The mother of all spring cleanings

This week we managed to get rid of a lot of stuff as we continued our preparations to list the house. I figured I’d continue sharing some of the nitty-gritty details of the process, including some projects that were not really worth the trouble. Maybe I’ll inspire some cleaning out there, or save you some wasted effort.


Jaime set aside the clothes he needs to finish out his career and move to Puerto Rico, which left everything else for disposal. The picture below is just part of that sorting in progress. Five whole bags went to some funky organization that has clothing bins around the area. Presumably this group has figured out how to profitably recycle fairly crappy clothing, since bins always attract the worst stuff. I had to surmount a snow bank nearly as high as the bin to get to the opening; luckily, the snow had solidified into a pretty good climbing surface.

stuff that we successfully gave away

Some of the stuff that we successfully gave away — including that really ugly dresser in the background.

That left the remaining bags (and more when the dresser was emptied), plus some hanging clothes not in this picture, plus some boxes of miscellaneous household stuff. Two were just bags of cotton (AKA my husband’s old t-shirts) that the thrift store sells to mechanics by the bag. The rest, which I considered salable from my vast experience as a volunteer there myself, I parceled out to the thrift store a few at a time over a period of days. Doors of Hope is pretty small and can’t cope with too much at once.

Most of it went in with me during my regular shift Friday morning. As always, it’s fun to see some stuff I brought in get sold while I’m there, which means someone actually wanted it and was willing to pay a buck or two. (It’s also for an excellent cause — Doors of Hope uses proceeds from our thrift shop to fund the food pantry in the back of the shop.)


A posting in managed to help us give away a fair amount of shelving and a small sofa and some other furniture I threw in at the last minute for the person who expressed interest, who turned out to be someone I knew. She brought us a dozen eggs from her chickens when she came for the second load. That was nice. is an organization devoted to keeping stuff out of landfills. You sign up online for your local county’s chapter. You have to start by giving something away, but after that you can also make requests. I’m still waiting to see if a guy who asked about the piano will follow through. That piano has me worried. Apparently quite a few end up in landfills these days.

One of my son’s friends who says he is hoarding furniture in preparation for his own apartment (and who actually likes to refinish it) took the horrible ugly chest that was in fine mechanical shape.

Gardening Stuff

An email to my local garden club helped me get rid of my fluorescent light set-up for seed-starting, pots and seed starting supplies, miscellaneous organic sprays, and a shelf, as well as some bulbs and plants. We made $50 by selling the water barrel and the shelf, so that was nice. I still have a nearly-new set of hydroponic Windowfarms I should probably get rid of, but if I land in the perfect house with the perfect window, I could set it up again and eat my own homegrown herbs and greens all winter. So… I’m still hoarding that.

Old Records and CDs

We tried selling two boxes of LPs at a used record store in Albany and made five bucks on the ten they accepted, which probably didn’t cover the cost of the gas required to get there and back. I could have had $10 in store credit instead, but I’m trying to NOT buy anything.

A colleague who teaches Spanish has already taken a bunch of Spanish-language books she can share with her students, and now will be taking some the remaining Spanish LPs, too. Fortunately one of my brothers volunteered for anything that remains. (Unfortunately, I won’t be seeing him before the house goes on the market.)

The CD pile is huge at the moment, especially since Jaime decided he shouldn’t take any to Puerto Rico after all. Some will go to Doors of Hope or the library, but since they don’t take up much room I’ve postponed making a lot of decisions there until I can listen to them. I also have scores of CDs of my dad’s fake radio shows. I know there are a few I want to listen to again in there, so … that’s another box to store, at least for now. I did dump all the old ones from the cassette days, at least.


I already gave most of those in salable condition to the local library. (That means they are in good condition, with clean spines, and are not textbooks or condensed books or out of date or bestsellers that everyone already has — i.e. just about anything by Stephen King, John Grisham, Nora Roberts, or Mary Higgins Clark). The librarians pick through them for books they can use to replace worn shelf copies or to augment their collection. They then either sell the rest, or ship them off to an organization that sometimes makes a little money back for the library.

Old paperbacks with creased spines or yellowed pages won’t sell and should be recycled with regular paper. Spiral bound books and notebooks have to be taken apart first because only paper can go in the bin. Since local map books have been made obsolete by smart phones, this week I tore apart quite a few for the recycling bin, remembering how my husband and I used to spar over possession of them and wondering what the employees of map publishers were doing for a living these days.

Thankfully I never ordered a big supply of my own book, which sells much better as an e-book than a paperback. I have four paper copies to dispose of, two of which I need to donate to my college’s library (one copy to sit entombed in the collection of other stuff written by college employees; I’m hopeful they’ll accept the other to actually circulate). That leaves two so far unclaimed, so if you want to purchase a signed copy of The Awful Mess, now’s the time to ask. (Just remind me to actually sign it for you, since I sometimes forget!)

