Living In An Empty House

The day after the moving company emptied (for the most part) my house, my friend Barb, a fellow “semi-cripple”, came over to help me clean.  Despite cleaning constantly for showings, I just didn’t feel the house was quite perfect enough to pass on to the new owners.  Barb has severe shoulder, arm and leg pain on her right side, but she was wrangling my vaccuum cleaner fairly well with her left hand.  Meanwhile, I was in the downstairs cleaning out that mess of leaves and road sand otherwise known as a garage.  Barb kept chiding “I thought you would have everything out of here!” while wrestling the vaccuum around piles of things that were still in the house.  Geez, I was still going to be living at Jo’s for 2 months and as we all know from past posts – I need my stuff!!  In addition, there were a few other piles.  There was the “give-to-Karen pile, the give-to-Jo pile, the donate-to-Goodwill pile, the donate-to-Friday’s Animal Rescue pile, the plants-going-to-Claudine’s pile and the more-stuff-to-bring-to-Barnes-for-storage” piles.  Alright, alright, I’ll admit it, I was a little behind on the moving-out schedule, but I would manage.  Here it was Thursday and closing was scheduled for Friday and Barb and I were cleaning around more of my STUFF.  I admonished myself with a “perhaps you should pick up the pace a bit…”

And then the call came.  It was Marilyn and she had news that no homeowner ever wants to hear from their real estate agent.  Let me pause for a moment and tell you that I had been in the midst of one of the nicest closing periods one could ever imagine.  The buyers were great.  They loved my gardens and they were so nice, I created a garden guide for them.  We chatted over the phone from time to time about our respective progress and I checked with them to ask if they wanted this or that.  The inspector loved the house and passed it with flying colors.  The real estate agents had a great relationship.  Even the garden flowers were looking the best EVER (this might have had something to do with Liquid Fence and winning the battle with the deer, but I digress…).  Everyone was playing so nice in the sand box!  But the bank that my buyers used……oh the bank…….hereupon known in less-than-flattering terminology.   Let’s just say that they started making life miserable – for EVERYONE.  And there was to be no closing on Friday.  NO CLOSING!!!!

Oh my God….the drama that ensued.  Your author here was NOT a happy camper.  There I sat in basically an empty house and there was a possibility that the bank would make problems such that I would have to put the house back on the market.  And what could possibly have been the FIRST thing to occur to me?  I am a stager after all.  Well, with my furniture being gone, I had nothing to stage the house with if it had to go back on the market!!!  The horror!  “No, No. Can’t go there! This is just a delay, not an end” I told myself.

 

 

 

 

At left is what remained of my beautiful staging.  Not much to work with for sure!

 

I love CBS Sunday Morning and watch it every week.  A few weeks before this unfortunate event, they broadcast a segment about swearing.  Apparently it is good for you according to this study!  Listen to this:

“Cursing makes you feel better. In another study, participants were asked to plunge their hands into ice water for as long as they could bear it. When they were encouraged to swear up a storm, they were able to keep their hands underwater 73% longer.”  [1]

I have to admit there was a lot of loud making-myself-feel-better over the course of the next 2 days, which DID indeed prevent me from having any thoughts of finding some banker and submerging his HEAD in ice water.

On Friday morning, I cancelled my “Bittersweet” party as I had named it, and proceeded to sulk and cry and do a bit more self soothing, a la cursing.  Work was going on in the background to get things moving again, but when all there is to do is wait for the decision…AND there’s no guarantee…….Ugh.  Feeling as though all your plans are being held in the balance by someone else is so…..well….scary and out of control.  Desperately needing a distraction, I went over to Barb’s and helped her pack a bit for her move.  It did work to get my mind off things and helped my fellow procrastinator get ready for her move to a new abode.

