Category Archives: Paper and books

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.”



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!

Leave a comment

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

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!

Leave a comment

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

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.

Leave a comment

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

Stuff: never mind the quality; feel the width…

tailor_measuring_2“Never mind the quality; feel the width…”  a catch phrase popularized on a “60s British comedy show about two Jewish tailors always trying to palm off cheap materials on their customers.

I was going to do a spreadsheet inventory of everything I own,  marking a “K” by each thing I planned to Keep and an “X” by everything I wanted to get rid of.  The reward would be in seeing progress as X’d things were deleted.

But after inventorying two minor rooms (entry hall and guest bath)  I realized the process could go on till the Second Coming — and if everyone was raptured except unbeliever me , nobody would be left on earth to buy my stuff. Plus you’ve got to be pretty anal to list every book and piece of music.

So I decided that I’d start counting that sort of stuff in shelf inches instead.   Feel the width!

Here’s how I measured up this week:

  • Sold 24″ of books to Powells for $74
  • Gave a 20″  selection of political and gardening books to our Democratic Party for the annual auction.
  • Bringing 42″ of books to the Friends of the Library sale
  • Gave 6″ of sheet music to the local arts magnet school
  • Bringing 3″ of choral music to our church choir director
  • Tossed 4″ of ancient violin music in the recycle bin

That’s 99″ (8’3″). Seems like a lot, but almost every room in my house has bookshelves, so there’s much much more where that came from.  I’ll measure and report back…

Leave a comment

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

How much is my time worth to sell this stuff??

I have listed a bunch of things on-line, which means I had to describe the thing in enticing terms, photograph it, figure out how much to ask for it, and go through the posting hoops.  Time-consuming. Nibbles on most of the stuff not happening.

dscf3117I also made a trip over to Powells Books in Portland this morning with three and a half boxes of great books, sheet music and instructional CDs. They took about 20 books and gave me $74. More time spent. I now have to figure out to whom to give the remaining almost three boxes.

Books and sheet music are sacred things in my universe. A happy home must be found for them. So I’m bringing some to the Friends of the Library and some to our magnet school for the arts. Another trip and another hour to distribute those. Sigh.

As of today I’ve pocketed about $150 for merchandise that probably cost $1,000 new and it took many hours to “earn” it.

Already the take-away lesson is shockingly clear: the value of a purchase plunges steeply the minute you take it out of its wrapper at home — and if you need to sell it, expect little or nothing in return, and expect it to eat away at your time.

Buying something new makes NO sense any more unless you plan to use the thing to death.  It’s much much smarter to buy used if you must have it, or to rent, borrow or share if you need it only briefly.


Filed under 101 Reasons to Downsize, Baby steps, Downsizing, Envisioning a simpler life, Paper and books, Selling stuff

Impermanence: snow melts and tempus fugit

Impermanence:  n. an essential element of Buddhism – that everything is changing, inconstant, in flux. Because things are impermanent, attachment to them is futile, and leads to suffering.

The Portland area was blanketed in nearly a foot of snow for most of the week up until Christmas. My California grandkids were thrilled to share a white Christmas with their two super-fun uncles, who are young at heart at 25 and 37.

[These family visits are one of my excuses for keeping a house with 4 bedrooms. And you might ask: what about the other FIFTY weeks?]

Being snowbound gave us the chance to invent our fun together. So the boys and the uncles made a snowman:


We all wanted the fun times, and the snowman, to last forever. But impermanence happens. The temperature began rising. The snowman began shrinking. This is how he looked this morning – about 15″ tall:


And now the family is gone and house is totally quiet again.  The holiday disappeared as quickly as the snow, and I feel a lot like our snowman. Quite deflated and a little soggy.

Even during the holiday I was on a downsizing kick though. My two older kids went thru 7 boxes of their childhood memorabilia from the garage.   “It either goes home with you or it goes in the recycle bin,” I told them.  “Now is the time…”

Six of the seven boxes were Ethan’s.  To keep him company I brought out a couple of boxes of my own papers for sorting.

