Wednesday, August 18, 2010

How to clear a property of 21 junk cars, 2 junk buses, and tons of other junk no one wants....

So a few days ago, I showed you this photo...

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These are kitchen cabinets my dad had had hauled into a "great room" (really just a covered patio with a cement floor). His ultimate plan was to turn the great room into living quarters complete with a kitchen, thus, the old kitchen cabinets.

Sadly, my father passed to his eternal rest in September of 2008, so his dream was never realized, nor would it have been had he continued to live into his old age. That's just the kind of guy he was.... a project-starter, but not necessarily a project-finisher. Many of you can relate, I'm sure. I have been known to start a cross-stitch or two and not finish, or an apron, or even purchase an old piece of furniture with plans to restore it, but never get around to it.

My father had this problem, incessantly, but with very large things, like cars, buses, building structures, and at one point, even towers (don't ask).

As I wrote in a previous post, I decided that during my stay with my mother this summer, I would tackle getting rid of my father's collections, but I had no idea how I would do it. There were many, many large things to move, even other than the cars, such as the above-mentioned kitchen cabinets, a pool table, solar panels, rusted-out engines and the like. The only work horses available were my mother, the 15-year-old girl, and myself. The other kids were to serve as babysitters and the 14-year-old boy, who would have served as indispensable help, was at football camp.

So this is how I cleared the property, one step at a time...

Step 1. Get the buses and cars hauled off...

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I called an auto and truck salvage yard and told them my story. The conversation I had with the young man, who was to become quite a good friend, is written here. Here he is, incidentally (with his dog, Tashy, during a later visit)...

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(P.S. The 15-year-old girl confided to me that her opinion of him totally changed once she saw him with his yipping toy dog.)

Efren is a loud, fasting-talking, cursing, border-town native who currently complains a lot about how little the salvage yard is giving him for the cars and buses we sold him, how hard it is going to be to remove the second bus because trees will have to be cut down, and that he might get bitten by a rattlesnake, and what with the helicopter air lift and hospital bill, it will cost $7000 to be treated. When he cusses, my mother and I remind him that we are ladies and that he shouldn't talk like that, but it only works for a while, so then I decided to help him find substitutes. I said, "Okay, see, the way you just called the neighbor a bad word? Instead of saying what you said, you could say what we Mormons say, 'That guy was a flipping jerk!' " He quickly repeated what I said and even tried to use it later, so hopefully we were able to help him develop into a more refined individual. That being said, he has a heart of gold and his help has been invaluable to us in selling many of the items on my father's property.

When all was said and done, after negotiations for half a day, we agreed to sell him all 21 cars and 2 buses for $2500 on condition that he remove all of them from the property. After a week and a half, he's still working on it, but we have been quite impressed with his progress. At least one of the buses is gone.

Step 2. Get rid of all the items in the garage and "great room", which included 4 couches, 3 huge computer monitors, a pool table, rusted saws, the kitchen cabinets, solar panels, very old and heavy trunks filled with Urology digests, a kitchen sink, a kitchen bar, 2 TVs, many, many pieces of lumber, lots of random metal car parts, an outdoor swing,... and that is just the beginning. Here is the great room after about 3/4 of the items were removed...

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So here's what I did. I put an ad in Craig's List that we were having a HUGE yard sale and everything would be sold at $1 to $20! Everything! And I listed the items we had. I had the yard sale for four days, and over the course of these days, most of the big-ticket items were removed by strong men, and my mother was about $1000 more wealthy. You may wonder how I priced so many items. I didn't label anything. If someone wanted something, they would come up to me and ask, usually in Spanish, how much it cost. If it was large, like a sofa or a refrigerator, I would tell them $20. Most of the time they would accept this price, but sometimes, they would shew there hand in front of them and say "pppsshhh" or "Ayesshhhh" and then I would say, "Caunto quiere pagar?" which means, "How much would you like to pay?" Any number they mentioned I would say, "Bueno". Okay. Then I would watch with a quiet thrill in my chest as men and sometimes women would haul off my father's trash.

