Monday, June 15, 2009

The Freeing-Up Sale: We came, we sold, we have nothing but this blog post to show... and it feels fantastic!

How do you move powerfully forward in life during an unexpected transition?

How do you say goodbye without regret?

Lots of people hate goodbyes so they avoid them entirely. Others pick fights to make the leaving easier. Others use reasons to justify the decision to leave. Do we all do that? I know I do. What's wrong with that? Nothing's wrong with it. It's just that we're looking for a way to say goodbye without having to rely on reasons to make it okay. To simply say goodbye. Not good riddance. Not why is this happening to us?!

Just good and bye.

When we bought this house, though I was in love with it and so thrilled to move in I was actually also sad to leave our condo. Why? Well, because we were happy there. It was our little haven. We had just gotten to the place where we felt really at home. It was decorated perfectly, we’d made good friends in the building, we had our routine. We were comfortable. Yes. We were comfortable.

So when it was time to say goodbye to our condo, I had to focus on what I didn’t like about living there to make it easier.

There are always little things, right? Though we owned our own condo, I always wanted more space. More storage. More privacy. More conveniences- such as a washer/dryer in our actual living space. But those are little things. And easy to accept.

What I really didn’t like was the crazy neighbor who one night in a drug-induced haze threatened to kill everyone and threw all of his belongings out the window into our courtyard below. I didn’t like that we were constantly reviewing security tapes to find the people who had broken into our cars multiple times. I didn't like that a gentleman in our building had begun to leave threatening Post-It notes on our door accusing Bob of passing gas in the elevator and "using his flatulence as a weapon." (No, I am not kidding.) And I really didn’t like that the meth-addict neighbor had broken into our condo while I was in bed, stole my laptop and purse off of our dining room table and sold everything for his fix!

And that’s what I focused on when we moved.
It helped.

Now, in this situation, I can’t do that. I don’t have any of those reasons.

In this house, we have everything we always wanted: stunning views, an enclosed yard that Pablo can run around in, plenty of storage, plenty of room to entertain, gorgeous space, conveniences galore (2 bathrooms, washer/dryer in house, our own garage...)

Instead of crazy druggie neighbors who steal our stuff for a fix, we have neighbors who help carry our washer and dryer out of the house up a flight of stairs (as one of our lovely neighbors did on Saturday when we sold our washer and dryer!) We have neighbors who offer their daughter’s assistance to help us communicate with the president of Bank of America. Neighbors who walk Pablo when we're in a pinch and who give up their Sunday morning to be at our house at 7:30 AM to help us with a sale!! Yeah. Seriously. (Remember the friends I said we made in our condo building? Well, one of them was here both days, too.)

My point is that it's a lot harder to "pick a fight" with this house in order to make it easier to say goodbye.

So… what do you do when you can’t rely on a negative aspect to launch you from one situation into the next? To move you forward, to help you say goodbye? Well, for me, you just be here for as long as you can… eyes wide open. Not missing a single moment.

This weekend- selling all of our possessions- helped. It was so hard and long and terribly frustrating at times. But, necessary in terms of our own process. To help us let go and move forward without regret. I have so much to say about it and it's definitely challenging to organize my thoughts. I'm trying my best. What follows is a list of the highlights.


-FRIENDS Our friends being here to support us and help us through this process. We had people helping at all the critical moments. One friend who couldn't be here on the weekend was here weeks ago helping me sell my books, thus kick-starting the process. Another friend priced almost everything in our kitchen. Another shared important estate sale tips from her mom who used to run an estate sale business. So helpful! And another was here the night before making signs and wrapping the breakables until about 10 PM. We were saved by our friends. Saturday morning another friend arrived at 7:30 sharp with a baguette and hazelnut spread for all the volunteers. She even made name tags and lanyards for each of us. Thanks to our friends, the estate sale was so well organized that one person asked if we worked a lot of estate sales- assuming we were a business. I loved that moment.

-THE KIDS Watching the neighborhood kids delight in the small things we gave them— wind chimes, puzzles, books, etc. One neighborhood boy came over and said: “I have $20 and I want to spend it!” He had wanted to buy our fake pre-lit Christmas Tree. But it was $25. Of course, I would have struck a deal with him but his mom didn't want him to buy it. He came back and said, "My mom thinks $25 is too much for a Christmas Tree." So I sold him a tennis racket for $1. He was happy.

