The first day of packing up my grandmother’s house was the most overwhelming. Everything inside the house was just as my grandmother had left it when she last shut the door of her beloved residence of 50 years.
My sisters Ellen and Jill, my brother-in-law Shane, my father and I all woke up early the first morning of our packing adventure. It must have been our eager anticipation of the task at hand that stirred us from our much-needed sleep. We were all exhausted from the previous day’s 10-hour drive from Raleigh to Huntsville. But we did not feel our exhaustion now because we were ready to get started.
Getting started was like trying to crack the hard shell of a pecan with your bare hands. The shelves and tabletops in the house all displayed the same knick knacks that had always been there. The nine large closets, the countless kitchen, laundry and bathroom cabinets, the enormous pantry, the attic, the two-car garage and the utility shed were all neatly filled with their original possessions. Where should we begin?
To crack that hard pecan shell, we came up with a game plan. We would work in twos. One person would stand on a chair and pull things out of the closets. That person would pass the items down to the second person who would place the item in either the donate box, the recycle box, the pack-to-go-to-Raleigh box or the trash box.
Occasionally, disagreements would ensue over the fate of an item. My dad would usually act as the referee helping to decide into which box the item should be placed. To get us through any disagreements or annoyances, we all worked hard to maintain positive attitudes, even tempers and light-hearted humor throughout the week.
As we sorted and packed, we discovered that about half of my grandmother’s belongings were no longer needed or wanted, and many of the items were in good enough shape to be donated. So, I checked online to find the closest Goodwill donation center and found one located 30 minutes away.
The first Goodwill load was so large we had to use the moving truck to drive it out to the donation center. Once Shane and Ellen returned from the first Goodwill run, Ellen decided to look online again to make sure there was not a donation center closer to the house. She did not want to make that 30-minute drive again considering how many loads we would be taking. Sure enough, Ellen found a Goodwill donation center less than five minutes away.
Oops. I promise the closer location had not come up on my search list the first time I Googled it. We certainly had wasted a lot of gasoline and time driving out to that first Goodwill.
Each day of our weeklong packing adventure, we filled up the back of Ellen and Shane’s Subaru with items to be donated. We made so many trips to the donation center that the Goodwill attendant began to recognize us.
Each time we pulled up to the loading dock, the attendant would scan the boxes for items that the donation center could not accept. Each time, he found a few things that he had to reject. Apparently, our zeal for reuse and our desire to prevent stuff from going to the landfill was at odds with Goodwill’s acceptance policy. I cannot blame them, though, because some of the things we tried to donate were a bit off the wall.
“We can’t take those,” the attendant said as he pointed to a stack of a dozen pink hospital bed pans. “Can’t take these,” he said as he pointed to our pile of about 30 rusty coat hangers. He did not even want the box full of pencils that had been sharpened down to the nubs. Apparently, none of these rejected items were selling very well at Goodwill these days.
Check back next week when I tell the story of our trip to the Salvation Army and our dinner of congealed steak and rubbery green beans.