My work here seems to have come to a grinding halt. Its not that there’s not a ton left to do, its that in a way my hands are tied. I can’t work on the upstairs house while mom is still living in it, and until we have natural gas connected to the house downstairs mom can’t move down there.
So I’m at the floundering stage where I’m not really sure what to do. I’ve sorted out most closets and cabinets, donated a ton of stuff, thrown some out, packed away some stuff of sentimental value and stored it where it will be safe… and now the upstairs house looks like a cyclone went through it and the downstairs house is waiting.
All downstairs needs of course is the gas connection and radiators installed for mom to be able to move in. But I’m told that could take another month or two – they are so behind in applications. And its just our luck that right when we opt to switch, the price of gas has more than doubled. sigh. I never seem to win when it comes to money spent.
Whatever. I won’t dwell.
I finished a small project last week just so I could feel like I was doing something. I recovered mom’s old kitchen chairs. This is what they looked lke originally…
Plain cream weaved fabric. Very dirty from years of use. Grey metal frame. Plain and simple. This is how mom had them to hide the stains…
Ok, too yucky for me in her new home. So I decided to recover them using something bright and cheerful. It was easy to take them apart as the top was simply screwed in place on the frame.
The frames are in good condition, though I need an allen key to give them a bit of a tighten. They were mostly missing all their ‘feet’ so I ended up buying some rubber stoppers for them so they wouldn’t scrape on the tile floor.
I was planning to buy some nice waterproof fabric from a local store but while going through mom’s stuff I found this pretty tablecloth and decided to make do.
I didnt’ have my staple gun with me so I had to use hot glue to secure the fabric to the bottom of the chairs. Hopefully it will last long enough… If not, well… I’ll have to redo them. No problem. This is how they came up. Much better.
For now mom has a table and ‘happy’ chairs for her new kitchen. They will do.
Now I’m waiting for good weather so I can return to my home on Paros for a while. I may as well be in my own home while I wait for the gas installation. I’ll have to return to Athens to be here when that’s happening and to finally finish moving mom downstairs. At that stage I can get some removalists (ie burly men) to take down the fridge, washing machine and couch plus any other boxes I pack up for her.
To be honest I need the break… A couple of days ago I carried some boxes to the stairwell for collection and pulled a muscle in my back. Ugh. No more carrying for a few days.
Remember the teddy bear I found in the roof space above the hallway? My first ever teddy bear, Charalambis? Pictured here with pyjama puppy Bobby in all their grime?
Well, I put them both in the washing machine (without putting them in a pillow case first) and they suffered some minor damage. At least teddy’s was minor. He only lost one eye. But yesterday I got to work on restoring him. I created a new eye for him using two buttons and I think it looks pretty good.
Anyway, this is what his coat looked like after his bath – to be honest it was pretty much like that before as well. Kind of curly and mashed up.
Turns out Lainee’s slicker brush is good for more than just poodle coats. I used it to brush him out all over. You can see the difference on his chest where I brushed half and left the rest as it was.
Here he is finished and all fluffed up. Looking good Charalambis!
I was already thinking he needs to come home with me and not be put back in storage, then Lainee climbed onto the bed and snuggled with him and the decision was made. Lainee needs a teddy to cuddle with! I mean look at the pic below. We were visiting friends and the first thing she did was curl up on their couch with their teddy bear. The girl deserves her own bear.
I was going through a ton of photos that belonged to mom, my aunt, my brother and me – trying to sort them out and put them in some sort of order. I think I mentioned mom has so many photos in frames of all sizes, on walls and on every surface in the house. I needed to contain them somehow, keep her memories while limiting the need for wall space.
I spent two days on that project alone, finishing it this afternoon. Its not really finished either. There are still too many framed photos to decide what to do with. And I’m sure I’ll come across more in my sorting and packing.
I have 4 albums I’ve been putting photos in, divided more or less: one with very old photos of mom and dad’s family, their wedding, our early life in Australia. Another with my brother and his first family, Another with my brother’s yougest son, another for me and other random pics. They’re not in perfect date order either as that’s a nightmare in itself, but at least mom can now pic and album knowing what she’ll find in it.
I bought 2 pretty frames that hold 8 photos each, one has a small corkboard on the side so mom can pin up new photos when she gets them. I plan to buy a piece of cork to put in another frame to do the same, perhaps even adapt the Christmas frame with wire and pegs so mom has plenty of places to show new photos.