At the end of the sale, however, there was still a lot left, so I would insist that whatever they wanted was free, but that they had to fill up their trucks. Otherwise, there would be a charge. This worked well for a while, until we were really down to the slimmest of pickings. At this point, as I related in an earlier post, I told everyone who came that everything was free. This tactic helped as well, but after the last hour of the last sale, there were still some pretty big ticket items, things that would be impossible for my mother and I to lift, such as the pool table....

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This is where Craig's list came in again. I listed each item individually this time, and wrote the word "FREE" in capital letters in the title. The solar panel ad went like so...

"FREE Solar Panels!

6 Free solar panels, may or may not contain copper wiring. The top one is broken and they are all in poor condition. They could probably only be used to salvage the copper wiring, if there is any copper wiring at all.

For more info, please call (my phone numbers). Thank you!"

The next day, a very nice, somewhat large gentleman in a sweaty tank top with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth came to look at the panels. I stood anxiously awaiting his decision as he told me that he was trying to find a way to heat a swimming pool he had built and thought that perhaps he could build a couple of good panels out of the combined six. I encouraged him that even if he couldn't there may be copper wiring inside, or that is what many people had said, and that copper is selling for a lot right now. He nodded in agreement, took another drag from his cigarette and agreed to take them. I almost jumped for joy! I also mentioned that we still had kitchen cabinets and a pool table if he had any interest in that, but he did not. One large item gone, several more to go.

Step 3. Get rid of the kitchen cabinets...

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I could not give these things away for anything. I tried and tried, but there is absolutely no market of any kind for beat-up mustard-yellow kitchen cabinets. Now, I could have called some male friends to come and help us move them, but my pride stopped me. I was going to prove to my mother and my daughters that women can accomplish difficult tasks without the help of their male counterparts and that it feels good to do so. Yes, I could have asked John to help with the moving, but he works late and wears such nice clothes to the office and I didn't want him to have to change and get dirty and the 4 four and under would cry because he wasn't holding them, and I could go on and on.

Still, though, I couldn't figure out what to do. Then, later that evening, I saw the axe lying by the door leading to the great room and it hit me. I would hack the cabinets to pieces and the next day the kids and I would borrow John's truck, load up the wood pieces, and take the abhorrent cabinets to the dump. So I started hacking, and it was totally rewarding, and then I breastfed the baby, then I hacked some more, then the 10-year-old boy begged and pleaded to hack, so I let him, then when he got tired, I hacked some more... until there was one huge mound of broken cabinets at my feet. I felt like Hercules.

The next day, the 15-year-old girl, the 10-year-old boy and I hauled this lumber to the truck and took it to the dump. Then we repeated. It took two and a half truckloads, but we did it.

Step 4. Clear out the trash from the garage. This was simply a matter of getting two of the children to pick up item after item, haul it to the truck, then take trips to the dump. We made three more trips like this, then swept up the garage and organized boxes of my mother's winter clothes, fall and Christmas decor, and lawn-care equipment.

Step 5. Clear the one and half acre of land of lumber, scrap metal, plastic siding, tires, ammunition boxes, scaffolding, tree stumps, car hoods, 3 air-conditioning units and much, much more.

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Remember the man who couldn't stop kissing my baby? Well he came back with a friend and begged and pleaded that we sell him the scrap metal my brother had had gathered into the back of a moving truck. We refused his pathetic price offer, knowing it was worth probably ten times that amount. Then, after talking with his friend for a few minutes, he made us an offer we couldn't refuse. He said he would clear our property of all trash in return for the scrap metal. This was a dream come true! The problem of my mother and I hauling the metal to the scrap yard, then paying someone to clear the property had been solved by this lovely man in one feel swoop! My mother agreed and the clearing of the property continues daily as I write.

Step 5. Sell the RV.

My father bought the RV for $2500. We never went anywhere in it. We weren't sure it would take us where we wanted to be, so we simply used it as a guest house when my mother's house was filled to capacity at Christmas time.

