How to sell a grotty house and where do I start?
November 15, 2011 3:27 AM   Subscribe

My house is a mess - one of the reasons for selling - and I have no money. Where the hell do I start?

11 months into my marriage separation, and I have decided to sell the family home (with permission from the ex). But there's problems.

The yard is a mess. I've not been able to keep up with it. For a year before I moved back, my (layabout) son lived here alone, and a jungle grew. Every time I cut something back, it grows back twice as fast with three weedy companions. It's not a good jungle. It badly needs repainting. The house has peeling paint on the outside. Lead paint. Estimates on repainting a similar house in the same area (my brother's) with same problem are about $30 000. The gutters are holey. They're basically pointless. I suppose it would cost a good $5-10k to replace them. I have a dangerous deck, and cracked retaining wall. Fixing this, I suppose $10k. Inside the kitchen is falling apart, the wood floors need refinishing, the paint work throughout the house is old. The bathtub when we bought it had been repainted and is flaking and icky.

All that said, I am no handy woman AND I have no money. Oh, I have about enough to live on, barely (one of the reasons I'm moving - to be closer to work opportunities). So, knowing AskMe's habit of suggesting cleaning and painting a house for sale, I thought I'd point out that this is not an option. My brother sold a little cottage that he had planned to renovate and the real estate agent advised him at the time, 'don't bother doing anything, it won't increase the price enough to make it worth your while.' I'm working under that theory.

Next problem, two of the four bedrooms have shit from the ex and the kids stored. The garage is filled with crap. The ex has a tiny place and no room. One kid lives with me and will probably move with me. The other with him.

Next problem, I will need to move out. I know where I want to move to, and there's enough properties for rent, but I'll want a small space and can't take all this crap, and how do I move and sell at the same time if I have no money?

Next problem, I work from home. Once I move, I can work from the campus, but I really don't love the idea of people walking through my crappy house while I'm in it. Both for the interruption of work, and because the house is so crap.

Also, dealing with depression as well. And a useless ex. I can tell him to do stuff, but he won't. Oh also, I have to rely on public transport - no car / no license - long boring story.

More details - I think the house is probably worth about $250k, we owe $125k. I don't have a stable income - I'm self employed so possibly would find it difficult to get loans. I certainly can't afford to pay them back. I may be getting a tax cheque in the next couple of months for $5k. The ex is over-extended financially already (and made me so by running up $5k on my credit card which he is paying back slowly).

Where do I start? Do I ring real estate agents? How do I do this? Can you give me a list of things to do?

Please keep in mind this is Australia (eg can't get divorced unless separated one year, possibly different real estate rules).
posted by b33j to Home & Garden (40 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Start with getting rid of everything you don't need. Just de-cluttering the house will increase it's sale value (people who stage real estate in the US usually remove half the furniture if they can). It'll also prepare you better for moving. Be ruthless in your pruning.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:35 AM on November 15, 2011 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Before you invest any money and time, I would really encourage you to contact a few real estate agents and ask for their opinions. Working under the advice that a real estate agent gave to your brother on a different house is not a smart business move.

They should be able to give you tailored advice about the house that you will be trying to sell, as well as a better idea of what you can get for it.

We had an real estate agent (in the UK) give us advice about what we should do to fix up our house since we plan to sell it in a few years. He was great - he knew we weren't ready to sell right away, but he happily came over for a cup of tea and a look around. His advice was really good, too.

Why waste time working off of assumptions when you can easily (and probably for free) consult with a professional?
posted by brambory at 3:58 AM on November 15, 2011 [6 favorites]

Best answer: It doesn't sound like this is a project you're prepared to take on yourself. Even if you could muster the emotional and practical resources to do it, why would you? If you do a ton of work to improve the value of the house, half of that work/improved value is likely to go into your ex-husband's pocket, no? Why not talk to some realtors and get a sense of what it's worth as-is? You may be able to move your stuff out, alert the ex and kids that they have until X date to get their stuff out, and then wash your hands of it. Let most of this be somebody else's problem.
posted by jon1270 at 4:01 AM on November 15, 2011

Yeah, get an estate agent over and then sit down and do some sums: If you're moving somewhere smaller, will selling your current house release enough cash for you to put some things into storage if that's a sticking point?
posted by penguin pie at 4:11 AM on November 15, 2011

Best answer: The condition of the house means people will think they're getting a bargain and that it's a blank canvas. Don't worry about that. We bought 18 months ago and that stuff was all in the list of stuff factored in to offers. If you repaint you take away someone else's potential colour choice.