Miscellaneous metal

We filled Jaime’s car with our metal junk, including an entire heaping box of old cables and wires. Also included: old pots and pans, a dead toaster oven and garbage disposal, really old license plates, miscellaneous nails and screws, dead fluorescent light fixtures, metal pieces from a defunct office chair, orphaned grills and other stove parts, broken garden lights, old cookie tins I had hoarded in case I ever needed something to put something in,  and so on. Half of what we made was from the copper, bronze, and aluminum I managed to separate out. It all earned us about $40 and saved us dumping fees, so I’ll consider that a win.

Just plain trash

This is just stuff that had to go to the dump. This is the first year I’ve had a permit, since we pay for regular trash disposal and usually stay well within our limit, but that just won’t do the trick at this point. The town’s bin for paper recycling has been a godsend, but we’re also more than halfway through our supply of 10 large approved dumping bags at $4.00 a bag. The town also accepts TVs and computers and other electronics from residents for free, to prevent them from ending up in landfills. This is great, and has allowed us to dump a whole bunch of old stuff. We’ve also been able to get rid of paint cans (full or empty) for free.

And we’re not done yet

So what’s left? Some furniture, some rugs, and still way too much paper that still needs to be sorted and shredded. Also left: fluorescent bulbs, used and unused. The guy at our dump told me New York homeowners can legally dump bulbs from residential use instead of paying $2 each to dispose of them properly, but I’m feeling a little torn about that. (These bulbs contain minor amounts of mercury, a toxin.) I’m also wondering just how differently the town disposes of them if I do pay the $2.

I should probably rent a storage compartment off site for some of this stuff that’s left, but it’s down to a small enough pile that we might be able to just use a corner of the basement for it. Speaking as someone who is beginning to scan the internet for houses on sale, I think it might be reassuring for folks to see clear evidence that someone trusts their basement enough to leave furniture and framed art right on the floor.

Notice that I haven’t mentioned our son’s room yet. Alejandro is not happy about moving and is being about as passive-aggressive about it as a person who’s usually pretty nice can be. This pushes every button I have, so that’s been fun. I try to remember that at his age I’d become a pack rat myself. Not until I lived out of a backpack and a suitcase for my junior year in England did I realize that I didn’t need a whole lot of familiar stuff around me  – that it might even be rather freeing to give it all up.

Judging from what we’ve already packed of his and what remains, though, he won’t be learning that lesson himself anytime soon.


This week I had a woman our real estate agent recommended come in to help with the cleaning. She gets $20 an hour, which helpfully clarifies exactly how much money I’m losing if I do other stuff instead of that. She showed me that most of our windows tip in for cleaning, something I’ve conveniently failed to notice for the last 11 years — despite the handy diagram that (she pointed out) is sitting at the top of every window.

She also got the downstairs shower door clean. This I take as a kind of miracle since I didn’t manage that even when I used oven cleaner on it (yes, oven cleaner). If you want to try her technique, she used Barkeeper’s Friend and a plastic scrubby, and followed it up with a regular window cleaner. I’m writing it here at least partly so I can find it again when I need it!

She didn’t get the kitchen cabinets much cleaner than I’ve managed myself, so she says she’ll try getting something a little more powerful. I fear it may take mineral oil to really do the job. I tried a magic eraser on one of the greasy spots around the door handles and will now need to polish it with paste wax to get the shine back. Do not use magic erasers on a fine wood finish!

The carpets are supposed to get cleaned Thursday. I had to explain to my son that this was why he couldn’t leave a pile of stuff I wasn’t supposed to look at under his bed.

Then, after I sneak off for a short visit with a friend where I do not plan to clean or organize ANYTHING, it’s listing time.

Here’s hoping that you won’t have to hear me whining about keeping a house tidy while it’s being shown. Maybe it will sell ON THE VERY FIRST DAY, or perhaps after an intense three-day bidding war in which we get to choose the passionate gardener who can’t wait to have me come back and divide plants with her. (This is also the one who won’t say a single unkind word about the shower doors, and would like nothing better than to keep the piano right where it is.)

Hey, a seller can dream!

P.S. Re some spelling up above: I think the American spelling of “salable” is strange. It looks too much like someone meant to say “syllable” but got a bug in his mouth. The UK has it right with “saleable.” But I’m an American, and not one who writes dictionaries, so I’m reluctantly bowing to my countrymen and their (weird-ass) spelling on this one.

2 thoughts on “The mother of all spring cleanings

  1. As the friend who is looking forward to hosting you for that short visit, I have to say… wait… what? You’re not going to help me clean and organize? Just kidding, dear friend. We will pamper you. 🙂


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