Anyway, while doing this I found a couple of small albums of my own. Most of my photos are in storage already, but I found these in the attic above the hallway. They’re from 1995 when I was leaving Australia the first time to be with my father who was sick. At the time it was like now: I came for dad and had no idea when, or if, I would return to Australia.
Looking back brings so many great memories, and I look at my younger, gorgeous self and wonder how I could ever have thought I was fat! I was perfect.
Before I left I had a couple of goodbye nights out – one with one of my favourite Melbourne country bands, Rough Cut and my cowboy hat wearing, two steppin’ friends:
The other night was with my most favourite Melbourne rockabilly band The Straight 8s.
A few pics from a holiday in Queensland, where I met up with some line dancing friends.
Some random rockabilly event pics…
Oh boy. Its bittersweet. I miss that girl. I realise I’ll never be her again, but I miss the slimness, the fitness, the lifestyle: the dancing mostly. I guess I could have that in Athens, more or less, as there’s a swing/jive thing happening here, but without a dance partner and with COVID… eh.
And it only took five months, 6 days and 10 minutes!
Seriously. After months of calls and complaints a guy actually arrived on Sunday and took 10 minutes to re-connect our power!
Ten minutes work. That’s what I’ve been fighting for for five months…
So, here we are now:
Life has been going on. I hit a low spot a couple of days ago – missing my workshop, the farm in Tassie, my dogs, the life I had there. But its no use walllowing. I have stuff that needs doing here and now, so I plod on. Making small forward steps every day and never seeming to get to the end of it.
Today I tackled the loft above the hallway and thankfully found it was mostly empty but for a few things. Like my knee pads and bike helmet – from my roller blading days.
I rehomed my roller blades a long time ago and I still miss them. I still roller blade in my dreams.
And the first stuffed toys I ever had.
This is my first teddy bear, Charalambis, and my first doggie (I think his name was Bobby) – the sort you put your PJs in and sit on top of your bed. Both need a good wash. I’m thinking I’ll put them both in the washing machine tomorrow. They may not survive it unscathed, but they really need it if I’m to keep the little guys. They’re almost as old as I am! In fact, I think Charalambis IS my age. I had him as a baby.
There were some other things too, but most of those are going to the bin or to be donated. I think I’ll hold onto the knee pads for kneeling work and the bike helmet might go to a friend. I doubt I’ll be getting a bike again – not on Paros where the roads are bad and the drivers worse.
Hopefully I’ll have more exciting stuff to share again soon. 🙂
The carport has been cleared of the ivy jungle and the metal pipes holding it in place. Here is the before, and below is the after.
So much better, wouldn’t you agree? No more dirty car!
Of course, with every step forward there are new surprises… removing the ivy has exposed damage to the wall and under the front window – things the ivy and metal trellis was hiding. ugh. More expenses.
We are officially broke. From now on its all about making do and finding ways to do things without spending more money.
You know what? Its cost more to fix up the house than my aunt made having it rented to that one guy for 30 years. He never paid a realistic rent anyway, but he totally destroyed the apartment. I’ve had issues with tenants before, but now I understand why so many people in Greece would rather keep a place empty than put in tenants. You might not make money keeping it empty, but if you rent it you pay taxes on earnings and in the end it costs you everything you earned and more to fix it up after… what’s the point of renting it?
Sure, a good tenant will hopefully not destroy a house, and any house would need renovation after 30 years, but you get my point. It wouldn’t necessarily need to be totally gutted.
In an attempt to lift my spirits I did some dirt therapy. I weeded the tiny front garden, removed the knee high clover and weeds and cut the ancient rose bushes right back. Its a miracle they’re even still alive cause it looks like when washing out paint or plaster from buckets people were emptying them on the rose bushes! The only thing still ‘thriving’ in the garden is the white daisy bush dad planted over Timmy’s grave.
Since I can’t buy new plants to put in, I bought some foxglove seeds on ebay. Hopefully they will take, grow well and fill the garden with colour! From my experience they’re pretty low maintenance and self seed, so perpetual colour.
Mom’s back home since yesterday and she’s been cooking like there’s no tomorrow (so her darling daughter doesn’t starve!) and I’ve managed to get her to part with a few things. I keep dragging bags of clothes, linen etc into the kitchen and asking her to decide what goes where.
Today I began taking stuff downstairs and putting them in their place in mom’s new home. Sure, she probably wont be able to move in till late February at the earliest, but I can set up the place with everything I can till then… summer clothes, extra towels and sheets, a set of dishes, glasses, etc.
