The sale of my parents’ house, the family home, has finally completed.
An offer was accepted the day after it was put up for sale (slightly above asking price) yet despite there being no chain on either side, solicitors and incompetent bank personnel contrived to drag the whole process out for another 5 months.
I’m sad but mostly relieved that it’s all done and dusted.
In a way however, I was glad it took that long as it gave me (and sis) the time to clear out the house and boy, did we need the time! There were DECADES’ worth of family things to sort through.
Despite not having lived in the house permanently (or for more than 3 months at a time) for nearly 20 years, my parents still had full wardrobes and personal items in the house. We spent hours and hours painstakingly going through it all to keep, bin, or donate. There were numerous video calls, as my Mum didn’t want us randomly binning things…yes really, even things she didn’t even remember owning!
Other members of the family didn’t have full wardrobes or cupboards but had left so many sentimental items, including things going back to school and university days.
It wasn’t just the bedrooms which were full of stuff – both garage and shed were full of things accumulated over the years. I found 3 fully equipped toolboxes, two faulty lawnmowers, a brand new leaf blower, a Calor gas heater which I last saw when I was a teenager and so many garden tools.
Various household items and furniture from house-moves which family members had said they were going to ‘pick up at a later date’, but which ended up just being stored there permanently. I even found two large boxes of things belonging to our cousins who had never even lived at the house so who knows how (and when) their stuff ended up in the garage! A WhatsApp message to them threatening to bin everything had them travelling up from London to collect!
Mum wanted me and sis to take some family ornaments – we said no, but in the end, took a couple each. She couldn’t bear to part with some others so these will be shipped to Hong Kong for the family to sort through themselves.
Anyway, among all the junk in the garage were several large boxes which belonged to me, from when I had moved back home after splitting up with the ex…
Our garage looked a bit like this…except more boxes stacked on top of each other
So what was in these boxes, which had just remained hidden from view, unopened and gathering dust for nearly 15 years?
A load of things I had forgotten about, including:
- My old diaries, which I had meticulously kept from age 12 (my handwriting was so neat!) to my late 20s. This might be a reason why I enjoy blogging as keeping this journal is a bit like a diary. Anyway, I’ve packed these treasured memories away, except that I know where they are now!
- A shoebox rammed full of love letters from the ex, written before mobile phones and the internet. I obviously couldn’t bear to throw them away when I left him but briefly peeking at one of them was enough for me to immediately shred the whole lot in one go!
- Loads of photo albums, plus easily 1000s of loose photos still in their Truprint envelopes, along with all the negatives. Back then, when you didn’t have the luxury of getting perfect digital photos, you kept all photos which were developed, including blurry ones. Well I did, anyway!
- My large comic collection and various sci-fi/fantasy memorabilia – in the 90s, I was really into my Marvel comics (before Marvel became mainstream). I wouldn’t mind reading them all again and some of the signed editions might be worth something.
- Hundreds of CDs and boxed sets of DVDs galore, I could have opened a small shop!
- ‘Old tech’, including a mini-disc player, Sega Gamegear, a couple of pre-iPod music players and a Playstation 1. Also the radio cassette recorder the family bought me as a going-to-uni gift, still in working condition!
- A decade’s worth of paper payslips – I have no idea why I kept those.
- Some old credit card and bank statements from 2006. I know why I kept these – they were to remind me of how bad I was at managing my finances and how I can’t ever let myself get like that again. The credit card statement showed 24% interest charged (I was only making the minimum payment) and the corresponding bank statement for that month showed a fee charged for going over my overdraft limit and another fee for a bounced direct debit – horrific! I felt stressed and a bit sick just looking at those numbers. I don’t know how I was able to live like that without spiralling into despair yet I did, for most of my 20s and 30s before finally getting my finances under control.
I’ve only mentioned the stuff that was hidden in the boxes in the garage.
I of course had a lot of belongings in the house and as I was effectively downsizing from a 4-bed detached house to a 2-bed semi (with no garage), I desperately needed to declutter.
Cue Marie Kondo and her tidying up book!
Whilst I didn’t follow the book religiously, it helped me enormously as I wouldn’t have known where to start.
The decluttering began slowly but then I got in my stride and started to get a bit ruthless.
In the end, I pretty much got rid of 50% of my belongings.
Discarding half of my wardrobe was pretty gut-wrenching but did I really need 20 dresses or 30 t-shirts? A couple of those dresses were still new with tags, yet I couldn’t remember when I’d bought them!
Sorting out my clothes took an entire weekend as I spent time trying many items on to decide whether I wanted to keep or donate – only a few didn’t fit me which made the choosing process harder! In the end, 6 full bin bags of clothes went to charity and I discovered ‘new’ (to me!) items to wear, which had been hiding at the back of the wardrobe!
The same culling was done with my shoes, books, CDs and DVDs.
There was a huge box full of folders of ‘admin’ – I shredded stacks of old bank statements, work pension docs and old insurance certs/policies. Again, no idea why I kept so many years’ worth; probably just because I had the space to keep them.
I tackled the kitchenware and crockery – so many sets, some brand new just hidden at the back of cupboards. Sis took some (I decided not to argue when she just took the Le Creuset pot which I had my eye on upon ‘rediscovery’!), I took some for myself, with the unwanted pots, pans, utensils and sets of crockery passed to friends who had kids starting university and also my ex-brother-in-law who had just bought a house and who was after anything for free!
If I had been organised and had the mental capacity for it, I could have probably made some money selling the unwanted furniture, CDs, DVDs and clothes.
But I just needed to get it out of the house asap, so what the buyer didn’t want as part of the purchase went to charity, with the charity collecting large items of furniture for free. Things which couldn’t be donated went to the local tip/recycling centre – I was doing full car-loads every weekend for a couple of months.
As I had registered for Gift Aid with the charity (British Heart Foundation), I’ve been getting emails from them as they’ve sold items I’ve donated – so far, £429 has been raised, so I’m happy my junk has gone to a good cause.
I have to say that I felt a huge sense of relief after the whole decluttering exercise. Not only was there space but I think I felt space in my mind too.
I experienced so many emotions as I came across things (and memories) from what I consider a ‘previous life’, namely my adult life before I discovered FIRE.
Looking at my collections, my belongings, all those things I owned, I think I was a very different person back then – I obviously was not in full control of my life (not financially anyway), yet I don’t recall there being a lot of unhappiness, although of course, there was some.
Decluttering Part II?
I’m sure some people will think that my new home is cluttered (I see my sister’s face when she comes round, ha!) but in my mind, it’s cosy and homely and nowhere near what I think ‘cluttered’ means!
The good news is that having gotten rid of so many of my clothes, I haven’t felt the urge to buy anything new. I’ve yet to complain that I have “nothing to wear”, although that day will come – I’m a woman after all, haha! :).
I did recently buy a pair of boots (using birthday money) to replace a beloved pair which had lasted 30 years. It was my first shoe/boot purchase in over 5 years!
Still, that doesn’t mean that I can’t still get rid of more things – perhaps I’ll do another decluttering exercise, in say a year’s time.
I mean I’m sure I don’t need all those knives (I have 10) in the kitchen but don’t feel like doing anything about that right now.
And some things I’ve just stuffed in some boxes in the shed, out of sight, out of mind…
I know Saving Ninja did the whole Konmari thing when he and his missus sold up to move to Sweden.
Anyone else try Kondo’s methods to help them declutter?