That evening I went home and closed up my former bedroom and spare bedroom.  No sense getting them dirty again!  Since the girls and I no longer had beds, the living room became the living room, bedroom, dining room, and, of course, worrying room.  But I do have to say, a couple of good things came out of this.  First, I learned that I just LOVE my INTEX air mattress!  My old bed was laying out on the street waiting for bulky waste pickup as the last few weeks had seen me waking up every morning in pain.  But this air mattress was the bomb as they say (or used to say – do they still say that??).  Anyway –  it inflates and deflates itself with the touch of a button.  Why had I been spending nights in pain for so long?  It feels like, you know, sleeping on air!  AHHHHHH!!  Another good thing was that I learned how little I need in my surroundings to keep me happy and content.  Bed to sleep on, roof over my head, my dogs and cat next to me (they were not as pleased about their sleeping arrangements however – blankets on the floor versus their cushy beds.  HMPH!!!!), food, internet, computer and NETFLIX.  I am really starting to like minimalism and I am thinking that a lot of those boxes going to Florida may contain items that will soon be for sale!  Lastly, I had more time to finish getting my junk out and donated once and for all.

As the week progressed, the two real estate agents continued to do battle with the bank.  I decided to stay calm and pray for the best, binged on Mad Men episodes and kept the phone close.  If I can make a suggestion here to future home buyers….go to a local bank for your mortgage.  Somewhere like Liberty Bank or Charter Oak Credit Union or whatever small institution exists wherever you are reading this.  There are human beings in those banks and credit unions who you can actually go and SEE and talk to versus a faceless voice over the phone half way across the country.  The home town banks know the area and they have a vested interest in the local economy and the people who live within it.  There’s my two cents on that.

Anyway, the bank gave their “clear to close” on Monday.  The closing was scheduled for 9 am Friday morning.  BUT….are you ready for this?? On Thursday, they started fussing with my buyers about more paperwork!  By this time, the buyers were exhausted and stressed to the max and had been living in a hotel for a week.  Like I said readers – go local.  Those are the businesses that care.

Finally, all got settled at the 11th hour and the closing was scheduled for 5:30 pm on Friday.  On my way to the lawyer’s office, I stopped my car and turned to take one final photo of the street I had come to love so much.   It really is a great neighborhood.  I will miss it.  But it is time to look forward to new adventures, people and places.

And so one nail-biting week after our originally scheduled closing – smiles surrounded a big round table at the buyers’ lawyer’s office.  It was done and instead of feeling sad like I thought I would, I felt relief.  Maybe that was another positive to the drama.  By the time the closing finally came, I had HAD it and just wanted to move on.  I have to admit though….after the closing, my car started driving back in the direction of Silva Lane.  I had to remind her that we didn’t live there anymore!  Silly car.

Oh…and the bank that caused us so much angst?  Well, Mom always said if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.  So I don’t want to name names or anything, but…….their initials are B – O – A……..

[1] http://www.cbsnews.com/news/faith-salie-some-frank-words-about-profanity/

Moving Day

After going through what seemed like a half ton of newspapers, tape and boxes, I was really ready for moving day.  The time I spent packing – since I took so long doing it – seemed to be a good amount of time for me to get used to the idea of leaving my house.  Besides, being decorated in Early American Cardboard Box as it was, the house no longer felt like my little treasure.  I was tired and stressed, and ready to move on to my temporary home at my friend’s house and just relax for awhile.  My dear friend Ken drove from Torrington – a two hour trip –  to help out where he could and keep me relatively unruffled.  Ken and I met in rehab in 2010 – he learning how to walk, talk and feed himself again after his stroke and me learning how to balance and walk again after breaking my neck.  Injuries like that leave you forever damaged a bit, but the two of us together manage to have one completely functioning brain that succeeds in calming one another.  Yes, I may have been ready for moving day, but it was still bound to be emotionally charged when reality hit and the furniture actually started being marched out of the door.

The moving crew, from Barnes Moving and Storage in Mystic, was great.  They actually threw me off balance a bit by not only being on time, but being a little early.  I have learned to expect people being late, so I wasn’t quite ready for them, but no problem.  They were consummate professionals who actually ignored my usual chattiness as politely as possible and started industriously itemizing and inventorying my household immediately.  Recalling those online horror stories about household items ending up miles away from their intended locations, I took the hint and decided that it was perhaps in my best interest to stop yacking for awhile and let these people do their job.  Far be it from me to be the cause of distraction and major boo-boos.

