Friday, May 29, 2009

Parental House Cleanup

The last two weeks have been physically and emotionally draining. Ann and I started with four days in Muskegon, Michigan at her mother's condominium. The good news is that it sold within two weeks of when we put it on the market. The bad news was that the remaining items in the house needed to be cleaned out. We donated to Goodwill, friends, and even the desk clerk at the Hampton Inn we were staying with. A few bits of furniture even made it back to Chicago for Claire. It was a few long days of work; at least the final episode of Lost gave a bit of a break.

After we finished in Muskegon, we went to Rochester to my parents house. We moved them out of the house to a senior living apartment in February. However, this left a full basement and large attic full of stuff; I did not take pictures of this, as pictures did not do justice to it. This trip was to move the rest of the stuff out of the house. I knew that there was a lot in the house... my father had old PDP-11 computers (a LSI-11/2-based MINC-11), typewriters, bicycles from when I was a teenager, etc.

There was also a loft above the garage; here are a few pictures. Note that the valance in front of the 30 gallon drums (third picture) came with the house when we moved there in 1965 and were still around the house. The black bicycle in the foreground in the last picture was the one that I used to deliver newspapers for years as a teenager.

The task was enormous. Only statistics can tell the story, so here they are:
  • Six family members working from Sunday to Saturday, as well as some bits of cleanup afterwards. Ann and I worked the entire time, while Jim, Taryn, Lisa and Claire worked as much as they could around paying jobs and family commitments - I would estimate that we had over three hundred hours of work among us.
  • 8 movers, 9 hours to haul things to the first floor or dumpster
  • One full 30 cubic yard dumpster, and then a second time half full - there was a total of 15 tons of material. This was a massive dumpster. Lest you think that we had to toss the material over the walls, there was a large door at the end (near the garage) and you could walk into the dumpster so that it could be filled to the brim.
  • 200 gallons household hazardous waste. This included some mystery chemicals and a few dozen quarts of oil; they were old enough that much of the oil had leeched from the cans and permeated the cardboard box. There were even 5 gallon drums of Kroil Much of it was paint, paint thinner, oil paint, shellac, etc.; I tried to find good homes for much of this, but there were no takers.
  • Ten boxes of books given to the library.
  • Significant amounts of furniture given to the Salvation Army (a small bit is at a local consignment shop, Windsor Cottage. This included a nice pine/cedar Lane armoire there as well as a china/curio cabinet.
  • My parents first chambers range which I remember from my childhood, made available for sale; however, there were no takers so it went off for the metal value. It was heavy iron.
  • Oldest National Geographic found - January 1954; my parents bought a lifetime subscription to National Geographic for my first Christmas. This magazine was still in the attic.
  • One oxyacetylene torch and one electric arc welder, eyeshields, gloves, given to BOCES, the local vocational high school where my dad learned to weld post-retirement.
  • Four 22 caliber rifles and one Ithaca pump 12 gauge shotgun - these were sold, including the rifle that my father used for target practice during WW II
  • Significant amounts of metal recycling, including the rear axle and transmission assembly from a 1968 VW 1600, the transmission from a 1972 Chevy Vega, steering columns, car windows, VW fenders. There were hubcaps from many cars, including the Buick Special that was implicated in my first speeding ticket.
  • Significant quantities of screws and nails, masonry tools, electrical junction boxes and fixtures, the acetylene torch, and some extra hammers and a few other tools to Habitat for Humanity Restore
  • Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs from 1971-1978
  • Punchcard desks for some of the programs I wrote on an IBM 1130 during my sophomore year of high school
  • And I was still finding notes from college classes in boxes in the attic.

Comments on process: The family worked on things Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. We tried to go through books and boxes to find items of value. There were a clear set of zones in the house, and we directed the movers to deposit material in the following places.:
  • Living room: electronics recycling and Salvation army
  • Garage: Household hazardous waste
  • Master bedroom: items destined for California
  • Lisa bedroom: books and memories to be sorted through before determining destination, shredding, potentially valuable books (whether monetary or sentimental value)
Ann and Lisa sorted through the kitchen as well as some of the desks. I got the task of sorting through the books, papers, electronics, and tools of my father's. Let's just say that he had a lot of stuff to sort through.

The sorting process was interesting. I started slowly on Sunday and had this down to a science by Wednesday. If there was a box of magazines or papers, I had to go through them document by document; gems like my father's high school yearbook were stuffed in a box of old National Geographics. By the time we got to Wednesday with the movers present to haul, I'd look at a box, pull all of the tools and electronics and send them to the California. I knew that I'd have to sort them later, but did not have the time to do that in Rochester. The same was true with loose family pictures, slides, and super 8 movies; they all went in boxes and are being sent to California. I'll sort through them at home, and then digitize all of the remaining material to go into iPhoto or make DVDs from it; at least this way the content can be shared between my sister and I and the three grandchildren. But I will have three torque wrenches, a new small workbench with a drill press, bench grinder, and the vise that I grew up with and perfected many a pinewood derby car. It will be great to have my father's tools and to share them with my son and daughter. But I am far from certain that the three of us will ever be able to use 180 hacksaw blades that my father had on a shelf. I would have liked to spend more time, go into material in detail, send less to California, sell more on ebay, and the like. But I've gone negative on vacation time and thought that the most important task was to get the house on the market; it had to be cleared before this could be done. There are 80 book boxes, 110 pieces, being sent from Rochester to California; I have no idea where they will go when they arrive.

We did have some fun in this. Claire, our recently Masters degree graduated soprano did a small recital at Cloverwood on Friday for my parents and other residents. She and Tatiana, her pianist, were wonderful.

We did have a family dinner on Saturday night after people cleaned up from a day of final sorting and boxing. From left to right, are me, Lisa, grandchildren Taryn and Claire, spouses Jim and Ann, and my parents Chuck and Rita. It was great to have this much of the family together. The only person missing was Peter, who is down in Guatemala learning Spanish; he participated in the move in February. And I am now looking forward to a trip to Rochester when I get to see my parents rather than spending time with all their stuff.


At 5:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

it was funny to pick up the rochester d&c this morning and read about your ordeal as i am facing this situation square in the face. i know i will refer to your blog again soon.


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