Changes Are Afoot…

6 June 2019

Boy are they ever! It’s been ten months since the last TreeHouse blog entry, but we have NOT been idle. Construction was delayed a few months on the Maine house renovation by an AWOL excavator (plan was to start in July, didn’t start until September). Nothing can start until the excavation is done, so our schedule got out of whack right out of the starting gate. We retired on schedule in late January, began the herculean task of cleaning the southern abode of 32+ years of clutter and junk, and began the bi-weekly trek north to observe the progress and consult with the general contractor on the various “challenges” that crop up when you’re doing major renovations to a 150-year-old house.

We’ve kept a web journal of the construction progress as lots of friends and acquaintances are interested in said progress (a page, cleverly titled “Changes are Afoot,” on the BallotBox sub-site of the Family TreeHouse web site), complete with photos of the progress.

But this is the TreeHouse blog, so the stuff happening to the abode that we call the TreeHouse is whats on-topic here!

The TreeHouse, circa May 2013

We’re selling the TreeHouse! It’s a 5-bedroom split-level on about 16,000 sq. ft. of corner lot in West Woburn, MA. Built in 1985, bought by us in 1989, upgrading from a tiny 200-year-old 2-bedroom house just off the town center in Lexington, MA that we bought in 1982 (the year our youngest [of two] was born). This Woburn house was attractive to us as it had a finished in-law apartment and my father had just lost his sister-in-law housemate, was living alone in the house I grew up in, and was deteriorating from loneliness.

It’s served us well, but retirement opens up lots of new possibilities, so we’ve decided to opt for the slower-paced life on the mid-coast of Maine, where a traffic jam is waiting for a driver not terribly skilled at parallel-parking while they maneuver into the on-street parking space in front of the Reny’s department store in downtown Damariscotta, and the scenery in mid-coast of Maine far outweighs the strip-malls and 4-lane highways of the “north of Boston” suburbs.

Selling a house at any time is a big undertaking, but selling a house after living in it for 32+ years is a bigger project than one might think, especially if one is an “I-might-need-that-someday” (IMNTS) homeowner. For example… we all buy electronics equipment – TVs, Stereos, DVD players, Computers, Microwaves, Clock-Radios, Printers, Scanners, Boom-Boxes, … you get the idea. These things all come in sturdy cardboard boxes, usually with Styrofoam corner- or whole-box- padding. These electronic items also occasionally need repair or get moved or get passed on to someone else, so the IMNTS homeowner will save the box and the packing, “just in case.” I did that.

The “just in case” scenarios do occasionally crop up, but NOT for EVERY SINGLE PIECE OF ELECTRONIC EQUIPMENT! One in fifty, maybe? So is it worth saving every single box for that one-in-fifty chance, especially when one can buy a sturdy box and bubble-pack and Styrofoam peanuts at an office supply store? I know the answer now!

We had an attic FULL of empty electronic boxes… x286-vintage computer boxes, CRT monitor and TV boxes, VHS player boxes… 90% or more were orphan boxes for long-disposed-of equipment. But when a piece of equipment died, did we hunt down the box it came in to dispose of both together?? Of COURSE not!! So all those orphan boxes had to be extracted from this fairly-inaccessible crawlspace attic. Our 66-year-old knees couldn’t crawl into the spaces to retrieve the boxes where our 35-year-old knees put them! We had to hire some young whippersnappers to do it for us, then we had to sort through the boxes to identify the ones we still had the equipment for (VERY few), THEN we had to break down the boxes and dispose of the Styrofoam!

Above is one-day’s recycling of discarded boxes. The 12 or so unbroken boxes on the left side contained all the Styrofoam chunks and went onto the trash truck. The 50 or so broken-down boxes (big ones tied in bundles, small ones in bins) went into the paper recycling truck. They took it all!

We also have a secondary attic… the loft over the oversize 2-car garage! It’s full of hard stuff (not empty boxes) that also fell into the IMNTS category… a car-top carrier that was used with our 1988 minivan and MIGHT be needed again… a bunk-bed frame and sturdy platform… an antique drafting table I refinished maybe 30 years ago… lawn toys… old yard tools… etc. etc. etc. The loft will be attacked in a similar manner, but the whippersnappers will bring a dumpster this time. We’re paying now for our indecision all those years.

Now add this amount of work to the knowledge that we’re NOT moving to a new house… we’re moving to a house we’ve owned and used a lot for ten years. We’ve got two houses worth of furniture AND OTHER STUFF to fit into one house! We have a step-based process for dealing with these things; anything we don’t want to keep but that might be of value gets posted on eBay (for small mail-able items) or Craigslist (for bigger items to be picked up). If it sells, that’s great. If it doesn’t, it gets posted on FreeCycle in various towns in the area. FreeCycle stuff is free to a good home, keeping it out of the landfills. Anything that doesn’t get taken on FreeCycle is offered to Goodwill. Anything that Goodwill won’t take gets put out for the trash early enough that the ubiquitous trash-pickers get a chance at it.

Needless to say, this has been a long and tedious process. It’s not done in a weekend. Any advice we might be able to offer would focus on curbing the IMNTS gene that makes you want to save stuff that MIGHT be of use…. some day!

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