A little over a year ago we moved from my beloved home of 30 years. I loved my home. It was a 1920’s Tudor-style charming 2200 sq. ft. home and it was filled with treasures that Mike and I had purchased from many years of travelling to exotic places. Rugs from Morocco and Turkey, a collection of plates, clothes, and other items from places such as Greece, Croatia, Spain, Germany, Italy, France, Sardinia, India, Thailand, and others, plus a rather large collection of carved wooden animals made of copal wood, hand painted in Oaxaca, and purchased directly from the artists in their homes courtesy of Mike’s father and step-mother who lived in Mexico and made a business out of buying and selling the items. Several items were museum quality, I found out later.
In addition to the travel acquisitions, most of what we owned we either bought from friends, including furniture, or were items that were gifted to us from our friends and family. There were also the items that were handed down from the grandparents, parents, and other relatives as family keepsakes.
I also had items that I treated myself to, such as my Stickley mission-style furniture, which I obtained after receiving bonuses at work for a job well done.
The house also had a lovely backyard, more a work of well-designed landscape art than a typical Dallas back yard pool, surrounded by 100 year old pecan trees that shaded the pool, providing a respite from the 100+ degree August dog days of summer.
So once the decision was made to sell everything, keep the dog and buy a sailboat, I put a plan in place. Being a Project Manager type person, I actually put it in a Gantt chart with tasks, dependencies and dates. I started this process about a year and three months before we finally were in the truck on our way to Florida after having sold almost everything.
I first started by selling things that could be easily shipped on eBay. At first it was hard to get started. I was having a hard time wrapping my head around “selling our stuff”. Every item had a memory attached to it. The interesting thing about selling on eBay is you have to thoroughly research each item, take visually appealing pictures of it, write a paragraph or two about each piece, and do research to figure out what a fair market value should be. At first it seemed very laborious, but I started off posting 3-4 things and, oddly, things became exciting. We had a Oaxacan gazelle that was very intricately painted, and it was one of the first things I posted. When researching the price, I could only find one other piece by the same artist, and it had just sold at $700. I thought this piece looked a bit better, so I priced it at $750, and within a few days it sold. Damn!
Mike had his prized vinyl collection, dating to the first album he had ever purchased, some of which were autographed. An early U2 album contained 2 ticket stubs in the shrink-wrap marked $3.50 admission from when he went to see them in 1981, touring in support of their first album. As an added bonus, it included a cocktail napkin with all four of their signatures, obtained while getting to know them outside smoking cigarettes and drinking beer with them. He put those items out on auction as one item starting at $9.99. Damn, in the final 20 seconds of bidding we watched it jump from $250 to well over $1,000 in four bids!
We opened a new banking account to separate the money we raised from selling our stuff and called it “boat kitty”. It almost became a race to see how fast “boat kitty” could grow. We are savers by nature and quite prudent with our money, so this became fun in a weird way. Let’s say it eliminated a lot of the emotion of parting with sentimental items. Plus, with all the picture taking to post the items on-line, I have an entire collection of pictures of everything I sold.
As we started getting rid of the larger items, we turned to Craig’s list. We had heard so many horror stories about Craigslist and warnings but, here we were, selling art out of the trunk of our car to people on assignment to Dallas from France, 35 mm cameras at Starbucks to young enthusiasts who want to learn film, it became a sort of hilarious and entertaining way to figure out where and when to meet people to avoid problems.
As time got closer, we started donating stuff. We gave Halloween costumes to a costume shop that couldn’t believe we were “giving this away”. Clothes to a place that helped abused and battered women.
In July 2015, we found a boat in Grenada that looked “perfect”. We went ahead and put down the earnest money. Right around that time we had guests from Germany visit and stay with us. We had a big party, including friends from Dallas. I started giving things away. Sophie said she liked the waffle maker – voila — it’s yours! Do you like the Greek head? Take that too? I truly wanted my best friends to have anything that they had enjoyed in our house and wanted to remember us by.