Again, I listed it on Craig's List, but had to decrease the price from $4200 to $3000 over the course of the week. Finally, after I had posted the $3000 listing, a lovely family with three children came over to take a look. They had recently bought some land, but had no house to live in and thought an RV would be perfect. I agree that it would, especially since it had exactly five sleeping areas with would be perfect for their family of five. In the ad I had stated that it had no battery and that the ignition didn't work, so after approving the inside, the father bought over his father, who only spoke Spanish, and they got to work. After several hours, they made the thing go and gave my mother the negotiated price of $2500.

My mother breathed a sigh of relief as they drove off, but was stunned as she watched them immediately pull over onto the side of the road a few seconds later. She was horrified that the RV had broken down and that they would be wanting their money back. When she stepped out into the street to see what the problem might be, however, she saw that they had gotten out and were dusting the outside of the RV with feather dusters. Talk about pride of ownership. I hope they love their little home for a long time to come.

After selling the '61 VW convertible that didn't run for $2500, my mother came out $8000 richer and with a little better feng shui on her property.

Next step, clearing my father's barn with all of his wood-flooring supplies. And yes, this is a full-sized barn, filled to the ceilings with construction material, old stoves, an arcade game and millions of other pieces of random junk. Wish me luck!

Honestly, I was a bit worried that once I came home I would feel depressed and bereft of something to look forward to, but after dealing with my father's trash, I have become motivated to clean out every single drawer and closet in my house so my children will never have to deal with what we dealt with.

It. Feels. Great.

Oh, and just in case you don't know how lovely my mother is...

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...now you know.

(I love how her hair is the same color as Baby Hippo's.)


Thanks for listening!


Today on some of my other blogs...
-life in mexico {and other places} a picture a day: {john deer}
-365 Days of TV-Free Toddler Time: RV-Exploring Time!

21 comments:

Lynn said...

My many hats off to you woman!!!! Impressive!!!!!! Seriously. You rock. ; D

alessandra said...

Wow, wow, wow, what a story!
Kudos to you...and your hacking skill.

Anonymous said...

That's my wife - the wheeler dealer.....

Rebecca said...

Yikes! Such a daunting task, I think I would have sat down and cried. I am amazed at how well you were able to get to work and clean out so much. I guess that's how you eat an elephant- one bite at a time. Good for you. (And your mother is so lovely!)

Christine said...

wow!!! what ambition and creativity. I love how you were able to solve the "problems"

Cambria said...

That looks like so much work! I am sure your Mom is very appreciative of what you got accomplished. Baby Hippo huh? I love it!

singlemormonchick said...

you are amazing!!!

Eileen said...

wow! So much hard work. My grandmother is a certified pack rat--to the point that she used to thank people for coming over b/c it gave her a reason to clean a path to the couch. Yeah...I never want to live like that. I'm glad that you managed to make some money for your mom in the process!
Btw--chubby baby is perhaps the cutest...thing...EVER!!! I just want to kiss those cheeks!

Anonymous said...

you did a great job but just be careful as to what you just junk. older vehicles with original parts are worth a good amount of money. you can part out items for a lot more money than you can get from a junk yard. We have a 72 challanger that the doors alone are worth a couple hundred apiece. We go to car shows in our area that they sell all kinds of car parts, We are on a constant hunt for items that are needed and my husband doesn't want remade parts original is the goal of most car guys. one of our cars has a glass fuel filter which is guarded LOL goes to our 46 chevy pickup. there is a show called American Pickers on history channel. they love to go to homes like yours and buy items for resale, things most would call junk rusty old bikes motorcycles and lots of different things.

Jenis blog. said...

So now we want to see the after pictures!

Jamie H said...

Wow! That's a lot of work! I'm impressed!

Anonymous said...

Jen, that post was so hilarious! And Rebecca hit the nail on the head when she said all she would do was cry! That's exactly what I did all the time before you came along and cleaned it all up! I love you! Mom

Pablo Smith said...

That left my heart beating a little faster, like a really good story should. Jen, you are pioneer stock right down to the bone (hacking followed by breastfeeding ... too funny!)

