Archive for October, 2011

A Moving Update

Monday, October 31st, 2011

The good news: the buyers removed the contingencies on our house. We are rejoicing that even a previously  undiscovered water stain in the ceiling isn’t going to tank the deal and the house will be theirs as of November 15.

The bad news: we are scheduled to move in a week and we still don’t know where we’re moving to.

Am I feeling panicked? If the fact that I responded to a “too good to be true” rental listing on Craigslist that was actually a Nigerian internet scam is any indication of my desperation, the answer is definitely yes.

Although I had been looking at rentals on Craigslist for the last couple of months, the choices seemed to range from too much house for too much money, to too little apartment for too much money. I could practically recite the 17 listings that came up when I searched “Petalumawith cats.” ”Birch, wonderful, beautiful, never been lived in, eastside, downtown, townhome” and on and on. We had either looked at them all or ruled them out when the best feature of the house that they could put in the listing was “central heat.”

A ray of light broke though the clouds in my head when I decided to expand the search to Cotati/Rohnert Park. A listing for a townhouse in Cotati that is available immediately popped up. While 10 minutes further north from church, school and work, at least it wasn’t the east side of town, a.k.a. Gaucho Gulch where our Petaluma H.S. band member and cheerleader refuses to be relocated.

However, the more I thought about it the better it seemed. We would be back to paying what we could actually afford. Steve and I went to see it today and I have to admit that unless the photos in the posting were extensively Photoshopped, I was primed to like it and ready to write them a check for the deposit.

The place was just like the place that I had imagined us moving when we started down this road of selling our house more than year ago. It was charming, cozy and cheaper than anything else we had seen, with the exception of a self-storage locker.

After huddling with Steve and Jennifer in the garage, we agreed it was a good fit for us and filled out the application.

 Fingers crossed, we’re waiting for their approval.

On the Move: Week 2

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

We’re packing up and getting ready for our November 7 move date – although where we’re moving to is still TBD.

The timing of this whole process is a little tricky because we can’t commit to renting somewhere until the contingencies on our house are removed and we’re sure the sale is a done deal. At the same time, the rental market is getting more competitive as we get closer to the end of the month because property managers want to have their new tenants lined up by November 1.

Time to panic? Yes!! I mean not yet. We’re just trying to take it one step at a time.

And the first step, as I talked about last week, is packing up the books. When it comes to all the work involved in moving, packing books is definitely the low-hanging fruit. You don’t have to think about how you’re going to wrap them or what size box to use. Just fill up a book box to the tipping point of “if I put one more book in here, I’ll be permanently injured if I try to lift it.”

The downside of having books these days is that they have become less valuable than the paper they are printed on. Steve estimates he took almost 1,000 pounds of books to Copperfield’s to try and resell them. I thought the quality of the books he was taking was first rate…no rejects from Oprah’s Book Club but really nice art and history books. Copperfield’s bought 75 of them for about $2 each. I’m not dissing Copperfield’s – I’m grateful we got a few bucks for them – it’s just that in today’s market, a case of Staples Multi-Use paper has more value than a case of books.

Once the books are in boxes, we have no choice except to move onto packing the remaining 80% of our stuff that doesn’t fit quite as neatly into a rectangular box. This is a good time for me to work on not being too OC. If I try to pack the small kitchen appliances like I’m playing Tetris, I’ll still be working on emptying out the first cupboard when the new owners arrive ready to move in.

Ever since we moved into this house 17 years ago, I have lamented the skimpy amount of storage space in the kitchen. Now that I have to pack it up, it’s totally working to my advantage. Two cupboards down; three more to go. Then onto the closets.

Starting to See Movement

Monday, October 17th, 2011

When I saw the headline in Friday’s Press Democrat, “Home sales slow inSonomaCounty, but short sales jump,” my immediate reaction was “Oh wow, that’s us they’re talking about!”

The headline was very pertinent to our situation because we had just gotten word the day before that the bank had approved the short sale offer on our house. So while we still have some hurdles to jump before our house becomes a statistic in next month’s “completed sale” category, our agent advised us to start making provisions to move. The bank says we’ve got until November 12 under the current agreement. I guess I’ll put packing tape on the shopping list and forget about pruning the lavender.

So as Steve put it, we’ve gone from anxiety about if we’re going to move to anxiety about where we’re going to move. How we tackle moving out of the house that we’ve lived in for the last 17 years isn’t just a theoretical exercise anymore.

Where to start? To literally lighten our load and thinking about going through all the stuff in the garage is just to horrible to contemplate right now, we started sorting through books this weekend – art books, graphic design books, history books, coffee table books, children’s books. By the time we were done taking the discards off the shelves, we probably had a ton of books stacked waist high in our entry way.

Then it was time to perform triage on them: sell, give away, or recycle. The “How to Draw” books, history of Disney books, and nice art books, we hope to sell to Copperfield’s for a few bucks. All of the children’s books are going to Goodwill. I hope our copy of Goodnight Moon finds a good home.