Since I decided to add knobs to the bedsides tables and chest of drawers – 14 of them – I had to find something cheap. After looking all over the place I found some small wooden knobs for 1.50e for a pack of 4. Perfect price, not ideal in the looks department.
So I did what anyone with an ounce of creativity would do, I bought some spray paint and sprayed them.
Only one problem. Despite giving them tons of time to dry, once I flipped them over to cover the backs, I ended up getting some that stuck to the cardboard, leaving blobs on the top of the knob.
No worries. When the unexpected (mistake) happens, make it look like it was done on purpose.
I gave them all a dot of white paint and voila. Cute knobs instead of ooops knobs.
The other issue was the reddish brown stripe at the bottom of the drawers. Ick.
Out came the grey paint. This time I used a slightly lighter version of chalk paint I had on hand.
And now, despite minor chips and scuff marks which stubbornly won’t come off, we have cuter bedroom furniture for mom! (Ignore the throw over the bed, its to keep dust off the mattress.)
The mirror is currently undergoing its own makeover. Meanwhile today I found and bought the castor wheels I wanted to put under the bedside tables so that mom can easily move them out of the way when she wants to get into the underbed drawers. That’s on tomorrow’s to do list.
While out I finally got the shower curtain I loved first time I saw it and put it up today.
Another thing to tick off my list is the ivy. Its gone! I had a guy come over and remove it today. Don’t ask how much it cost. Let’s just say I should have done it myself. sigh. But its done now and there’s one less thing I have to worry about. He’ll be back tomorrow to remove the bars and wires.
And mom has a microwave downstairs. Its Aunt 1’s old microwave but it’ll do.
What I didn’t manage to do today was call the electricity company again. On tomorrow’s list:
continue sanding buffet finish painting mirror hassle electricity company
Things have been moving along slowly. I haven’t done a ton of stuff but I did some more packing, gave away another load of stuff and moved a couple of bits of furniture downstairs. Not on my own – they gypsy family I’ve ‘adopted’ helped. Basically there’s a young couple with 3 little children who I met when clearning out Aunt 1’s house. I have their number and call them when I have things to give away. Last time I called the guy came with his nephew, and since there were 2 guys, I asked them to move a few things down for me once they had loaded up the stuff I gave them.
If I was in Australia I’d have had a series of garage sales, but that’s not done in Greece. And selling stuff through Facebook is a pain in the butt. I did list a few things, but most aren’t worth the trouble. People in Greece don’t tend to buy second hand stuff. Its easier to give it away.
So now I have the chest of drawers, bedside tables and two cabinets mom wanted from the living room downstairs. I already have another stack of things on the staircase for them so next time they come I’ll get them to move a few more things for me…
Among stuff upstairs I found more than 3 boxes of new glasses – including crystal tumblers – so I kept the best, washed them and put them in a kitchen cupboard. Mom may as well use her good stuff, why keep it stored away any more?
I put batteries in a wall clock I found which must have belonged to my brother. That’s now in the kitchen and I love it.
All in all its coming together. Now if we can get electricity and gas connected we’ll be on fire!
Seriously though, I’ve still got a ton of work ahead of me, both in sorting and moving and I’m not always in the mood to work. Despite my ‘got it under control’ and ‘I’m an expert at this’ crap, I do often feel overwhelmed – but its just a matter of getting started. Once I start I’m fine, I can go on and get a ton done.
That said, its time to get off my butt and and get to work on something!
Having moved quite a few times in my life (four times to the other side of the world where taking much with me was an issue) plus having been put in charge of moving people out of their longest place of residence twice in one year, I’ve had to go through this process way more than I’d have liked to.
I guess I’m kinda an expert at it. At least I consider myself an expert when it comes to moving myself and my own stuff. Its a lot harder when the stuff belongs to someone else… well easier AND harder. I have no sentimental attachment to someone else’s stuff so its easy for me to pare things down, but I need to take their feelings of attachment into consideration while being practical. Easier said than done at times.
When I’m the one moving or de-cluttering the rules are easy. These rules apply to moving someone else just as well, but the choice on what to keep isn’t mine alone. I can basically distill it down two basic rules:
A. Throw out anything that’s expired or broken.
B. Donate anything that doesn’t fit, you don’t wear, use or need (ie have too much of).
So without further ado, here’s:
Zefi’s Guide to De-cluttering
1. One room at a time, one area at a time.
Don’t get overwhelmed, cause trust me, looking at a whole house that needs emptying is hugely overwhelming. Start one spot at a time. I always start where packing won’t affect my every day life. For example, I start with bookcases. Give away, donate any books, cds, videos, dvds etc that you no longer want. For decorative items use the ‘does it bring me joy’ method. If it doesn’t, out it goes.