Not knowing what to do with my animals in the commotion and fearing I could lose them, I placed my cat in her carrier, rolled down the windows of my car and put the 2 dogs and cat into the car.  The dogs love that.  They don’t care if the car budges one inch as long as they can sit in it with the windows open.  The cat, however, has a different opinion of being taken out of her Royal Roost (otherwise known as my bed) and placed in her paltry and unworthy carrier.  She immediately proceeded to howl as loudly as possible and inform the neighborhood that she was NOT amused.  With my head tucked low so as to hide my embarrassment, I returned to the house hoping that no one would think I was abusing my cat.  By now, she was REALLY annoyed and the usual MWOW! MWOW! had evolved into her Princess-Ticked-Off MMMMOOOOOOWWWW!!! demand for immediate release back into the Royal Accommodations.  For those of you who live under the silly notion that cats are unfeeling, aloof creatures, all I can say is that you have yet to meet my Diana, Princess of All She Surveys – and that includes me and my dogs.

Having thus far found myself in the way of the moving crew and rattled by the cat’s alarms, I retreated into the living room with Ken and my computer.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I had decided to sell more furniture and there I was at Closing Day Minus 2 with items that needed to get out as quickly as possible.  So I logged onto Facebook and started slashing prices on my sale postings there.  “Moving Sale! Everything Must Go Today! Prices Reduced!” started attracting the sharks in the water and my private messages were pinging like a pinball machine.  At this point, the moving crew and Ken were starting to have a few questions, Diana was MMMOOOOOWWWing, the cell phone was ringing and bargain hunting Facebook customers were presenting themselves at the door.  Suddenly it seemed like my house had become air traffic control and I was one trafficker about to be fired.  Thank God Ken was there to help handle the ringing doorbell and strangers in my house.  At lunch time, I decided that Ken, the movers and I needed to be fed and made a run to the pizza house for grinders.  The rest of the country may feed their movers pizza, but here in Connecticut, we feed them grinders.  And no, those aren’t subs.  They are grinders.  Don’t even try to compare subs to grinders.  To those of us from Connecticut, that is blasphemy!  Anyway, it felt so good to get out of there for 20 minutes!  Besides, it seems that a lot of people don’t think to feed their movers (seriously people??), so mine thought I was the best thing since sliced bread (or so they said….).

Despite the chaos and all the people going in and out of the house, we had all gotten along well.  Diana had fallen asleep and quieted down, the Facebook crowd had stopped, the majority of my belongings were in the moving truck and the day was finally winding down to a close. Things had actually gone fairly smoothly.  And then came the used furniture store guy.  All was about to change.  I pointed he and his helper in the direction of what he had come for and walked into my living room under the assumption that a guy with a used furniture store would know how to move furniture.  All of a sudden, I heard a loud thump and then….S..C..R..I..T..C..H!!!  I immediately jumped up and ran over to where he was starting to drag a heavy piece across the floor.  In my usual calm-under-pressure demeanor I screamed  “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING????  PICK   IT   UP!!!!!” while Ken started to pace with wild eyed apprehension of what I might do next.  The guy started flubbering excuses, then picked it up until he got it outside, where he put it down again and started breathing as if he were about to have a heart attack.  Being the caring person that I am, I glared at him, released a loud “ARGH!!!!!” and retreated to another room leaving Ken to collect my money.  A minute later, poor Ken sheepishly came up to me and delivered the news that the guy was asking for his change.  At this point, my head started spinning like Linda Blair’s in the Exorcist while I’m telling poor Ken “He wants his WHAT????  You tell that guy to take his change and stick it…..” well….I’m sure you know where I told him he could place his change.  Apparently the guy must have been standing right outside the door when I made this pronouncement. When I made it to the door a few seconds later waving his change in my hand and uttering more words of endearment, the guy, his helper and his truck were gone.

Meanwhile, the horrified Barnes movers, who had originally thought I was the kindest person of the week, had served as witnesses to my temporary insanity.  I looked at the young lady in charge and said “All day!  All day you guys have been in and out and in and out and in and out and not one!  Not ONE paint chip!  Not ONE floor scratch!”.  She looked at me sympathetically and remarked something to the effect of “yeah that stinks….”, but I knew she just wanted to get OUT and away from the crazy lady as soon as she could.  Sigh… I couldn’t blame her.  They made their escape and poor Ken listened to me until Linda Blair slowly shrank away and left only me muttering to myself.  Fortunately, I was able to do floor damage repair that evening and relax.  My house was empty and in two days, it would be cleaned and then sold……or so I thought……

Another Lesson in Revaluating What Matters

Deciding what furniture to bring to Florida was a real challenge and I realized that many of the things that fit into my Connecticut home weren’t going to fit into my Florida home.  I halfheartedly placed items for sale, but really had no bites.  I wasn’t too concerned about things not selling because, truth be told, I was so darn conflicted about parting with them anyway.  “What the heck?…..I’ll just take the stuff with me!” became my mantra.