I have to hand it to him; he carefully plowed through a couple of boxes every day, examining each item (artwork, book reports, photos and letters), recycling about half of it, but savoring and repacking the rest to ship to California where he lives.

My own journals and letters are voluminous – going back to college!  The triviality of most of my concerns appalls me, but it’s all there – bringing the past temporarily back to life.

The process was a powerful reminder of how many lives we each have lived through, in what seems like the blink of an eye. Friends, passions, projects… developing, ripening, disappearing. Many forgotten until a picture or letter brings it back.

We keep these things because our memories are as ephemeral as our poor melted snowman.


Filed under Downsizing, Family issues, Paper and books, Photos & memorabilia

P-Touch Power!

David Allen, the productivity guru and author of the perennial best-seller, Getting Things Done, recommends that followers of his organizing principles get themselves a little device known as the P-Touch labeler. It’s a hand-held battery-operated gizmo with a miniature QWERTYUIOP keyboard that produces crisp black letters on white sticky tape and can be used for affixing labels on just about anything, but especially file folders.

I have had the PT-65 (now replaced by the PT-80 or PT-1000) for several years.

One long weekend a few years ago I holed up with my P-Touch and labeled every single file (as well as a bunch of binders and boxes). Everything was so legible that they could be read at ten feet by a blind man.

My youngest son found my P-touch passion incredibly amusing. When I wasn’t looking one night, he made labels for other things around the house “refrigerator” “toilet” “closet” and even one for the cat: “Fritz”.

I don’t mind being ridiculed – these labels keep in place the façade of order. Even if the file folders fill up with useless outmoded information over time I feel good when I open the drawer.

This week I did clutter-clearings for two separate clients, one new, and the other a return visit. When I first walked into the new client’s home I was wondering what the problem was. The entry way, living room, dining room, master bedroom and bath were spare and in perfect order.

But then we entered the family room. The big round coffee table was heaped with books, papers and exercise DVDs. The couch was similarly covered.

“I like to work here because I don’t really like my office,” she said. “I just feel less scattered here.”

So then we went into her office.

No wonder she felt scattered! Paper everywhere. Piles on the floor, piles on the table, piles nearly burying her computer. One corner was filled with boxes of photos, clippings for future collages, and magazines to be clipped for future collages. A basket held mail she hadn’t opened in a week.

I wish I could say that after two hours we made major headway. But she was so petrified by her piles that it took an hour of tea and talking for her even to touch the first pile.

Then I brought out the P-Touch. We labeled a few file folders with it and stood them upright in her file drawer. She was so happy.  Suddenly she could imagine order, control.

She’s buying her own P-Touch.

Yesterday I revisited a couple I’d seen before Christmas. Both of them had major paper issues. The husband got hooked on the P-Touch and has been tossing crap and labeling the rest ever since. The wife was finally willing to move ahead herself.

We talked about how she’d like her office to be once she was done, and with that vision in mind she became a tossing fool. We filled three big boxes with paper of every sort. Then we labeled a few files with her husband’s P-Touch. Another convert. She’s buying her OWN.

Brother should give me a commission.

Leave a comment

Filed under Getting organized, Home office, Paper and books, Practical feng shui

Powells Books: they sell and they BUY

Powells Books is an iconic Portland landmark that takes up a full city block but feels like a rabbit warren of intimate spaces and temptations.

Aside from selling almost any book on almost any subject, they also BUY books. What a great service to the community (and a profit center for them, most decidedly).

So I loaded up my car with FIVE boxes of books culled from the eight bookcases in my house and hauled them in to sell this afternoon. They took half of them and gave me $120 cash (could have had more if I’d taken store credit…). As far as I am concerned it’s a win-win situation.

Today’s load just scratched the surface of my own mini Powells at home.  Hundreds more books to go. If I’m lucky, I can get a little cash for 30% of them – the rest will have to be donated to the annual Friends of the Library sale.

Meanwhile, I need to develop a set of criteria for what stays and what goes. And I must remind myself that 90% of my books can be found in a library or used online if I ever MUST have one back.

Leave a comment

Filed under Downsizing, Paper and books