Category Archives: Furniture

Thank god for ex-husbands who are still friends

My ex has been feeling more anxious about my move than I am, so to calm himself he offered to help oversee yesterday’s Big Move. Stuffing my Stuff into Storage. Squeezing Drusilla’s foot into Cinderella’s tiny glass slipper.

My storage place offers a 16’ truck for such occasions ($20), and my plan was to pick it up at noon so the two strong lads I hired at $25 an hour would be ready to boogie after their morning final exams.

The truck was so huge (to me) and the s-curve of my driveway so challenging that I was grateful Martin could handle it instead. I’d have taken out the mailbox, the rock wall, and at least one fender.

I figured I needed a 10’x20’ space but only a 7×10 and a 10×10 were open, so I took them, negotiating the price down from $173 to $98 for the first six months. (It pays to haggle in the storage bidness…).

Mart decided to put the boxes in the smaller one and the furniture in the bigger one.

The first run was a truckful of boxes. Me taping and labeling straggler boxes as fast as they hauled them off. Carefully noting on top and sides the most significant box contents.  They stuffed that unit to the rafters.

Then came the furniture. I had gotten rid of most of the big stuff, or so I thought. But I forgot about all the chairs and tables. 8 dining chairs, 2 office chairs, 2 living room chairs. A dining table, several side tables, etc. none of which fold well. Mart wove the pieces together into an intricate web of legs – again to the rafters.

Oops! we forgot the oak commode in the guest bathroom.  And what about these lamps? Do the garden tools in the garage go?

It was all done well after dark.  Oh, and it was 18 degrees out. At least it was dry!

Then after the very last few boxes were placed I discovered that the lads hadn’t even noticed my labeling… most of the boxes were placed LABEL SIDE IN.

No way am I going to be going to the storage place hoping to pull out just this one box or that chair. It’s gonna be all or nothing when I need something. Like when I move into my next place, wherever/whenever that’s going to be.

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Filed under 101 Reasons to Downsize, Downsizing, Furniture, Getting organized, Storage

The case of the McGuire furniture

There is a time and a buyer for everything: witness the McGuire furniture saga.

You may remember my humongo McGuire desk, the logjam in my early efforts to downsize during the summer. It took up an acre of physical space but was way too valuable just to chuck. Or so I thought.

I listed it several times on Craigslist, each time significantly reducing the price. Not one nibble until I PAID two boys to move it down to the garage for me and listed it for free. Then a couple from the coast drove 2 hours each way to fetch it.

Meanwhile, I’d kept the leather, cane and wicker McGuire desk chair that went with it, because… well, because.

Last minute I realized that of the THREE desk chairs I had, it was my least favorite. It had to go.

I listed the chair on Craigslist for $60. Very quickly a woman called from Seattle to say “Hold it for me. I’ll be there in three hours.” She gave me the $60 without a moment’s haggle.

Then she asked about The Desk.

Turns out she loves McGuire furniture. She had seen the desk listing and would have happily paid $500 for it, but to her chagrin she had just gotten a new desk.

Moral of this story: if you want to get rid of unique items of value, be patient. Start early and list often.  Otherwise, figure on giving it away.

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Filed under Art & antiques, Downsizing, Envisioning a simpler life, Furniture, Selling stuff

Auction results. Feh!

The auction house sent me a preliminary statement from last week’s sale.

My art deco sideboard sold for $650. The six place settings of lovely thoroughly modern looking 100-year-old china? $150. The antique clock? $350. Then the auction company takes 20% of that for commission.  Some stuff didn’t even sell.

I guess the good news is that if I ever want to re-stock on furnishings, the auction house is the place to start for incredible bargains on lovely things.

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Filed under Art & antiques, Downsizing, Furniture, Selling stuff

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

Piano gone; hole in the living room

How we gonna get this sucker out of here?

How we gonna get this sucker out of here?

One of the several reasons I bought a house too big for one person is that I had two out-sized precious possessions which demanded space.

One is my grandfather’s gorgeous dining room table, which seats 10 comfortably  (and that’s before adding two leaves!) and which my daughter wants as soon as SHE gets a bigger home.

The other is the Steinway baby grand that my mom bought in 1936 with her $1000 college graduation gift ($990 for the piano, $10 for the bench).  In 1996 she gave it to my youngest, who is a gifted pianist.

Of course he went off to college and it didn’t fit in his dorm room. It also didn’t fit in his post-college apartment. And now it certainly doesn’t fit in the backpack he’s been carrying around Europe since May.  So I have it.

Or had it. My realtor hemmed and hawed about it.
“Er, you know, uh, that the living room would look much bigger without a LARGE piano in it…”  So I found a friend who is going to piano-sit until Wylie gets back AND finds a place to live where it will fit.

Unless he plans to sleep under it.

With the piano gone, and the curio cabinet, the living room looks ready for an eager buyer’s eyes. So do a couple of other rooms in the house.

Spacious...

Unfortunately, in making those rooms lean and gorgeous, the detritus had to go somewhere. Oh yeah. One heap o’ crap is on my office floor, and another bigger heap is in the spare room.

I keep telling myself it’s just a process – one step at a time…

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Filed under Baby steps, Downsizing, Furniture

Realtor reality check. Ugh.

Birdtoes' rats

Birdtoes' rats

Yesterday I showed my house to the first of three or four realtors I’m interviewing to see who might best represent my precious place to the most appropriate buyers.

IMHO my house is special – beautiful grounds, mature landscaping and trees, beautifully remodeled, uniquely inviting, views from every window, secluded and quiet yet close in….  etc etc.

The realtor and her business partner oohed and ahhed at all the right places, but when it came down to talking about price, they suggested a price about $100k below what I might have asked a couple of years ago. There’s such a glut of homes on the market that buyers are focused most on how cheap they can go, they said.

I knew it was bad, but I didn’t expect it to be that low.

“Well, you can ask more, but nobody will bother to come see it. Pricing it right is everything…”

Then they proceeded to tell me all the things I could spend thousands more dollars to fix it up so there’d be nothing to trip up a sale deal.

OK. I’ve already ordered a replacement for my front door unit  because it’s irredeemably wonky for years. I know that the turquoise wall color I chose for the upstairs bathroom is a little too wild – and I’m willing to repaint it something more muted (it’s small…) but I’m not going to re-roof or install air-conditioning.

They suggested I replace my current big desk with something dainty and unobtrusive so my office looks more massive than my desk.  (Humongo* desk – my other desk – used to sit behind the chair of my current big desk – aren’t two big desks better than one?  Of course.)

They also said, “The less you have in your closets, garage, bookcases, cupboards, rooms the better. So sell it, give it away or dump anything that won’t fit into your future 100 sq.ft. home.”

Ulp.

Check.

Then they said, “And have it ready to go on the market ASAP – no later than mid-August, because by mid-October buyers go into hibernation.”

They had to revive me with smelling salts. Three weeks to sort through a lifetime of treasures? I was moving at a six-month pace.

The boxes and cabinets of history on paper are what scare me the most.  I’m a writer…paper is my stock in trade, and I also have family photos going back a hundred years. Plus all the scrapbooks, kids’ mementos. The mind boggles.

I need a nap!

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Filed under Downsizing, Emotional issues, Furniture, Paper and books, Selling stuff

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