As you move from room to room, wardrobe to cabinet, etc anything that is important and moving with you should go into a box, labelled, to take to your new place. Select a corner where you can start stacking ready to go boxes so they are easy to gather when the time comes.
I’ve always began packing way ahead of the moving date when possible so that by the time the removalists (or three friends with a wheelbarrow) arrive I have everything ready to go, even down to the boxes which go in my car and which I’ll need to make the new place livable straight away: coffee, milk, bedding, toothbrush etc
2. Wardrobes, clothes, linens etc
We all have clothes in our wardrobes that we don’t need or even wear. Especially given our current covid restricted lifestyles. Starting with one wardrobe at a time, one drawer at a time, go through with one thing in mind: do I wear this? Anything that doesn’t fit should go. Anything you like but never wear cause it doesn’t sit right or makes your butt look big should go. Frayed underwear – out. Bras with dodgey underwires – out. Socks with stretched elastic – out. Anything with shoulder pads – out. Ok, sure, keep a few skinny clothes in case you lose that weight, and a few fat clothes for those off days, some old t-shirts to wear when painting, but generally you don’t need 50+ jumpers and tops, 4 bathrobes, 6 jackets and coats, work outfits from our previous career and clothes you bought on holiday and never wore since.
Linen and towels are another thing most of us have too much of. How many sheet sets do you need per bed? I think 3 for each bed is more than enough. Maybe 2 for the spare bed. One to have on the bed now, one in the laundry basket waiting for the perfect drying day, and one in the cupboard as a spare just in case. Get rid of old sets and keep the ones you love the most.
Towels we want more than 3 of, but we don’t need to keep any ratty looking or stained ones. Pick the best, maybe even the matching ones, and toss the rest. Donate them to our local dog groomer or animal shelter.
Blankets, doonas, throws and things like that, I guess you know what you need and what you use. Be ruthless. Donate what you don’t need. There are plenty of places that will happily take warm blankets.
3. Cupboards, cabinets and other hidey places
Hall cupboards, bedside tables, cabinets, sideboards, etc. These places are usually crammed full of stuff. Again tackle these one at a time, starting with those you use the least. Chances are there are things in those places you forgot you owned, and fact is, if you forgot you owned them you probably don’t need them. Start there. Toss out old remotes you no longer have the TV for, chargers for old phones, anything that no longer works. Toss out old business cards and anything that’s no longer valid. Gather photos, photoframes and albums and deal with them separately. Those are a whole ‘nother story which goes under ‘sentimental value items’.
My favourite room to declutter cause its the easiest. First thing you do is toss out anything that’s expired. Go through your medicine cabinet and throw out expired pills etc. Ditto with your make up, hair care and body care products. Throw out old sample packs, remants of body washes and conditioners. Give away perfume you don’t use or just throw it away.
Seriously, if you’ve never done this you have no idea how freeing it is. I’m not saying be wasteful, give away things of value, but things not being used are wasted anyway and you don’t need the clutter.
Look at old brushes, curling irons, hair dryers, etc. Anything you no longer use, you no longer need. It should go. Same with anything that doesn’t work. Once that’s all gone you can pick and chose what you keep from what’s left.
A daunting job on its own but one I find easy enough. Even though this will most likely be the last room you tackle if you’re moving, you only need to leave out the basics you need daily. Start with the pantry and throw away any food items which have expired. Do the same in the fridge. That alone will make you feel brand new!
Then you can start tackling the cupboards. Throw away any chipped or stained cups, glasses or dishes. Get rid of any plastic containers that are stained, cracked or have lost their lid. You don’t need dirty old tea towels. No one needs a million empty jars or empty take away containers. Most of that can be donated or recycled.
Then there’s the utensil drawer, you know the one with the mess of ladles, spatulas etc. I once read a suggestion on how to deal with this drawer if you’re too chicken to just go through it cold turkey. Get a cardboard box and put it on the counter. Empty the drawer contents into the box. Every time you use an item from the box, put it back in the drawer. Get rid of everything that’s still in the box 1-2 months later.
6. Garage, sheds and other places
Follow the same two basic rules. If its expired, broken or you don’t use it, get rid of it. Chances are whatever you’ve got in storage out in the garage or shed isn’t something you need – if you needed it it wouldn’t be out in the shed, in a box gathering dust on a top shelf. For the things in the shed that you DO use, box them up and label them for the move.
