loss, knowing that someone will be happy to snap them up at a bargain price, and might even come to love them.

But then I had to deliver my art deco oak sideboard, which the auctioneer expected to sell for about what I paid for it back in 1975. It was one of my first major purchases for the house I bought after my first husband died (very young, of cancer). It anchored the dining room as a place where our little family could begin to come together in a new way. I kept our silver, placemats, napkins, and fancy glasses in it – and out of its capaciousness I set the table for many many family meals, holiday celebrations and convivial evenings with friends. (Not shown here is a lovely leaded glass cabinet above the mirrored back.)

P1000016

As we loaded it into the van I was surprised to find myself bursting into tears. Surprised because so far I’ve been pretty sanguine about the whole downsizing process. OK, I am indignant over the lowball prices, but this wasn’t about money. It was about meaning.

The auctioneer sees antique furniture and other family heirlooms like mine every day – to him it’s chopped liver. But to those of us who’ve lived for decades with the piece and imbued it with our energy and memories, it’s amputation. I walk by the place in the dining room where it’s always been and nothing is left but dust bunnies and a mark on the molding.

I suspect that as the house gets increasingly empty I’m going to want to speed up the process of getting out so I don’t have to feel the phantom pain any longer than necessary.

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Filed under Art & antiques, Attachment - Vairagya, Downsizing, Emotional issues, Furniture, Selling stuff

Feng Shui works! What I’ve learned getting my home ready to sell…

chinese feng shuiIt may be a down market, but many people have come through my house in the first few days.  Two couples are already preparing offers.

The house, like a standard poodle at Westminster,  shows well. A lot of it has to do with feng shui– I’ve feng shui’d the heck out of the place and visitors feel it immediately. [Feng shui is one of my two professional gigs, so I try to practice what I preach on myself, even though it’s not easy to be detached about your OWN STUFF.]

Even if you don’t plan to sell your house for years, I commend this process to you on your current home. Why do all this work for the NEXT owners just before you sell, when you could do it for yourself TODAY? You can have years of serene living in your own personal paradise.

Eight feng shui tips to make your home a personal paradise.

1. The placement of the home on the land is balanced between wind and water. (The two characters for feng shui mean “wind” and “water”.) This is something you can’t do much about if you weren’t the original builder (well, you can give the illusion of good placement, but that’s not the subject of this post).  Ideally, in feng shui tradition, your home should be “cradled in the belly of the dragon” – as if you were nestled like a baby in the curve of your mother’s arms.

You want to be on a gentle slope above a lake or stream – not so high you’re in the wind, and not so low you’re in the water.  That’s where my house sits – partway down a hill with gardens in front, gardens in back, and a wonderful view of the lake below.

2. The entry is clear, magnetically attractive, and welcoming.  A curved brick path leads you to the front porch, where two antique ceramic elephants act as greeters on either side of the reddish door.  I replaced the very funky front door unit (which I should have done in the original remodel – would have been a lot cheaper…) Just inside the door is a pretty bench where you can sit to take off your boots, and it’s angled to lead you further into the house.

house pix for sale pix 002

3. Color enlivens every room. (No white or beige walls).  The floor plan is open enough that you can see several different rooms at once, each a different color, but all of which work well together. The living room and entry hall are a warm soothing taupe, the kitchen a periwinkle blue with white and black tile backsplash and charcoal counters and floor (the dark floor brings in the water element to balance the fire of kitchen activities). The guest bath is pumpkin orange, the laundry room chartreuse, and the dining room winey-red. White woodwork ties it all together as do many of the multi-colored art pieces. Even the garage is decked out with color (paint left over from the rest of the house) to make the home-owner feel happy and serene when pulling in at the end of a long day.

Workbench after

4. Every window looks out on something lovely. Our homes must relate to the world outside, so I tried to make sure what you see outside the window is attractive. In my case that means well-kept plants, a tidy lawn, a trimmed hedge, something in bloom, a trellis, even a piece of outdoor art. In the case of a couple of windows with unredeemable views, I keep them covered with translucent shades.

MB View

5. I got rid of all clutter. Clear countertops, bookshelves half-empty and reorganized, no tsottchkes (sp.? – those dusty little collections of frogs, roosters, Hummel figures, teacups, etc that plague American homes).  Immediately the house and I felt much more peaceful and focused.

6. I moved the furniture, moved the chi. Almost every piece of furniture in the house was moved, from a simple angle change to a complete re-location in the house. Let me tell you, this really wakes up the chi and even people who’ve never been in the house before feel it.  The biggest shift was my office (Home of Stale Chi): I got rid of two desks, a couple of file cabinets, and a bookcase, then I moved the whole shebang into another (smaller) room, setting it up with a little desk that had been elsewhere. WOW. I actually like it.

7. Everything got cleaned within an inch of its life. I brought in outside help for this – my daughter and a hungry young political worker – and the three of us scrubbed for days. (I’ve been my own house cleaner since I bought the house… need I say more? I’ve been worth every cent I got paid.)  You don’t realize how grubby a cabinet shelf was until it’s been washed…

8. I let go of the house as mine.  This could have been the hardest part, since I LOVE LOVE LOVE the home I’ve created here. But I’m ready for the next adventure, whatever that will be, and needed to sever the cords that tie the house to me and vice versa.  Before the open house on Sunday I walked around each room, soaking in its beauty or functionality, and thanked it for all it had contributed to my great happiness and comfort living here. And then I released it for the happy buyers who would follow me in loving the place.