-LIKE "KING OF THE HILL" Being with our friends… while it was insanely busy on Saturday, we had some great moments. The experience was shared. We weren't going through this alone. I watched as our friends protected our possessions and got offended - on our behalf- by the people that haggled over 50 cents or a dollar. They contributed much needed help, support and fun. I can't say enough. Sunday, being so much slower than Saturday, was really like a lovely extended hang out with friends. Bob said, "I feel likeKing of the Hill" Referring to us sitting in our driveway watching the street, talking and drinking (coffee and water instead of beer.) Enjoying the sun and just being together without rushing away. Something that I've missed.

-DISCOVERIES Meeting neighbors we’ve never met and discovering new things about the neighborhood and the house. (I have a great story to share... and will do so in another blog post.)

-THE HOUSE Watching as total strangers enjoyed the view and asked "How much for the house?" One of our friends eventually put a tiny green "sold" sticker on the house. I don't think I noticed it until much later. But when I finally did, I laughed.

-THE CHARACTERS The older gentleman who arrived to the sale dressed in what looked like a boy scout uniform in very tight trousers. And the man who showed up at the end of the day on Sunday and said, "So who died?" When I explained that no one died, that we were just selling our entire 'estate' he said, "Well, I guess it's possible that I have the wrong definition for that term." Or the early bird that showed up at 6:30 AM on Saturday. Since we weren't opening until 8, he waited over an hour to get in. Then rolled on through our sale like a bulldozer with a method. He was a force... moving room to room, shuffling through things methodically before determining that there was nothing here worth his cash.

-BIG BOY Okay, how do I explain the importance of Big Boy? Let's just say that this little piggy bank has had some significance in our lives. He's been with us a while. And he's made connections with our friends and family. And yes, I sold Big Boy. For $5. When you're selling everything, you really are selling everything. Yes, I thought about keeping him. He's small. Easy to shove in a duffel. But my friend who was pricing things stuck a $5 price tag on him and I thought, "Well, there it is. Okay." It didn't occur to me that I was actually letting him go until I saw the people who were buying him. He was lying amongst their 'loot' like this:

I suddenly wanted to take him back and tell them, "I'm so sorry, but Big Boy's not for sale. That was a mistake." But then I thought how silly that would be. It's just a little piggy bank. This is a test. Let him go. And I did. But I got the relevance of the moment. So I asked the new owners of Big Boy if they would let me take a picture of them holding him. They obliged. But I won't post the picture here because I didn't ask their permission to do that. I got the sense that I was kind of freaking them out. The point is that I captured the moment. I think that picture was my completion. He has a new family now.

Friends of Big Boy: I know you might be disappointed that we sold him. I understand. But consider this: He very well could have been bad luck. Perhaps, even a curse- as Bob suggested. Or not. But he is just a doll. A symbol. Our version of the traveling gnome. And we can always find a replacement for that symbol. In fact, maybe we'll make that an ongoing thing here on the blog. Items auditioning to replace Big Boy. Stay tuned for that.

-RELATIVITY OF WORTH Watching strangers rifle through our belongings and ascribe a completely different value than we ever have. It really grounds you in the idea of relativity of worth. We made just over $3,000 on the sale. Yes, we still have some items left to sell. But not much. It's almost ALL gone. And what do we have to show? $3,000. Not much. Bob said, "That's only a little more than what we paid for our TV." Crazy, right? Fascinating. We may only have a little more than $3,000 to show for all of our belongings, but we have way more than that in emotional value. As they say, you can't put a price on freedom.

-SAYING GOODBYE OVER AND OVER AGAIN Having the opportunity with each little item sold to say goodbye over and over and over again. Until it no longer stings. We started with our dining room table a week ago. That stung. That brought tears to my eyes. Tonight I sit in my kitchen in my Eames stool (which still hasn’t sold) and am in a much emptier house than two days ago. The couch is gone. The green chair. Gone. The floor lamp. Gone. The coffee table, bookcases, books, fabulous mid-century modern wall unit. Gone. Almost all of our kitchen supplies- from our microwave to our tea kettle. Gone. And I feel so much better than I have in a long time. I do feel free. Light. Complete. I’ve let go. Truly. And am ready to move on.