The garden, don't worry about the weeds if it's really going to kill you. BUT do mow it and make the edges nice.

The clutter. Yes, you have to get rid of it. Be brutal. Get gob loads of boxes from the supermarket and get a council cleanup and/or Vinnies to come pick up.

If you don't get rid of the clutter people can't see the room to imagine their stuff in it. And you can't clean it. Clean your benches, sinks and make your beds. Inspections will be twice a week for 45 minutes. Enlist a control freak friend to help.

Call a few real estate agents and get a feel for which one you like. And their fees are a bit negotiable...look in to that. Some Australian landlords and property investors that I know use a forum called It's full of DIY help and selling and buying tips you can trawl through. Experiences with real estate agents in your area will be available too, probably. Or you can join and ask if yours isn't specifically mentioned.

I wish you lived closer, I'd come over and help. Good luck possum, the enormity can be paralysing.
posted by taff at 4:13 AM on November 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

I bet that 90% of the crap in the house is just that, crap. Do you have rummage sales in Australia? If so, have one, and throw the remaining stuff away.
posted by crankylex at 4:16 AM on November 15, 2011

I agree with asking an estate agent for their advice.

I bought a house this year which was abandoned halfway through a renovation job. It had no kitchen or bathroom, bad wiring and evidence of leaks. Several months and a lot of work later, it's an absolute dream and buying it was a great decision.

The way you sell a house with problems is transparency. Lots of people are happy to buy a house that needs work, but they need to know exactly what they're getting into. At the moment, lots of things are obscuring the potential that will sell it. The house I bought was empty, which made it very easy to project how it could be. I saw other properties which were full of stuff and far harder to judge.

For me the biggest problem is the stuff or, as you more accurately describe it, the shit. This makes the house look smaller and could be obscuring problems, so it puts off buyers. It will also make the moving harder. If you don't downsize now, you will end up in a new place hemmed in by boxes you can't unpack. There are loads of online resources about this and I suggest read them, think about your own situation and come back with a detailed question about this next week. It's a big job, but a doable one.

You're presumably not planning to store your ex's stuff in your new, smaller house. He's therefore going to have to deal with it sooner or later. However, at the moment there are no consequences for him in not doing so - he doesn't even have to look at it. You need to agree with him on a timetable for him clearing his stuff out and hold him to it. Ditto the kids. Don't feel guilty, you are doing the lion's share of the work and you're just asking them to take responsibility for their belongings. Be ready to throw out their things if it comes to it; the fact that you know you can do this will make you more confident.

Decluttering has helped a lot of people with their depression, so you might be killing two birds with one stone there!

You don't have to make the yard look pretty; just ensure that there is a path through it or, at the minimum, a line of sight to the end so potential buyers can see how big it is. The same applies to the rooms, which is why (did I mention this?) you need to get rid of lots of your shit.

Most people will be viewing properties at the weekends, so hopefully they won't interrupt your work too much.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 4:31 AM on November 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

Sometimes I find that it's easier to tackle a project like that from the other side: go through your stuff and pick out the things you will bring with you. Segregate them out somehow. Tell your family members that they have a month to come in and take what they want, because after that, it is getting thrown in the dumpster.

Whatever stuff is left over, you know nobody wants. So then do that: rent a dumpster and pitch it all. If there are bigger things, enlist the help of neighbors. Maybe they have kids who would enjoy earning a few bucks and learning how to move stuff.

As for what to do with the house, that depends on the real estate market. But unless the market is super hot right now, you will probably get a fair price for the house. (Meaning, if it is worth $250k and needs $10k of rehab, you will probably get $235k)

And I agree $1000 with the transparency thing. I would play it along these lines: "Hello buyer, my name is B33j, welcome to my home. It is a great house, I raised my family here. But it has become to much for me to keep up on. You can see the obvious things, and these are the problems I've been having." And also point out the good things- the heater works great, the neighborhood is great, etc. Put together a list of how old things like the roof and the heater are.