Then came the dreaded “estate sale”. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the gal that helped us with the estate sale, I’m not sure we could have pulled the last part off. We still had a house of 30 years full of stuff, in the attic, in the garage, in the closets, pictures, stuff we weren’t even sure we could part with. In a matter of a week or two, she would come over and we would tackle it a room at a time. She was amazing. There was no way without her could we have ever got that last part done. She organized all our stuff on tables like you would expect to see at an estate sale, priced everything, advertised, put signs out, brought her daughter over to help, and between the two of them, they sold just about everything in our house in a 3 day sale period.
At first I didn’t want to be there when the estate sale was going on. It was a madhouse on Day 1 when the clock was tick-tocking for the sale to begin and cars were lined up. The appointed time arrived and the house was flooded with unfamiliar people as well as neighbors. Thankfully, the neighbors were snatching up my favorite items and paying full price. That was a real feel-good thing. After a couple of hours, I headed to my parents with the dog to hide from the rest of Day 1.
By Day 3, I started realizing that some of my favorite things were not going to sell so I started asking around and offering to give things away to my friends. (I have a lot of friends, thank goodness!).
I actually sold and gave some stuff away to people that seemed so pleased they would email or text me with pictures of the items in their homes. That made me as happy as a clam. I wanted my stuff to be appreciated. That seemed to be more important than money as time went by.
Some stuff we just couldn’t part with. Photos. Grandpa’s clock. Our china. We were bound and determined to not get a storage unit. We did leave a few items and boxes with our parents. I put some stuff in my parent’s lockbox.
The whole time we were selling stuff we thought we were moving to Grenada, so we sold the Soda Stream, the knives, Mike sold all his tools, we thought we were travelling super light.
There was some art that didn’t sell and other items that I suppose most people would have donated. But the deal on the boat to Grenada fell through. So we rented a furnished apartment in Burnt Store Marina, Florida, sight unseen, and loaded up a U-Haul Truck that was way bigger than what we needed, but they gave us a free upgrade. Without the upgrade, Jasmine would have had no place to perch in the truck. She was a trooper, she really had to employ her balance skills to sit on that perch for 3 days, 8-10 hours a day!
The furnished condo in Burnt Store turned out to be a delight, and by October we had purchased Last Tango, a 1989 Taswell ’43, in Ft. Lauderdale. We sailed her around to just north of Ft. Myers to Burnt Store, where we had the condo rented and could do some work on her at the marina. We moved into the boat on December 1st, when the lease on the condo was up.
We still had that art that didn’t sell. I posted it on Craigslist in Florida, and I got an offer from a guy in Ft. Lauderdale. It was enough to merit a 3 hour drive there and back, so I asked Monica to go as backup. So before we sold the car, Monica and I took three works by Yaacov Agam to Ft. Lauderdale. She shows up packing heat (remember the warning about Craigslist?) We drove around casing the joint in what I would consider a not so great part of town, when we find this tiny little mid-century modern consignment store. Obviously this was the place we were looking for. With Monica’s help, we were able to successfully negotiate the deal with a bit of a shady character thrown in.
What I did right: Start early. You get 50% of value on eBay, 30% on Craigslist, and 10% in estate sales on average.
What I would change: We probably should have offloaded the art and stuff before it got to Florida in the first place. It just prolonged the process, and I ended up dealing with shady characters.
What I would have kept: Soda Stream, knives, kitchen pots and pans, mostly kitchen stuff. Mike would have kept a few of his tools although our boat came equipped with the tools from the previous owner.
What I don’t need that I do have: Way too many clothes that don’t support this sweaty, moldy lifestyle. I suppose when I move off the boat I might need them, but chances are they will be out of style. Years ago, I kept my working “suits” with the shoulder pads for so long then lost weight, tried them on, and realized how outdated they were!
Added Bonus: Last Tango came fully furnished. Pots, pans, teapot, lifejackets, ditch bag, tools, AIS, watermaker, SSB, radar, chartplotter, spare parts, you name it, everything was organized just like Mike would have organized it if he owned it since 1989, with all the receipts and manuals for new installations and parts. Mike’s a Virgo. We took the entire contents of the boat out of their compartments, cleaned it up, and Mike created an Excel spreadsheet and entered in the entire inventory of the boat including where everything is located. So I suppose what goes around, comes around?