But the day before my moving company was scheduled to arrive, anxiety had taken over and I was pacing around wondering about the space I would have for furniture in my new home.  Suddenly, a memory flash came to me….I had the dimensions of my new home!  Now where the heck did I put that paperwork??  After ripping through files long ignored, I found the schematic for my Florida house.  With that and my measuring tape in hand, I began evaluating every piece of furniture I had – and that is when I found myself tearfully blubbering “it won’t fit…it won’t fit…..it won’t fit…..”.  As all of you who are Baby Boomers know, we hold onto things that meant something to our parents.  China dishes.  Oriental rugs.  Dining room sets.  And yes, in my case, Mom’s dining room hutch, her side tables and her curio cabinets along with a couple of other things I was holding onto.

My Mom was an incredible woman.  She came to this country as a war bride after WWII and things were tough financially for my parents for a long time.  But she persisted and endured without complaining.  One of the things I did hear her mention often though was how she would love to have a dining room and a formal dining set.  Finally, in 1985, my parents bought their own house and in it, my Mom placed her brand-new French Provincial dining set.  She was so thrilled and I loved seeing how happy it made her.  Since her passing, I have had that dining set and I treasure it – more than anything because of the joy it had brought Mom, not because I am the Martha Stewart of the neighborhood.  But now here it was, 2016, and I found myself sadly looking at her beautiful hutch because I knew that it …..just …..wouldn’t .…fit.  “I’ll repurpose it!” I thought to myself.  “I’ll cut the top off and put it into my new kitchen as a cabinet!” (obviously, I have OD’d on HGTV’s Flea Market Flip).  The “how” of that idea didn’t really come into the picture – it just sounded like a great solution (or more appropriately – a great pacifier for my emotions).  But then I did more measuring and realized that it still wouldn’t fit.  “Well, I will figure out something and just keep it in the garage until I do”.  The fact that I couldn’t even budge it, never mind move it once it was placed in the Florida garage was only a minor detail.  And then reality hit.  It just wasn’t going to fit and it was silly to pay movers to bring it all the way down to Florida to become an immovable garage fixture with “stuff” in it.  Plus, if truth be told, I loved it more than anything simply because Mom loved it and every time I looked at it, I saw Mom’s smiling face.

As the Baby Boomers downsize, we are finding that the Millennials aren’t moved by the history of our items.  They don’t even like some of our things. Your grandmother’s exquisite living room set is now being replaced by an assemble-at-home something or the other from IKEA.   The younger generation places more value on experiences and quality of life rather than quality of furniture.  I suppose they just might have a point.  But this has created a glut of once-beloved, beautiful furniture on the market and we Boomers are struggling with the reality that our treasures just aren’t worth that much.  It isn’t that I wanted so much money for my Mom’s hutch – I just felt so…..well……disloyal to consider low prices.  My parents had worked hard and struggled for years and they finally had a few special things.  But I found myself with no one to sell the hutch to for a decent price.  It just hurt.  I sat staring at it for a long time and finally came to a few conclusions.  First, Mom doesn’t care about that hutch anymore.  She is in a place now where peace, happiness and contentment surround her without things.  And second, more than anything, Mom’s wish for me was to be happy.  She isn’t looking down at me from Heaven with a scowl on her face because I’m leaving her hutch behind.  She is looking forward to me finding new joys in Florida.  I know that is what is most important to my Mom and to my Dad too.

I hardly watched the guy who took away Mom’s hutch.  Basically, I pointed him to it and turned my back.  He had paid me a pittance that I won’t even mention here.  But I console myself with the thought of some new person spotting it in the guy’s store.  Slowly a widening smile grows across his or her face with the realization that they can afford that lovely piece of furniture.  Someone who is just as thrilled as my Mom was to have it in 1985.  Someone I could not find on Craig’s List or Facebook yard sales, but someone who was out there nonetheless.  Best wishes to you new owner!  Use it in good health!  My Mom and I are thrilled that it makes you happy!

