Mom and Dad have been planning to down size for a long time. I decided to start looking for small houses in the Waterdown area about 2 years ago. I got Mom and Dad to go through about 4 and all were not right and not worth the money. I knew the process of getting them out of the house they built on the family farm 50 years ago was going to really tough!
Until the end of February 2019, not one house was 1 story, with only a couple steps at the front door, had a double car garage and most importantly had main floor laundry. I convinced them it was worth going to check it out. Every time I mentioned a house they would say “maybe we will just stay here, maybe we will get help, maybe someone will help me clean.” NO WAY! Mom told Dad to go to the basement and take notes of everything because she wasn’t going to go down, she would take notes of the main floor. Mom walked into the kitchen, and then the walk-in closet and she was sold. Dad went into the basement and saw the workshop with a built in saw dust vacuum and he saw nothing else. We bought the house and closing date set for 90 days.
I was happy about the purchase but OMG the process of getting their house ready to sell was a whole different ball game. They had never bought or sold a house much less understand the process and what buyers want in a house today. Mom and Dad built their house for $27,000, meticulously maintained and cleaner than a doctor’s office. But…everything was peach and mint green with tons of wallpaper. Who would have guessed the wallpaper would turn out to be the easiest part.
Step 1, De-clutter and get the house on the market. I arrived with a very large bottle of Crown Royal for Dad and packaging tape for Mom. In the next 2 months they would need nothing more! The dynamics of Mom and Dad’s marriage and perhaps the reason they have been married for 61 years is because Mom’s domain is inside of the house and Dad’s was outside. Mom didn’t give Dad a hard time about what he kept or what he did outside and the same for Mom on the inside. My first visit was clearing out all Moms clutter and trust me when I say this there was 2400square feet of clutter. Spoons, plates, mugs, fake flowers, clocks, cookbooks, and all the other collections I don’t remember. While Mom reminisced I packed like a mad woman. All of a sudden you could see the kitchen counter and the wallpapered walls. Mom’s response, “wow, that looks great.”
Fortunately Dad didn’t have to de-clutter the garage or the shop, at least not immediately, so we were sent to clean the basement. That was a great day for me because it became very clear, quickly that Mom’s obsession with cleanliness was rubbing off on Dad. It skipped me, which is a very good thing especially for Dave and the kids.
It took a couple weeks to get the house ready to put on the market but the sign went up and all of a sudden Mom and Dad had people traipsing in on her freshly polished floor. It only took 10 days to sell which was a blessing, for everyone, me especially!
My next visit was really starting to pack. Mom had to put ½ of her collections in the garage sale. OMG #2. I realized that I could pack while listening to Mom’s stories and every once in a while I made executive decisions about stuff and threw it out! By the end of that visit we had made tremendous progress. So many craft boxes and cupboards filled with every kitchen gadget you could imagine. It was at this point that we decided there would need to be a second garage sale in Waterdown!
Just before leaving for the airport, I went to say goodbye to Dad in his shop. OMG #3. He hadn’t packed anything. His shop was stuffed full of 50 years of tools, clamps, screws, nails and wood and wood and more wood, did I say wood? I realized I had to make another visit. Dad was just overwhelmed. He couldn’t just start. He, of course was also emotional about it all. He was the last Harper living at Harper’s corners.
So, my 3rd visit in a month was dedicated to Dad. Dad is constantly distracted with visitors. Friends and neighbors, stopping to just say a quick hello. He will really miss that at least until he meets all the new neighbors in Waterdown. I am not afraid to get dirty and let’s just say we did! I realized that Dad was more like Mom than I ever realized before. He had tool sets all over. He had at least 20 measuring tapes and different drills for every project. Of course, he told me stories about each and every tool. Just like a farmer, when one shed was filled, he built a new one. There are 3 shed and 1 woodworking shop that had to be cleaned out. UGH!
After 2 trips to the dump, hundreds of stories, neighbors burning wood all day, thank you Andrew and Christina, I did a quick wash, changed clothes and wished I could be taken to the airport in the wheel barrel that I had taken 100 trips out of the shop with in the last 2 days. I felt like my Uncle Ken. Uncle Ken was a chicken farmer and mayor and lived beside Mom and Dad. He would fly into his driveway from the barn, barely stop the car, leave his car door open, run inside and be back outside in 5 minutes in a suit to go to town meeting. I likely smelled better but felt the same.
When I got through security, I realized the flight was delayed and as I walked to the gate I saw a new business that just opened in the airport. Wellbeing, massage, shower and I don’t remember anything after that. OMG #4. YES!! I had clean clothes on but I could probably shake my head and cover the floor with sawdust. $30 for 30 minutes. The best $30 I have EVER spent!
So, as I write this on the plane, with a glorious sunset to my right, I realized that life lessons were learned in the past month.
- Don’t ever live in the same house for 50 years. Move and purge, move and purge.
- If you replace anything in your home, don’t keep the old one, ever!
- One thing in, one thing out.
- Simplify, live a more minimalist life, (thank you Foster)
- Don’t buy shit, (Thank you Dave)
- Enjoy the freedom of throwing the last item in the dump bin and drive off with a smile and an empty truck.
- Honestly realize, believe and live by the fact that it all comes down to love in the end not the stuff we have accumulated.
- Rockhaven has no idea the gems that are about to move in.
I almost forgot my best belly laugh of all time…
Just to give you a little picture of my surroundings for 2 days, every kitchen cupboard taken out of the house made it’s way to Dad’s shop to hold more crap…sorry life necessities. Cupboards, dressers, any flat surface was filled with stuff and then covered with 3 inches of sawdust. There was a big brown cupboard that I learned came from the original farmhouse. It then went to Mom and Dad’s, then Murray and Rick’s room, then the garage and now the shop. As I dusted off the last shelf I found a small green package. Picture below. When I realized what it was I started laughing hysterically. When I caught my breath I showed Dad and then he couldn’t stop laughing. We were both crying with laughter. Dad said, “well it sure ain’t mine, I got snipped in 1970 along with all my buddies”.
Happy Mother's Day
Also, Jane Linder and I received a VERY special mother’s day gift this year. Patrick and Emily got engaged. I was in Waterdown and Dave was in Dallas, tears were shed in 2 countries and 2 time zones. Completely thrilled and excited for them and we look forward to the first Snell wedding. They got engaged on Mom and Dad’s 61 wedding anniversary, coincidence…maybe, maybe not!