Good luck!
posted by gjc at 5:00 AM on November 15, 2011 [5 favorites]

The cheapest solution to deal with the biggest problem you actually can do something about is to put the stuff from 2 of the 4 bedrooms and half the garage into storage. Take the other half of the stuff in the garage and put it in a hired skip.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:09 AM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is there a basement? If there is, I'd get out painters tape and buy a bunch of boxes, and let the ex and the kids know they needed to come over for two weekends of packing and sorting. Anything that's not furniture appropriate for showing the house goes in boxes and their section of the basement. Anything not in the basement goes in the yard sale.

(If you don't have a basement, could you rent a storage area? The storage area has the additional advantage that when you've moved your stuff, you can give everyone else a two month clock and then abandon it.)

For the repairs -- I'd do the most cosmetic 10% and pay someone to do a rough, efficient job on the yard.
posted by mercredi at 5:12 AM on November 15, 2011

Response by poster: I don't have clutter. All my possessions fit tidily in one room. It's other people's shit. Other people who don't have space to take the stuff and put it somewhere. I don't have money for storage. I have the equivalent of a basement, it's called a double garage and it's filled with other people's shit.

Cosmetic 10% - $5k's worth minimum? I don't have money. I really really don't have any money.

The garden - mowing happens, but a good 2/3rds of the back yard is covered in something called singapore daisy which has climbed up trees and onto the old barbecue. Mowing it is impossible because you can't see what's underneath.
posted by b33j at 5:20 AM on November 15, 2011

I'd say forget the garden for now because that is low priority for most viewers, ie. it doesn't constitute the roof over them and their stuff.

For now, the house is the main thing, and it sounds like it's Other People's Shit that's your problem, not yours.

So, clearly the only solution is to get them to move it. To achieve this, you simply need to keep in mind Two Things:
- Stuff is not the end of the world. Stuff is, at the end of the day, just stuff. No-one is going to die if you throw away some of their Stuff cause they didn't come get it.
- You NEED to get rid of this Stuff in order to move, which is your goal.

So call them, email them, and say kindly but firmly, I am not a storage facility. If you want to store stuff here you need to pay me some rent for it. If not, I will have to sell/dump it as I need to clear the house for imminent sale. If I sell it, I will split the profit with you.

Set a short deadline. No exceptions. It either gets collected, sold, or dumped.
posted by greenish at 5:29 AM on November 15, 2011 [15 favorites]

Other people get their shit by X date or their shit gets pitched. My parents, who have plenty of space, did this to me just because they wanted their adult kids' junk out of their basement. (We'd all been leaving stuff there during all the short-term moving right after college.) They said, if you haven't needed it by now you probably won't, so come pull out anything with sentimental value and the rest of it is going to the parish rummage sale. It's not mean. We grumbled a bit but its totally fair and we weren't upset. You have a clear and compelling reason.

On the yard, would it be possible to hire a crew with the tax money you're getting to do a big once-over? Around here it's called a "seasonal clean" and people just hire the crew once in the spring and once in the fall so clean up yards that tend to get a little disastery from lack of care. It's not terribly expensive (around here) and they have all sorts of special equipment to make it go faster. If you don't have fancy landscaping its even easier.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:32 AM on November 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

As suggested above, set aside the things you must have in your new location. Think about what it will cost to move them. Limit yourself to a dollar figure for moving.

Give those who have stuff stored there one WEEK to come get it, otherwise it's yours to do with as you see fit. As they haven't done anything with it for so long, they won't really miss it, anyway.

Bare bones start: figure out how much money you need to get the project started. How much is a skip rental? How much to get the yard up to snuff? You must have some furniture and items in the house that could be sold to or through an estate auctioneer or picker. Get one to come and tell you what they might be interested in, sell it to them and have them remove it. No cost to you, money in pocket.

Rent skip, fill skip, have it hauled away. Use some of the money to get young people to do your front yard.

DO NOT SPEND MONEY ON COSMETIC IMPROVEMENTS. They will be undone and done over by the new owners, probably before they even move in. The figure of $15K below list is probably accurate.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 5:32 AM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You don't have so much as a "too much shit" problem; you have "lazy-ass" people in your life problem. Sounds like they are so used to walking over you and you doing everything for you they aren't motivated to help.

First, the husband. Give him two choices, either he comes over next weekend (or whatever time works best FOR YOU) and cleans out his crap you have stored for eleven months and then helps 50% with cleaning the rest of the house OR he agrees you do it all (meaning you hire movers to pack up his crap and rent a storage facility in his name) and his take of the proceeds of the house are then split 75% you/25% him (and you get your $5,000 right off the top of his 25%, plus half the divorce costs and the costs of the movers/first month of storage). Get a signed agreement.