Who is Gonna Move Me?

One of the most important considerations which every person moving out of state must make is “Who is going to handle my precious belongings and get them to my new home safely?”  Back in the day, I’d get a bunch of my friends together, rent a U-Haul, buy beer and pizza and all was good.  Now that all my friends and I have become settled into the Ibuprofen-powered set, that isn’t an option.  As I always do with anything major like this, I research it endlessly until I have made myself crazy.  First, I thought of everyone I knew who had moved and asked them who they had used.  Surprisingly, many of them had forgotten.  That was probably a good thing since we tend to remember the people and companies who send us into seething rages.  The only problem, of course, is that I didn’t have company names.  So then I went to that source of all irrefutable information – the internet.  Oh….My…..God.  I would read a review of one company and be relatively assured that all would be well with my world.  Then I would make the mistake of scrolling down the page where dire warnings of gloom and despair would besiege my brain.  “These guys were HORRIBLE!!!  My Mom was standing quietly for too long I guess and they mistook her for a statue, wrapped her up, stuffed her into a box, and shipped her off to St. Louis!  They said that they recalled hearing “some sort of squeaking”, but chalked it up to road noise.  The worst part was that we were moving to New Orleans!  It was months before we saw her again and no one at the office would answer our calls!!!”  YIKES!!…..

On top of everything else, my tenants in Florida waved a lease at me that didn’t expire until December.  It was a little difference of opinion, but I had to concede that they were right.  Which, of course, fit right in with the “Ball Is In Your Park” decision delayer (if you recall my list from a few posts back).  I was able to sell my house and still have time to get used to the idea of leaving Connecticut.  I would be able to spend the holidays with my friends and help Karen finish up the bait shop season.  And I could take a little more time looking for a mover – and now a storage facility.

I started first by calling some of those movers that give you a quote over the phone.  As I walked around my house describing what I owned over the phone to a complete stranger sitting who-knows-where, my brain was screaming “Are you NUTS???  This guy has NO idea if the table you just mentioned is big enough for 6 or for a Heads of State function at the White House!!  And he’s giving you a binding quote?”  I pictured myself in Florida, standing in front of my house screaming at a driver handing me a $10,000 invoice in addition to what I had paid upfront.  The internet had some of those stories too.  By the time a few hours had passed, I was in full-fledged panic and the nerves from my spinal cord injury were on fire.

I researched “how to pick a mover” and tried to find an article that was not sponsored by any particular moving company – no easy task.  I finally did get some useful information though.  I learned that I must be sure that my mover has a US DOT number, which is a unique license number issued by the United States Department of Transportation.  AND my source gave me a database from which to investigate this information!  AHA!  NOW we’re cooking!  With open spreadsheet on my laptop, I diligently compared license numbers, insurance information, years in business, etc., etc., etc.  And when I finished, I had myself a spreadsheet full of DOT numbers, insurance info, years in business and ……..not a whole lot else.  PLEASE!!!  I need someone to tell me who to pick!!  Obviously, the panic was not subsiding any.

After agonizing over this for several days, I employed my “Scarlett O’Hara – I’ll think about it tomorrow” decision delayer mode until I could handle going back to deal with it.  Hopefully, my brain would unscramble a bit as well.  Finally I got up the nerve to think about it again and called two companies who would provide in-home interviews.

We did the tour of my house and chatted a bit.  A few days later, the estimates came in.  I even visited one to see their storage facilities and got a good feel for the office staff.  I then analyzed my silly spreadsheet (made me feel like it hadn’t been a total waste), reviewed the estimates and then made my scientific and well-researched choice – which was to pick the one closest to me who also seemed most capable of dealing with my anxieties.  Alright, alright…not the most scientific but at least I had made a decision!  A few weeks after they had come they had moved my precious belongings out of my house, I was talking with a friend of mine.  She said that the company I used had been her mover and she had just loved them.  Now why didn’t I think to call her sooner?  It would have saved me a lot of Googling, spreadsheets – and angst!  Ah well – better late than never I suppose!