I'm sure I will have more to say about the sale as the week progresses. There is a lot of material here. Many stories, characters, impressions. I am looking forward to the moment that there's literally nothing left in the house. What will we feel then?

In the meantime, I would love it if readers who were here for the sale- either as volunteers or as purchasers- would comment with either stories or your impressions from the sale. I want to see what you saw!

And lastly, I woke up this morning and read a blog post from a wonderful blog that was recently brought to my attention. The blog is called "The Art of Nonconformity" (AONC for short) and today's post is all about SUFFICIENCY. Chris, the author, writes:
"As I see it, sufficiency simply means enough. It means having everything you need and not lacking for anything."
He suggests that getting to that place of having enough requires not money, but a shift in thinking. A state of mind. And I wholeheartedly agree. We are engaging in this on a daily basis in an extremely concrete way. We are broke, but happier than ever. This very occurrence is why I started "Love in the Time of Foreclosure." Because, how can that be? With each post I write, I try to chip away at the answer. Today's AONC blog post speaks to it in a clear and powerful way. I highly recommend the read. The comments are great too. He's generated a rich dialogue.

Check it out:

Sufficiency - The Art of Nonconformity


bejaypea said...

I'm still upset about Big Boy. You're not talking me out of it.

Also, I have a furry, four-legged friend who wants to come by one last time to not say goodbye.

Anonymous said...

I'm so proud of you both and am amazed at the progress you've made along this journey. You have definitely taught me a thing or twelve about the importance I place on my material possessions...and it makes me wonder if the majority of them are important at all. Thank you for being honest and open about the trials you're facing.

Joel said...

I've been following this blog for about a week now, after reading about it in a magazine on a home-bound flight from Houston.

What an amazing spirit you guys have; the courage to actually set aside feelings and emotions, and do what needs to be done. I'm sure you will end up OK, having left behind an inportant part of your life, but not before closing that chapter, and preparing to start a new one.

When you have a second (?), I'd appreciate if you could explain how the house sale went - I read all the blog postings, but somehow missed how the house finally got sold - settling your mortgage debt, I guess?

Good luck!

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

(not so far from where you had that 2-euro bottle of wine... and had lunch at the market)

michael said...

Steph and Bob -

You two continue to be an inspiration to me (and many others I'm sure). Thank you for taking us on this journey with you.

You may have just gotten rid of a lot of "stuff", but you've been collecting a lot of love and support along the way. You can't sell me for $5, I'll tell you that much (well, depends on the buyer). I'll still be here when you get back.

thank you for putting things in perspective.

lots of love,

Love in the Time of Foreclosure said...

Michael- This is a banner day.... you were finally able to post a comment! It worked! I'm so excited. Thank you

babychef said...

Thanks for the glimpse into this weekend. I'm glad I'm not in LA, because I'm sure there would be something I'd want to buy, and I'm trying to do the opposite. :)

Isn't that funny? This post reminded me of me selling all of our stuff after Mike died & I had to come back to Chicago. Completely different reasons, but our stuff was a symbol and held a lot of memories. But you know what? I still have them.
We'll have a BBQ when you guys get back to Chi. Kind of a welcome home.

Kim Hooper said...

What a beautiful post. And I had no idea all that crazy stuff happened at your old place! Wow. It sounds like you are really at peace. I liked what you said about just "good and bye" -- no bitterness or resentment or anything. That'll keep you sane :)

Holly said...

When I give things away, I like to think that the future owner will pause for just a moment to think about where the item came from. Hopefully, when the new owners of your lamps, pitchers, and even the Big Boy bank, use these things, they'll respect the process--and the life events--that resulted in the transaction. You've sprinkled the LA area with heirlooms . . .

Love in the Time of Foreclosure said...

Joel from Amsterdam: Welcome and thank you! Yes, I will definitely write a post to explain the sale process. I realize there have been so many ups and downs and everything has come together in the last couple of weeks. Thanks for the question!

surflife said...

We sold all our wordly goods for an entirely different reason - the big global adventure - and having done it twice more since then I can hands down tell you it is the best thing in the world. We are so aware of what we buy now as we always think will this go in the "we are going overseas" sale - if yes then we dont need it! It is amazing how little we live with. Great Blog.

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