Second, the son. He got to run the place down for eleven months. Great, now he can call in all the favours he is owed from his mates and they are all going to come help you clean up/throw away/do what you think you need. The daughter needs to help too, but it sounds like she wasn't the one who got the freedom of living there without responsibilities. If they keep putting you off just toss all their crap (if you are pissed) or move it into a self storage facility (put it in the same one as their dad's to make it his problem and cut down on costs).

Third, you. It sounds like you are worn out from having people treat you like a doormat. Once this albatross of a house is no longer around your neck you will feel so much better and you will have the proceeds of the sale as a nice little nest egg to rebuild your life in the way you want it without encumbrances. It took a long time for your life to get out of your control, it will take a while to get it back the way you want it to be. Without the ex, and with the kids nearly grown, it will get easier and easier, especially as your backbone gets stronger and stronger.

Since you are self-employed can you book some time off to focus on this? To be honest, you probably aren't working at peak productivity because of the weight of the house on your mind. You can do it b33j!
posted by saucysault at 5:55 AM on November 15, 2011 [20 favorites]

With the clutter give people a deadline to come and get it. Their stuff is not your problem. Give them a clear date and some reasonable time so say 1st of Jan, not a vague in a month or so, if they haven't moved it ring them the next day and say it's going to the goodwill/tip/dump and then ring Goodwill to come and pick it up or lug it to the kerb for garbage day.

People don't mind buying a run down house, in fact some people love the whole idea of a blank slate, and the Australian real estate market is still way better than in a lot of countries and people are looking for investments. You can make it look it's best by cleaning it out, take out all but what you need, clean it. So no mouldy bathrooms, or dust or what ever (not saying the house is dirty) a clean house just psychologically feels/looks more looked after. Holes in the drains are fine, weeds growing out of them not so much. Basically make the house look clean then get a real estate agent in to give you some more ideas of the best places to spend what money you can afford so you get the best return.

You'd be surprised how little it will cost you to get a lawnmower guy to come around and cut the grass and whippersnip/weed wack all the weeds down depending on the size of the lot I can't see it'd be more than a couple of hundred. Keep the grass short and the weeds cut down and it will look like a nice blank slate for the new owners to project what they want to do to the garden on it.

It sounds to me (though I'm no expert) like you'd be better off I think both financially and mentally just getting rid of the house, put as little effort and money in as possible. Use your tax return for moving expenses and a deposit on a new place for yourself if you need to. Do the best you can in regard to cleaning/fixing up but don't kick yourself if you can't do it. Flippers love rundown houses, and while they don't pay top dollar they usually have the money up front and are quick buyers. Sell it as is and let the Flippers worry about all the repairs.
posted by wwax at 6:23 AM on November 15, 2011

Best answer: Basically you need to get rid of everyone else's stuff. You're just going to have to give them a deadline. You are leaving, the house is being sold. The stuff must go, one way or the other. If they don't meet the deadline then I'm happy to put in halvsies for a skip and a day of purging (or, alternatively, I can offer the use of a very small and shitty car which can be filled with quite an incredible amount of stuff if it needs to be taken somewhere).

Then you hand it over to a real estate agent and say sell it as is. I don't think you'll get $250,000 at the moment. Use all available money that you're able to put aside towards bond, rent and moving expenses. You'd be looking at at least $3500, I reckon. Concentrate on putting all available money towards where you're going, rather than on the house. The house will most likely be sold well below market value but you'll be living somewhere that you want to be. Your share of the house probably won't be enough to get you a new house, but hopefully you'll come out with something (or at least no debt) and then you get to start afresh. You have prospects and things to look forward to.
posted by h00py at 6:52 AM on November 15, 2011

"Hire a dumpster, get rid of the shit" sounds good, but involves 1) money and 2) a lot of directed energy. What people in our town do is just put a small pile of junk on the corner with a cardboard "free" sign. Dead easy, and everything disappears. I don't understand it, the stuff seems crappy to me, but it does disappear. A small pile at a time, every other day, means less stuff inside. I have no idea if this is common in Australia, but what the heck -- maybe you can start a trend.
posted by kestralwing at 7:57 AM on November 15, 2011

It's other people's shit. Other people who don't have space to take the stuff and put it somewhere. I don't have money for storage.