Yes, I shed some tears. I made a silk purse out of a house that was once a sow’s ear, and may never again live in such a wonderful home. But I’m comforted knowing that it will grace the lives of its next owners.  May it be so.

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Filed under Attachment - Vairagya, Downsizing, Practical feng shui

Sudden misgivings: am I selling too soon?

shorter oak bureau

It’s not like this oak dresser is anything special, even though it’s old and I’ve had it a long time. Nor is the other old oak bureau, or the plain pine one.  And I’m not enamored of any of them.

But now they’re gone and there are holes where they lived. Empty space.

Neither spare bedroom was crowded with furniture in the first place. One was my  son’s (currently globe-trotting), and the other a very comfy guest room.   Without dressers, neither room feels so homey.

I won’t miss the stuff, it’s the hospitality potential I’m selling off  – the “Mom’s place where’s there’s always room for you” .

On a crasser note, the two antique bureaus were probably priced too low, given the enthusiastic response I got from my Craigslist posting.  I  could have gotten an additional $20 for each of them.  On the other hand the pine bureau went for $5 more.  Live and learn.

Now let’s talk about the !@#$ing McGuire humongo desk… am I going to have to PAY to be free of it?  In case you’ve forgotten what it looks like:

McGuire Desk

McGuire Desk

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Filed under Attachment - Vairagya, Baby steps, Downsizing, Emotional issues, Furniture, Selling stuff

What about the family piano??

Mom's piano

The piano is a dying fixture in the American home.  So claims a recent story in the Los Angeles Times.

105,000 acoustic pianos (upright and grand) were sold in the US in 2000. By 2007 sales had plunged to 54,000.  Given today’s economy, we could be chopping them for firewood in a few years.

People are buying electronic keyboards instead – keyboards that are light, portable, and include attachments that control the furnace, shampoo the carpet,  and flip pancakes.

This is very bad news for me.

I am the keeper of a 1936 Steinway baby grand – a gift from my mother to my son, who is a talented pianist. Maybe I should say was a talented pianist. We refurbished it at great expense and he played the heck out of it from age 11 till he left for college in 2001.

A few months later I bought a too-big home  because it had a living room spacious enough to accommodate his precious piano which he would return to claim any minute.

Right.

First issue: he’s scarcely touched it in eight years, even when he was living at home the last few months.

Second issue: he’s globe-trotting for the forseeable future. A baby grand will not fit in his backpack. And when he returns it will probably not fit in some shoebox bachelor apartment either.

Third issue: my own future cottage/condo/shoebox won’t have space for a piano unless I put a mattress on top of  it and call it my bed.

There’s so much history with this piano. My grandparents bought it for my mom as a college graduation present  ($990 for the piano, $10 for the bench = $1,000 total).  She taught singing for 70 years with it,  playing it so much the brass sustain pedal was worn to a nub.  My two sisters and I  shed tears of frustration on its (real) ivory keys at our daily practice sessions.

After being refurbished and refinished the piano was appraised at $40k.

Needless to say it’s one of the biggest and most emotionally loaded THINGS that must be dealt with in this downsizing process. Not to mention the pain in my heart that my son’s connection to the piano seems have come undone.

He and I need to have a little chat about the piano’s future…

Meanwhile here’s more from the LA Times story…

The piano has been the center of many American homes for generations, not only a proclamation of a love of music but also often a statement about striving for success.

“In a very traditional sense, the piano did stand for something. It was a symbol of mobility, moving up,” especially among immigrant families, said Joe Lamond, president of the International Music Products Assn., based in Carlsbad and known as NAMM. Some real estate agents still will move a piano into a house that’s for sale to class it up, he said.

In many homes these days, a piano isn’t so much a musical instrument as it is just another piece of furniture.  ….

In the 21st century, the acoustic piano seems to be a relic of another era. Jeffrey Lavner, a piano teacher at the Colburn School in downtown L.A., puts it this way: “I think piano playing is a little like black-and-white movies.”   [ouch!]

…   Many forces have contributed to the acoustic piano’s troubles. Start with electronic keyboards and digital instruments, with their improving quality and alluring gadgets such as metronomes, USB ports, headphones and recording devices. Not to mention their generally lower price.

“We live in a digital age,” said Brian Majeski, editor of Music Trades magazine. “You have to redefine the instrument.”

And in a time of foreclosures and downsizing, the expense of a traditional piano — which can run from a few thousand dollars to $100,000 or more — may seem untenable, especially for a child who may be eager to play but has no track record in the rigors of daily practice. What’s more, for students, there is ferocious competition for the hours between school and sleep: Homework or video games? Soccer or ballet? Facebook or TV?

In a survey of piano teachers conducted in 2005 for the Piano Manufacturers Assn. International, 89% said that the primary reason a child drops lessons is “too many other activities.” …

[Cross-posted at 365pwords . Piano is a great p word.]

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