The Big Clean
How hard could it be?
Dad had cleaned out a lot of things in the house years ago. He had given away clothes, linens, craft and sewing supplies and lots of books after my mom died nine years ago. He moved out of his home of 48 years about six months ago, moving in with my brother. He took most everything of sentimental value with him. With an interested buyer on the line, it was time to finishing emptying out the house and get it ready for sale. By today’s standards, it was a small home, two stories with a full basement. Maybe 1,000 sq. ft. How hard could it be?
I had no idea. The biggest surprise? The number of bookcases in that little home. The books were mostly gone, but my brother, sister and I must have carried out twenty-five book cases and cabinets of various shapes and sizes. Some were antiques, some were cheap pressboard “some assembly required” pieces, and others were handcrafted by my dad. One-by-one we carried painted, stained, metal, laminate and plastic shelf units to the curb, where many were picked up by folks alerted to our efforts via Craigslist.
Not-so-surprising: plastic. We boxed and bagged up hundreds of food containers and lids, dishpans, pitchers, buckets, and baskets. All sizes from one ounce to five gallons were represented. Many went with the recycling. Dishpans were very popular by scavengers; they didn’t last long on the curb at all.
Cardboard? You bet. The pile of cardboard left for recycling was about the size of a cord of firewood. Metal? (hardware not music) Oh yes. A workshop filled with screws, nails, bolts, washers and nuts of every shape and size sorted into can and jars. Several trash cans full. Glass? Of course. Jar after jar after jar.
Unique items: two bottles of champaign, eight tiny music boxes for craft projects, a road atlas from when there were only 48 states, a seven iron, a hand-powered Yankee drill, my Dad’s hunting jacket with a license from 1958 still on the back, a box of 12 gauge shotgun shells, my mom’s confirmation class photo and an anniversary card from my Dad to my Mom, signed, “Your ‘bug’.” I never knew that was her pet name for him!
After recycling day, we started carrying out furniture to the curb. Several families who were just starting out with new homes took quite a bit. It’s nice to know many pieces went to good homes. Five van loads to Goodwill. One freezer to church. And then before we left a fifty-foot long pile of trash, with a prayer that they would indeed take it all.
My brother needs to go up one more time to take or give away some more tools. Other than that, it’s good to go. The buyer is planning to gut the whole house and redo just about everything. A good plan. The house needs new electrical, plumbing, insulation, roof, siding, carpet, kitchen, baths and some foundation work.
My reflections on this past week? It wasn’t an emotional time. That was six months ago when we moved my dad. This was pure physical labor. Hundreds of times up and down the steps, in and out the door.
My advice to just about everyone: start getting rid of stuff right now. Sell it or give it away. I guarantee you’ve got too much. Get in the habit of giving or throwing away one item for everyone you buy or receive. Digitize as much as you can. Your kids will thank you someday. Others will thank you immediately!