If this is not your stuff why is this your problem? It's their stuff, let them figure out the storage or skipping or donating or whatever. Give them a deadline of X day and otherwise, you're very sorry but you're skipping it because the house has to get sold.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:22 AM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

1. Put all your things into one room.

2. Give the other people x amount of time to remove their stuff, a set date.

3. Invest $200 in laborers to come move everything out onto the street.

4. Call your trash service to come pick it up (where I am at, they will do this once or twice a year at no additional cost.) If they can do this, spend $200 on some people to take it all to the dump.

5. Contact real estate agents to come and give you an assessment of the value, and ask them if there are any other small things you can do to make the house a bit more sellable.

6. Put it on the market.

7. Sell house, even if it is for less value than ideal.

8. Enjoy your new freedom.
posted by Vaike at 9:49 AM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

#4 "if the CAN'T do this..."
posted by Vaike at 9:50 AM on November 15, 2011

Wait - you've been separated for 11 months and you still have your ex's stuff? If he hasn't used it in a year he doesn't need it or really want it. He gets one month.
posted by desjardins at 10:47 AM on November 15, 2011

Best answer: Before having the real estate agent come by, start decluttering now. Do two or three garage sales, post stuff on craigslist or the local equivalent to sell and to give away (there's a freebie section on CL), tell people who have stuff at your house that it has to be picked up by a specific date. Sell or give away whatever hasn't been picked up. Poor students love second-hand furniture and household stuff. Many charities (Goodwill, Salvation Army) will pick up stuff that's in decent condition. Throw away the personal items that belong to others if you can't sell it or give it away. Just a couple of trash bags and everything that's in a box or dresser or corner. Next trash pickup day, repeat. Pay someone to clear the yard.
posted by shoesietart at 11:32 AM on November 15, 2011

And I don't think you can rent a storage unit in someone else's name. Plus, you don't want to have to move it there.
posted by shoesietart at 11:33 AM on November 15, 2011

On the ex's stuff: box it up, contact the ex, tell him he has X weeks to find a place to store it or it goes to donation, then follow through. Tell them it is something that needs to happen as part of the sale prep, not because you're feeling hostile about it. Seems reasonable.
posted by davejay at 12:35 PM on November 15, 2011

Nothing much to add to the solid advice above, except this. If you feel at all guilty about giving your ex a deadline for moving their crap out of your house, think about it this way: you are doing him a favor. You're selling the house, which means that at some point in the near future, someone new is going to take it over. The new owners aren't going to give a shit about your ex or his stuff, and will either give him a short and inflexible deadline, or simply dump it all on the curb. It's his decision whether he wants to do it the easy way or the hard way.
posted by googly at 12:38 PM on November 15, 2011

Response by poster: Really helpful advice, particularly on dealing with other people's stuff. Thanks so much.
posted by b33j at 1:41 PM on November 15, 2011

Best answer: Oh, b33j, this enormous situation is obviously stressful for you. You have my total sympathy.

The way I see it, you have three main issues.
Putting it on the market.
Clearing out the stuff
Cleaning up the yard

You do not have to renovate, repaint or do anything else.

Now, putting it on the market. Before doing anything else including the stuff and the garden, invite at least two, if not three agents or more to the property for a look around (separately). See what they think it could be worth and the potentials (development etc) that you may not be aware of yourself. Until you have met enough agents and chosen one who you think will get you the best price with the least hassle, don't sign anything.

After deciding on a agent, you'll probably need to sign a 'sole agent' contract for no more than three months. If the house doesn't sell in that time you will be able to involve other agents. Express to the agent that you do not want big picture advertising in the press. Real estate ads like that are really for the benefit of the agent, not you. Ads in their window and a listing the realestate websites ( etc) are all you want. Do not contract an agent who wants any money up front.

Getting the input of an agent will help calm you down. For one, their enthusiasm for selling the property will infect you. Second, they know the market better than you and the potential sale price may be pleasantly surprising. DO NOT FEEL EMBARRASSED OR ASHAMED at the state of the house. They see it all the time.

Right, now you have the agent, next comes the Stuff and the Garden.

The stuff: Ultimatum time! "Hey everyone, the house is going on the market in two weeks! It's time to downsize!!" Hold a garage sale and sell as much as you can. Anything that the kids/ex don't want and can't take with them to put in their next small living spaces goes in the garage sale. Be ruthless and do not share the profits because...