But there are some books that are destined for the recycling bin. They are just too worn, marked-up or outdated. Goodwill seems willing to accept everything we’ve ever dropped off but I doubt that there’s much of a demand by shoppers at any store for a copy of Word 2002 for Dummies.

On the way home from Goodwill, Jennifer whose only experience with moving has been relocating her stuff  to her older sister’sroom down the hall after she left for college, wanted to know what she should expect when it came time to move. I told her that moving is messy; there’s really no way around the chaos that it creates. But bring it on…it’s what we’ve been waiting and praying for.

The High School Stress Test

Monday, October 10th, 2011

When I am in a “What the heck am I going to write my blog about this week” funk, coming up with a topic becomes a family affair. So this week when Jennifer, 15, saw me staring at a blank page on the computer screen, she made a suggestion for a topic.

“Why don’t you write about how being a teenager is so much harder now than it used to be.” She was coming off of a particularly stressful week of math tests, the Homecoming dance, and having to choose between band and cheerleading trips that happened to both be scheduled for the same spring weekend. So as you might guess from her “I may not live through this” perspective, life seemed pretty challenging.

Though her attitude is certainly reflects natural teenage angst and hormonal overload, she raised an interesting point. Why did she think her high school years were tougher than mine?

When I asked her why she thought this, her explanation was that the bar has been raised and continues to be set at a higher level. “Excellent is the new average,” she said. She went on to say that for kids who are planning to go to college, there are always ways to overachieve.

For example, a trend seems to be emerging for high school freshmen to take Honors Biology instead of the usual Physical Science class. This allows them to take Honor Chemistry, which is a GPA weighted class, as a sophomore. So they are able to start earning over a 4.0 earlier in their high school career.

Thinking back on my high school years during the Stone Age, we thought we were really special if we had one AP class as a senior. Now it’s not uncommon for seniors to take five AP classes. Don’t even think about being valedictorian if you don’t have a 5.0.

In addition to my anecdotal evidence, some cold, hard statistics validate Jennifer’s point of view. I saved the brochures that the UC system sent to my son who graduated in 2006 and to my daughter who graduated in 2010.

When I compared the high school GPAs of the incoming class at every UC, they had all gone up in the four year span, across the board. For instance, the 2003 freshman admission profile for UC Davis showed an average high school GPA of 3.86. The GPA of 2009 incoming freshman was 4.0. At UC Riverside, the average high school GPA was 3.58 in 2003 and 3.61 in 2009.

There was one exception. At Berkeley, the average high school GPA of freshman held steady at 4.15. That would seem like good news but not for our students. A stratospheric GPA in 2011 will get a student into Berkeleyonly if they don’t live in California.

I look forward to Jennifer getting this same UC brochure with profiles of the 2013 incoming freshman. By then, it won’t be surprising to see that students need a 4.0 to get into UC Merced.

All this makes me think that my high school classmates and I were a pretty happy-go-lucky bunch. A 4.0 GPA was nice, but it really didn’t affect our future because we were all going to the nearby state school anyway.

For Jennifer and all the other high school students today, take a deep breath. You will definitely need to pace yourself.


Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

Although by no means is it a done-deal, we are hopeful that we are inching closer to actually having sold our house. I’m counting on the message I got in the fortune cookie last week that I would experience “a change in my surroundings” as a good omen. So even though we have no idea was the timing on actually moving will be, it makes sense for us to familiarize ourselves with the rental options inPetaluma.

Steve and I looked at a couple of places over the weekend so we could get a sense of the amount of space we will most likely have. It’s certain that we are most likely looking at downsizing our square footage of living space by a third – or even half. That’s going to mean getting rid of a lot of stuff.

And storage space? That’s a whole other issue. In this house, we have had the luxury of a ton of extra space. It has a three-car garage that at various times has also been an art studio, photography studio, gym, work shop. And even after our son got his license and we actually parked three cars in it, there was still plenty of space for a workbench, lots of shelves, a big filing cabinet, and an eight-foot toucan kite that was an impulse purchase at Costco several springs ago.

Based on the couple of rentals that we looked at this weekend, we will be lucky in our future place if we have enough storage for an extra pack of gum.

So now, we are starting to evaluate everything in our house with an eye towards whether it’s going to make the cut for making the move with us. The two sets of couches – one in the living room and one in the family room – well, one of those can go, no problem. I always considered the living room wasted space anyway since we only used that room once a year when we opened presents on Christmas morning.

All the books…those can certainly be whittled down and given away. Old client files…shred ‘em. Girls’ bunk beds…sell ‘em. I’m looking at all our possessions through squinty eyes as if I were Clint Eastwood sizing up an outlaw. “Give me one good reason why you don’t deserve to go to Goodwill.”

That’s my fantasy but the truth is that after 17 years in this house it’s going to be tough to give away stuff with sentimental value. It is probably a good idea if I don’t watch “Toy Story 3” right now. I don’t think I could bare the thought of all those little Playmobil people that our son played with 18 years ago coming to life at night and fearing their fate. Ship them off to Sunnyside Daycare? Not so fast. I think we’ll find some way to squeeze them and the other boxes of favorite toys into our new place.