Saturday, March 01, 2008

Hard Day's Work

I've spent most of this week working on my mom's house. It's been a series of fits and starts in terms of sorting through a lifetime's worth of stuff. I've been fortunate to have lots of willing helpers along the way, but it's still a sucky task.

For a long time I couldn't visit without having a breakdown. After this happened on a simple trip to grab a shovel out of the shed, I boycotted the house for several months. My friend and old neighbor was kind enough to mow the out of control grass and keep an eye on it.

Of course, time marches on, and we can't really afford to have the house sit vacant forever, so this past month I've been formulating a strategy for getting the rest of the stuff out.

When Jess gets the whiff of a hint that I'm working on something, she will usually start researching and sending me information. I love her for this, even as I often find it annoying, because it brings up completely irrational feelings of inadequacy--but I can't deny that she is a huge help in making things happen. Even when mom was sick, and I was spending almost as much time at her house as ours, Jess would quietly request that maybe we could think about getting X house project done in the next few weeks--we had just moved after all--and I would somehow find the time and energy and life at home remained somewhat normal. And that's why she wears the BGOTP crown.

Jess also found Nora and after a bit more stalling, I finally called and she agreed to come look at the house. Nora was completely unfazed by the piles of furniture, boxes and dust that have been overwhelming me for months. She thought it wouldn't even take a full day to get the job done, and she quoted me a price that was more than fair.

With a third neutral party involved, I really had to start following through. I called Oregon Community Warehouse and made an appointment to have them pick up a donation of furniture and kitchen items. Then came the hard part. I didn't want to be slowing Nora down by trying to sort through papers, pictures and sentimental items while she worked.

I went over on Tuesday and spent three hours boxing up things I either knew I should keep or would need to go through later. I was simultaneously amused and annoyed at how much stuff mom saved. Among other things, I found two envelopes of baby teeth, many pages of elementary school homework from me and Traci, entire boxes of loose pictures, newspaper clippings and the invitation to my great grandparents wedding anniversary party. I'm sure I'm going to enjoy going through it at leisure sometime, now that it's not taking up space in the house.

Thursday came and Nora showed up promptly at 9:00am. Her basic task was to go through everything in the house and sort into piles to be donated, recycled or trashed. She was a whirlwind and mostly I just carried furniture into the living room for pick up the next day and made runs back and forth to the recycling center and Goodwill. On my first trip, there was a field trip of school children touring the recycling center and I had another 'I love Portland' moment.

I had thought about using my new Zipcar membership to get a pick up truck, but by the time I made up my mind, none were available. So Jess came over and helped ferry loads of stuff to Goodwill.

In six hours, the worst was over and I let Nora go with a bonus that wasn't enough and free lunch. It's definitely the best money I've spent all year.

I put the broken stove on craigslist and met someone this morning to pick it up and took the rest of the recycling away. I'm one dump run away from having an empty house. It's kind of strange, but seeing the house filthy is actually more depressing than seeing it empty. I think I will feel much better when it's cleaned with a new stove and carpeting (the smoking, in addition to taking her life, ruined the carpet).

Till then, I keep this picture up on the wall, just so it still feels a little like home.

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