The profits from the garage sale go to paying a garden clean up service. I googled for some in your area and they are around. Your agents will also have tradesman on their books who can do it for a good price. The infestation shouldn't take too long to clean up, then the lawn (what's left of it!) can be mowed and the trees/edges trimmed. You really just need to clean it to the point where prospective buyers can see 'potential' in the yard. You do not need to landscape.

OK, so now you have a house on the market with not much stuff in it. All the crap should be out of the bedrooms and only the stuff you will be taking with you needs to be in the garage. Do not let your ex get away with making you worry/care for his stuff. Anything not taken by sale time becomes the property of the new owners. Besides, after the sale he will have some money to rent his own bloody storage unit.

Living there while it's on the market won't be too much of a hassle. Appointments can be scheduled at times to suit you. Give the agents say two windows a day (eg 10-11am and 3-4pm) to show the house, but ask them to ring you before each showing. Leave the house during the showing times (go for a walk, shopping, etc).

You will need a conveyencer to do the sale transfer, you should not need a lawyer. Their fees will come out of the sale price.

You don't really need much money up front to clean and sell this house so don't be despondent about your situation, it will work itself out.

Feel free to memail me. I've sold houses in NSW & QLD and I know your area. I'd love to do some comparison pricing for you. Also, have a look at and download their free sellers guides. They have some excellent advice.

Best wishes, bjj3. You can do it. And the outcome will free you like you currently can't imagine.

PS: Just for interest sake, I would contact the family court before selling and see what their opinion is of joint assets sold prior to the financial settlement which will take place when you divorce. This will help you and the ex work out how to distribute the profits after the sale and prior to the divorce settlement most equitably for the least hassle.
posted by Kerasia at 2:09 PM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Garage sale. On a weekend you know your ex and kids can come by. Let them know well in advance, and tell them they are welcome to come by beforehand and pick up any of their stuff they still want, and otherwise it is going in the garage sale. It's amazing how much money you can make from one of these if you advertise it well. That money will come in handy when you hire a couple of teenagers to mow your lawn and weed the garden.

As for the rest, I agree with others that you shouldn't bother with anything besides decluttering and cleaning. I bought a house recently, and didn't want to have to do much renovation work, so even two of your house's many problems would have been enough to put me off. Other people are excited by renovations, so there isn't much difference between five issues with a potential house and twenty issues. If you could fix ALL the problems, I'd say to go ahead. But you can't. So don't fix any of them. It won't make much difference to your potential buyers.
posted by lollusc at 3:02 PM on November 15, 2011

My mom emailed us kids a few weeks ago telling us the deadline to get all our stuff out of her house (it's significantly easier for me than everyone else, but I left boxes there when I moved out, so it applies to me, too.) I suppose she'd just take whatever's left to the street to be picked up with the trash if anything was actually left behind.

Under no circumstances arrange for storage for other people's stuff. It's a nightmarish psychological trap to do it to yourself, with your own stuff - doing it for other people's stuff is absolutely insane (and I'm nearly completely certain you'd be stuck with the bills.)

If you're feeling nice, give them a month or two of notice. This is if you're feeling very, very nice. Otherwise, anything more than a week is sufficient, given the amount of time you've already sat in their muck.

(Get rid of the stuff before bringing the realtor over, otherwise you're going to be hearing them say "get rid of the stuff," and that's just silly.)
posted by SMPA at 3:35 PM on November 15, 2011

Nithing above. Having other people's crap can really weight you down and make you feel depressed, especially if it belongs to an ex, because it means you're in a limbo and not able to completely move on without him. You'll feel soooo much better (literally lighter) when you've rid your house and your life of all this.

Lots of good advice on how to get rid of other people's junk. Don't offer to get a storage unit, don't offer to store anything--even 'just a few precious items.' Set a date for pickup, and if they are wishy washy about picking it up (too busy, have to arrange to put it somewhere, whatever) tell them in no uncertain terms that they will have to pick a date, sooner, rather than later, and come get the stuff, or it goes to the dump/recycle/thrift store--where ever. Actually, I would send a certified letter to the ex, so that can't claim he didn't hear from you about it or come back on you in any way. Tell him it WILL be taken care of by the 12th month of your separation, no negotiation.

The kid that's staying with you needs to go through their stuff also. Scale down as far as possible. Divide things into three piles. One to keep, one maybe, and one that goes away. When you're done, divide the maybe pile into keep and go away. Done. If you haven't used it in 10-12 months, it's gone (with the exception of some special Christmas stuff.)

