Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Price Is Right

I need a little advice. I need to give you some background. I need to apologize to everyone who's learning about my trip via this medium. I'm in a certain amount of denial.

Aunt Rena is in decline. That's not news. Between her immobile knees and her congestive heart failure, though, it is finally completely impossible to leave her in her own home 5 good-weather-hours away from the nearest family member. My mother has taken 5 unpaid weeks off to assess the situation and remedy it and the answer is that Rena will be coming down to live with my mother in about a week and a half.

Surely I've written about my mom's house before. I don't write much about it, though, because I find it humiliating. I know it's not my house so it's not mine to be humiliated over but I am. I think people think I should be fixing my mother and I can't. I can either have a relationship with my mother or I can try to fix her. I can't do both. I speak from experience. So understand that it's hard for me to explain to you how bad it is. It's bad. There are tiny paths through huge mounds of stuff taller than me (newspapers, bills, furniture, electronics, shelving, cat food, player piano, etc.) that get you through the place. You can only go single file. You can't use a cane or a walker. Her front yard is the same only it's covered in flowers and plants. I mourn the loss of the front lawn and she tells me to shut my yap.

Mom took a couple of days back in her home to make space for Rena. She's put up a bed in the living room and cleared out a dresser. There might be room (wow, I'm totally starting to cry while I write this, who knew?) for a walker to get from the front door (farthest from the driveway) to the bed. I know this sounds nuts. It sounded so nuts that I had to call Pony Express and tell her about it because I couldn't hold it inside me. She, being of unsound mind and foolish heart, told me that we probably ought to go up (WE!) while Mom was north with Rena and figure out a way to make some more room. Mom trusts us to do such things. We're the only people she does for a variety of slightly loopy but understandable reasons.

OK, enough background, why am I still talking? I actually just need a little advice, gah!

I've been given permission to sell a dining room table (pretty good condition, solid, possibly with leaves for expansion), the chairs that go with it (re-covered seats but fairly rickety) and a wing chair (sturdy but with ravaged upholstery) to a 2nd hand store up the road. I've never looked at the cost of furniture in a second hand store in my life! I get all my second hand furniture from my mom! (And my dad and my friends and from the street here in NYC.) What's a good price for those things? Do you think the guy will actually buy them? Should I aim high and expect negotiation? Will you come sell this stuff for me, please? I need some knowledge to get my feet under me. This is the first thing I need to do on Sat morning before PE and I spend all day Saturday and at least half the day on Sunday fighting a battle with little hope of anything that could be construed as winning. Any direction you can give me is greatly appreciated.

Thanks for listening.


  1. First things first. Forgive yourself. This is not your fault and you're absolutely right that you can't do both.

    You're selling them to just sell them, right? Not really for the money? I've found that it might be more cost effective to donate them and take the tax write off (which can be up to $200 without a receipt, more with a receipt which is easy to get.)

    Baby steps are key. Your mom MUST realize that in order to car for someone, room and space must be cleared. Let her feel like she's in control and you might have more success.

    Take a deep breath. Call if you need anything.

  2. I would imagine you could probably expect to get about half of what this stuff would sell for in a second hand shop. Maybe a more tight-fisted dealer would give you between 1/3 and 1/4.

    My best guess (and I am totally guessing -- but I think I know the store of which you speak) is that they would sell the chair for $40 and the table and chairs for $150. Go in high. You can always come down, and if that is your best option for taking care of the furniture ASAP, be prepared to take 1/3.

    I wish you the best of luck. I understand how hard it is to have a complicated relationship with a parent you can't fix. I'll be in NH this weekend, if you need anything, call me.

  3. Craigslist honey bunny! Look in your Mom's area! Its something that may be, just may be she might even get excited about. Her stuff has a value!

  4. And you know that if I could, I would. I would unbury, unearth every single treasure for you and your Mother.
    Be well, channel me.

  5. I'm seconding Snob. It's the same song I've been singing for years. We are NOT our mothers. We are NOT responsible for our mothers. The best we can do is love their frustrating selves and do the best we can with what they give us.

    Beyond that, I've got nothing. I know NOTHING about furniture and its value. Hell, all the furniture in Chez Chili is from IKEA, the Particleboard Palace, so I'm the last person you want giving you this kind of advice.

    Call me if you need me. Really.

  6. Long about 3pm on Sat if you could perhaps drive by my mother's house and fling cake products at the front door, that might help. :)

    Thanks you guys for all the offers. I've just been faxed 3 pages of instructions and gone over them with her by phone. I am simultaneously hopeful and despairing. But laughing so I guess it's all going to be OK.

  7. I know nothing about furniture so I can't help you there. I can be there in under 45 minuets if you need anything including, but not limited to, cake products.

    I have another friend who's mom has the same problem. If your looking to talk to someone who is in your shoes I will put the two of you in touch.


  8. Tough stuff. I would say do anything you can to get rid of the stuff including giving it away and giving mom money out of your own pocket to pretend like you sold it. The room is Goal #1.

    I used to live with a packrat and I snuck stuff out to throw it away. That way he did not know to mourn its loss and yet we gained some space.

  9. Hang in there, you. Give me a call if you need anything. I can be up there pretty damn quick.

  10. I'm sorry you're having to deal with this. But, yes, I agree Craigslist is a great way to go. Get in there and sort things through. Sell what you can and give what you can away.

  11. You should NOT feel bad or shamed about this. My heart is heavy for you.

    I second SUEBOB. If you just don't want to deal with the hassle of Craigslist, you can at least look there for pricing comparisons if you are indeed selling stuff. I say give as much away as you can get away with!

  12. I don't know how to do this, but when you learn can you please tell me? This is something my brothers and I have to do later this spring for my mom.

    One idea - in my mom's area there are several antique stores and consignment shops. I've talked with people about this, and they suggested finding a shop whose proprietor can come in and price some items, and sell them for consignment. Is there such a shop or group of shops near your mom's place for you?

  13. Holy cow. I had no idea and am so very sorry. Are you the only child as well? So you don't have siblings to share this burden?

    I know it must be hard to write/talk about such things when they're your mother's issues. I could see myself feeling guilty for talking about it, but it's separate from you and any person would be completely overwhelmed.

    In terms of the furniture, it really depends on the aesthetics and desirability of the piece, as well as how many chairs there are. Are there 6, I assume?

    The chairs would probably be easily re-upholstered. With the wing chair, I could see selling the whole set for something between $600 to $1000, but again, it depends on how desirable they are.

    I would definitely aim high. Go check out what they have, undercover. I know you probably want to get rid of everything asap, but a little legwork can add hugely to the price. Check out ebay as well.

    I purchased furniture from ebay. You have to take lots of good photos and offer shipping as a separate cost. If you offer a reserve price, you have a good chance of getting what you want.

    Hugs, Kizz. Sounds like you're going thru a bunch.

  14. you mom sounds like a hoarder. don't stress about the furniture - put it in a second hand shop or donate it if you have to, and then get rid of as much junk as possible - that is the best thing you can do for her. Good luck.

  15. Anonymous12:25 PM

    If time is the major factor here, I would suggest Craig's list - things move fast and deals can be made. Plus, people come and pick things up, which works well for expediency. Sending hugs and good energy: hope you're still laughing (even if you are also weeping)!