Brian + Cheryl B. said...

Hi Jen :-)
Yes, you probably could have made more money by listing all of the vehicles individually and being willing to scrap them out piece by piece by piece. But that would have also meant a lot more time and effort on your part, just for listing and then following up contacts for everything, let alone the amount of time they would ALL still be sitting on your mom's property. Sometimes 'holding out' CAN get you more money. Other times, it just adds more fuss to a situation than it's really worth. I think that considering the overall 'BIG' (HUGE?!?) picture that you were facing and hoping to conquer - you made a very wise choice in how to deal with it - you got it handled by others!

The same 'principle'(?) then also applies to the scrap metal. The old long honored line in wheeling and dealing is, "make me an offer I can't refuse". Offering to clean up EVERYTHING for you, was just such an offer to your ears, in your predicament! He might have come out a few dollars ahead once he left the scrap metal place, but you definitely came out the winner in the overall scheme of things! :-)

Another wonderful old line applies to the sale of the motor home. "One man's junk is another man's treasure". The new owners made it obvious that they are treasuring their new home, as much as you and your mom are happy to be rid of that pieces of 'junk'!!

Your telling about the 'character' named Efren makes me smile. It is quite obvious that he simply wants somebody someplace to give a darn about him as a person. To take note of just how hard he works. Etc.. By listening to him and also demonstrating your care for him as a person, by encouraging him to speak in less offensive ways, will make a large long term mark on his heart!

By allowing people to take everything for free as long as they took a large amount of it, you were keeping your overall desire in good focus. I have always found it amusing how people hold sales because they want to get rid of how much 'stuff' they have, and yet they price their 'stuff' as though it's the most wondrous of treasures. Those same people are then both frustrated and mystified in the end, when they have so much 'stuff' still sitting there.

Along the same lines are the people whom have sales only because they really need some cash in hand, so they price their stuff high with the hopes of obtaining a good amount of cash by the end. However, they usually reach the end with some cash in hand, but a much higher percentage of highly priced stuff still sitting there. They totally miss that if they had lowered their prices, they most likely would have ended up with hardly any thing left over and a larger amount of cash actually in hand.

I hope the guy whom bought the solar panels with the copper wiring WAS able to make it work for his pool! Creatively winging things and getting your desired outcome, is ever so rewarding!!! If he was able to - then the whole situation was a double win!

I would bet that using the axe on those old cupboards was VERY therapeutic, in several ways. There is no denying that you love and loved your dad! But that doesn't mean that you still didn't have some frustration and annoyance with him over this whole mess he left behind for others to have to deal with. Wacking those cupboards was a great way to vent that frustration (anger?). Then being able to leave it all at the dump, was also good psychologically. After all, most likely from your and your mom's views, the dump was where all of that stuff should have been taken originally, instead of landing on your parents property.

I wasn't clear - have you already tackled your dad's large barn of woodworking stuff, or is that a task yet to be tackled? If it's still to be done, you might want to list it on Craig's list - as a one day specialty sale.

So what kind of 'stuff' is your mom spending her $8,000 on? o;-p

Brian + Cheryl B. said...
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Mom2my10 @ 11th Heaven said...

Cheryl, as always, I loved you analysis! As far as what my mom will spend her money, that remains to be seen! I hope it's used to fix up her house!

The Farmer's Wife said...

Holy Cow Jen...who knew! "You are Jen and You are Woman!!" You go girl! And yes your Mother is one lovely lady! p.s. so fun to see you the other night...

Keeley said...

Oh my gosh. I can't even tell you how much I loved reading this post. How stinkin' AWESOME to read about the massive amounts of joy you gave other people and your momma by getting rid of the STUFF. She must feel a million pounds lighter.

SO inspiring. My house totally needs a good going through. I need to bookmark this post of yours and read it whenever I need a good kick in the pants to clear out a room.

Jenna said...

AMAZING!!! What a gift you have given your mother! I am super impressed by your ingenuity and determination!