7. Sentimental stuff
Of course this is the sticky bit. Those boxes of things which belonged to your parents, children, your own childhood etc. We all hold onto things for from our past and its hard to let it go most of the time.
I’ve gone through my own stuff many times over the years. And as I’ve gone through them again and again, I find I’m ready to part with things now that I’d held onto in years past. This time round I finally threw out all correspondance except that from family, mainly my dad. All my other letters (and I had TONS) are gone. I no longer need to hold onto letters from people I corresponded with who I lost touch with years ago.
What I suggest is to get rid of what you can and keep what you absolutely can’t part with. You don’t have to keep every teddy bear you ever owned for instance, keep your favourite(s) and rehome the rest. Gather all your photos and put them in boxes. Maybe down the track you can have them scanned, but if you’re like me, you’ll still want to hold on the prints. And if you’re like my mom and aunt, you’ll have a million framed photos on every wall and every flat surface in the house. My plan for this is to go through all frames and photos, select what to keep framed or re-frame and create gallery wall areas for mom in the new apartment, then put the rest in photo albums for her. AFTER I sort through all the other stuff in the house.
There is so much stuff. Which I plan to reduce by at least half.
Then again I am ruthless. I’ve had to be since I’ve had to sell or give away almost everything I owned at least twice in my life. Its not easy. I am a collector of stuff. I collect things I like and I collect things for creative purposes. Its not easy for me to give up holding onto things I WILL use one day, so I try to compromise. I keep less of everything so I have room for the things I need to create.
Hope this is helpful to anyone facing this daunting task.
I’ve done very little over the last few days. I’ve collected, stacked and given away a pile of stuff and have another waiting to go. I took a few loads of stuff to the rubbish and to recycling. I took the big rug downstairs and put it in the living room to see how it fit and to help me decide what colour to paint the sideboard I plan to update. Good thing I did too as it was how I saved my knees while putting together the Ikea shoe storage unit and the underbed drawers. I bagged up and threw out some of the ivy I’d cut down and groomed Lainee for Christmas.
It might sound like a lot, but trust me, its not by my standards. Then again I do treat my body with the same disrespect as a 20yr old, refusing to accept the fact that I’m getting old…
Still, the list of things I haven’t got around to is way longer than the items crossed off the list. Since realising my body will no longer put up with my brain’s expectations, I’ve worked in small increments, not big chunks of time as before. Partly cause I got sore and tired and partly cause it was Christmas and after visiting friends, walking dogs and being sociable, I just got lazy.
So, needing to do something today, without overdoing it and killing myself in the process, I took down the huge extension cord I found, plugged it in upstairs, then unravelled it all the way down to the apartment so I could use my drill.
I attached the Ikea shoe storage unit to the wall behind the front door and put in the drawers so thats finished. I hung my grandmother’s old coat rack on the wall above, and the small key rack I made in the corner.
I had a small Ikea coat rack I’d bought off FB a while ago so I put that on the small wall between the living room and kitchen for extra place to hang things. Longer things since this has nothing underneath. There’s never too much space to hang things in my opinion.
Other than that its been quiet as it usually is between Christmas and New Year. Nothing from the electric company, not that I was expecting to hear from them yet. They didn’t act in all the months since August, why would they suddenly bust a gut to fix our problem now? I’m not kidding myself. If we get power by the end of January I’ll celebrate. Maybe my next call should be to a TV ‘expose all’ program…
One of the best (and worst) things about packing up a house you/your family has lived in for 50 years is finding things you held onto, thinking you’d value them so you couldn’t get rid of them.
Well, I’ve found a ton of stuff. Some mine, some my brother’s, a ton of mom’s. Not so many of Dad’s things.
Among my things was a little autograph book from when I finished Junior High – Ursuline School in Athens.
The poor little book was falling apart but I photographed the autographs for posterity. A lot of these people I don’t remember or have lost touch with over the years, some I’m lucky enough to still have in my life.
One thing I always say is that I never win things. As in luck. I have won lots in my life, but always for work I’ve done. This was the second thing I won in my life – an essay competition.
That same year I won a drawing competition for an animal welfare society with a poster showing a puppy who just wanted a loving home. We never got the poster back. Mom still laments its loss.
Today was another day of packing and stacking. Well emptying cupboards and piling up things for mom to sort through. I am trying to be ruthless but you know mothers… I have to make sure I’m not giving away anything she wants to keep. So I piles tuff for her to check out. And only toss out what is obviously not worth keeping.