As far as the lawn, mow what you can and leave the rest. Anyone purchasing the house can nuke it with weed killer.

If you're close enough to the campus that you can go there to work on days that the realtor will be showing the house, that takes care of the interruption issue. If not, schedule a day and time, and then go somewhere else--coffee shop, library, take a walk, etc. Have the realtor call you when they're done.

Save the check that's coming for the down payment on your new place and to help you get set up there.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:06 PM on November 15, 2011

Not down payment, deposit and first months rent. Sorry.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:07 PM on November 15, 2011

Response by poster: Turns out I overestimated my tax refund - it will be just enough to pay the accountant's bill.
posted by b33j at 9:29 PM on November 15, 2011

You've gotten some great advice here, but I do think people saying "Have a garage sale" are under-estimating how much effort a garage sale is. Depending on the items you have, you may end up doing a lot of work for not much reward.

If you decide to just get rid of everything you no longer need (or that your family members haven't picked up), here's some free ways to do it:

1 :: Take advantage of the rubbish removal services you already have. You probably already get garbage and recycling picked up once a week. Check with your local council's website to see if they have some kind of general waste removal, too. My council will pick up household waste for free every second Monday if you call and book.

2 :: Since you don't have a car, call your local Vinnies or Salvos and find out what they will pick up for donation. Generally it should be books/videos/cds/dvds, homewares, knickknacks, clothes and furniture, but places vary. Specifically ask about any big items like wardrobes or whitegoods, as most smaller stores won't take them.

3 :: Go through your rooms methodically. Start in one corner and work outwards. Put anything that Vinnies/Salvos will take in one bag. Put anything that can be recycled in another bag. Put general rubbish in a third bag. If you fill your bins, keep filling bags and put them aside to go out the next week.

4 :: That should take care of most of your stuff. For anything else, try posting an ad on Freecycle or Gumtree offering the item for free. Warning: you will get a lot of flakes. I used to say to people, "It'll be outside our door on Saturday afternoon. Feel free to come and take it." Then if they didn't show, I wasn't stuck waiting around.

Btw, The ex has a tiny place and no room. Not your concern. I'm sitting here steaming on your behalf at how your family members are taking advantage of you. Time to push back and get their mess out of your place. You can do it!
posted by Georgina at 11:31 PM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: More update: Ex is fine with me distributing things like camping gear as I see fit (eg friends) to cut down on work of garage sales etc.

Son is up to date with everything (including ex's recent arrest and other shit) and is very supoortive.
posted by b33j at 11:56 PM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm househunting. Last week I toured a house that was a pit, an absolute pit, but I'm making an offer on it anyway. So don't worry that people will flee, screaming.

I agree with wwax that you need to prioritize things that need to be fixed pre-sale. In my particular case, I wasn't bothered by the neglected yard, the mossy roof, or the clutter. I was disturbed by the mold in the kids' rooms, the highly unpleasant shower, and the smoke alarm with no batteries.

I didn't mind seeing mess that said "We don't have time to deal with this," but I was made unhappy by the feeling of "People living here are in distress."
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:21 PM on November 17, 2011

Response by poster: Thought you might like to know the outcome. I ended up (finally) getting cranky at the ex and while I was visiting my new special guy in another state over Xmas, the x cleared 95% of his stuff out. I gave a bunch of stuff away to another friend who helped me clear out under the house, and while he was there, before I even had the house on the market, a couple of real estate agents dropped by, saying they had someone interested in the place. Two days later they did a walk through (yard still a dirty jungle) and made an offer. Two days after that, they added $15k to the offer, which brought the price close to what I thought it was worth and to the high end of the range an independent valuer advised.

Settlement date is around 8 feb and I have two apartment inspections to make before then. It has been amazingly painless, unlike my last year.
posted by b33j at 10:41 PM on January 20, 2012 [10 favorites]

That's fantastic news! What a great start to the new year!
*And congrats on the new special guy*
posted by Kerasia at 2:47 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Woo hoo, yay!!!! This is The Year of B33J!!! Most excellent news, both pieces.
posted by taff at 2:23 AM on January 22, 2012


Thanks for posting your outcome. I'm always wondering what happened with folks and their questions...

(and their cats, whatever happens with the cats?)
posted by BlueHorse at 12:19 AM on February 13, 2012

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