Monday, February 9, 2009

Paring Down, Stocking Up

My parents are planning to buy a condo and are getting their current home ready to sell. It is a fairly large house with a lot of storage space, and they have lived there for 18 and a half years. In that time they have, as might be expected, accumulated a lot of stuff. Since the beginning of this year, they have been sorting through their many belongings and paring them down. One of the basic tenets of house-staging is to remove as much stuff as possible to make the house seem visibly more spacious. Naturally, they will also benefit from the clearing out when they move into their much smaller new space.

When they first mentioned this project to me, my dad told me that he had called someone to get an estimate on hauling off a lot of things they no longer needed. As I recall, the estimate was $800, which included disposal fees for a bunch of working but outdated computer and AV equipment. My immediate response was, "Dad, have you heard of Freecycle?" And I proceeded to tell him about it. The particular assortment of stuff my parents were trying to shed also included old Christmas trees, a punching bag, and a dead refrigerator. Dad was a bit doubtful that people would actually want this stuff, but I assured him it was desirable junk.

A week or two later, he called me to inform me that Freecycle was the "best idea ever!" He was thrilled that for very little effort, people came and hauled away the stuff he no longer needed. Even better was the fact that the people were actually pleased to get these things, would use them and not toss them. Someone even wanted the broken refrigerator. "You understand it doesn't work, right?" Dad asked. "Yeah, I just like to tinker," the guy replied. Dad was so glad this stuff would get some more use before being land-filled.

In addition to passing stuff along through Freecycle and AmVets, Mom and Dad have been getting rid of excess belongings in the time honored way of sending it home with the kids. My brother and I never leave their house empty handed. Lately when I speak to Mom she'll ask, "Do you think James would like those Legos?" or "Do you want me to save the children's books?" Often the answer has been yes. So the as the tide of stuff ebbs at their house, it is flowing into ours.

Last week I brought home these books, and I've been flying through the Nancy Drews. I can tell which were my favorites, because I can remember them clearly, whereas others I have no idea what the resolution would be when I start reading them. I'm glad to have them, and hope Mom will find some of my other childhood books. The bench upon which the books are perched and the tied quilt, by the way, ended up in our home as the result of a similar purge by the in-laws a couple of years ago. I have a feeling I'll continue to bring things home until my parents have settled into the new place and figured out how much they actually have room to keep. Now I just have to find places for all these treasures here.

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