Saturday, September 25, 2010

Adventures in Packing Part One: Gathering for a Garage Sale

This will be the first in what I anticipate will be a long series regarding the process of shutting down a house one has lived in almost 14 years.  When we moved in here I was in my mid-thirties, still firmly rooted in the "gathering" phase of my life.  And I gathered with aplomb.  I recently found some photos of the house we took shortly after we moved in to send to Mother.  As I looked at them, I glanced over at the same location in the house and was shocked!  My shelves look so crowded!  When did that happen?  It snuck it's way in over the years, little by little, piece by piece.  Now I have a 4 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath house with double car garage stuffed with stuff.  So, the first order of business is to determine what I absolutely cannot live without and peel off what I have no desire to haul across the country, all with the realization that most of it will fall somewhere in between.

In the meantime, it is time to begin planning the follow-up fund raising art auction for AFED.  The initial silent auction, planned in Kelsey's memory, was a great success and constitutes the single largest source of our tiny little organization's financial assets.  But, that was in large part due to the private contributions several of us made toward it.  The event has a significant overhead to do it right, even with donations of products and services.  So, I had the bright idea that I could kill two birds with one stone by holding a charity garage sale.  A fund raiser to help fund the fund raiser, if you will.  We'd make some money for the organization, and I would cull out some of the unnecessary junk I've accumulated over the years or the few things left over from Mother's household that I could not or did not want to absorb into my own.   Great idea, right?

Well, there's a reason I have only ever had two garage sales in my life.  First of all, I may not share DNA with my mother, but her tendency to gather seems inherent in both me and Marissa.  I am not a candidate for that hoarding show, not yet anyway, but I do like my things.  And, more dangerously, I get sentimental about them.  I'll keep a skirt from high school that my mom made for me as a surprise, or a book a friend sent me, even though I've read it and probably will not read it again.  And of course there are the Star Wars and Lord of the Rings toys and collectibles.  Finally, but by far not the least, are all my Steeler related things.   How in the world could I ever part with any of those things, particularly since I had spent so long collecting them?  Cleaning out goes against my grain.  I'll do it, but on a far more modest level than most people who organize garage sales.

Then there's the fact that it's simply hard work!  First you have to root through all your stuff, pull it out, organize it, label it, haul it out and display in your yard/driveway, barter with people, then box the leftovers all up again to save for the next time or to discard.  Hours and hours worth of hard work for a modest return and the psychological hit of watching things that once meant a lot to you being casually picked up, examined and rejected by strangers.  Yet, at the same time, any money made at all for AFED would be profit, so the group agreed to it, and I set to work trying to decide what I didn't want any longer.  I tried to be brutal and really sacrifice for the cause.

I began with my jewelry.  I have a thing for jewelry.  I have a lot of it.  A whole lot.  My original goal was to reduce the inventory by half, which still would mean that I would have too much.  Among the collection were remaining pieces from the 80's when my philosophy was, quite simply, bigger is better.  If it was big, gaudy and had animal themes, I loved it.  Why I still have a lot of it is a little puzzling, even to me.  I know some of it has to do with what I think of when I look at a particular piece; such as when I wore that wooden African animal necklace to the Tears for Fears concert.  Sometimes it's more about how amusing it is to look at some of the pieces I had and think that I ever went out in public wearing them.  Worse still, I thought I looked awesome wearing it.  I ponder the possibility that they could still provide service as Halloween costumes.  Occasionally I delude myself into thinking some long ago favorite pieces will come back into style at some point.  Sometimes they actually even do.  I pulled together a fairly aggressive group, trying hard to stick to my agenda.  But, I knew pretty much out of the gate, I wasn't going to get anywhere close to my goal.  I agreed to part with maybe 10% of the total hoard, and I've since added a couple of new pieces back in.  It's not a good situation.

Books:  much the same.  Star Wars and Lord of the Rings toys - not much gone.  Steeler paraphernalia - you can pretty much forget about it.  I did let a hat I happened to have two of go, and I let loose of one of my Five-Time Super Bowl Champ shirts, given that we now have six.  I did better with other categories and as this week approached, the garage was filling up even before donations came in.  But, as I sit here tonight, tired and sore, there is still a whole heck of a lot of stuff in this house.

I guess I have to look at is a beginning.  As life goes on without two of the exact same ball cap, and I don't miss the cat necklace and matching earrings, maybe it will give me the courage to part with more and more.  I have to keep the ultimate goal in mind:  getting from here to Pittsburgh.

Next up:  how garage sales go better with a little help from your friends...

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