Keeping up with Chicago's North Shore Real Estate Market!

Contact Ann

call or text me: 847-691-1111 or email: ann@rannjones.realtor

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Is it a good offer?

Selling your home?

There is nothing more exciting than receiving an offer for your home -- especially when there is competition out there.

Yet, sometimes I'll review an offer from a buyer and feel utterly ecstatic with the terms presented, only to find the sellers are disappointed and even angry.

Realtors and sellers often have a different opinion about what constitutes a "good offer."  Maybe because we see so many offers, we tend to evaluate each one with more dispassion and logic. 

So what is a good offer?

Obviously, if someone comes in offering asking price, with no contingencies and a cash deal -- it's a fantastic offer.  That's an easy one, which by the way, I've never seen before... there are always contingencies.

The North Shore contract has over 10 pages of clauses and conditions so there are lots of terms, that need to be considered, when evaluating any offer.

Let's take the...

Purchase Price... Buyers can offer any price they want and they sometimes do.  Today, I have seen buyers come in as low as 80% of the asking price.   (For example, $2M home -- initial offer: $1.6M).  Sellers need to understand, that this is just the starting point... it's a negotiating position.  It's not personal!   Be grateful for the offer.  You've hooked the buyer... now reel them in. 

Consider the offer thoughtfully and logically.  What is the market average for that price range?  For example, right now in Winnetka the market average for a $1M home is 94.5% of the last asking price -- that's the average.  Generally buyers know that information.   They might be reluctant to pay more than 95% of asking ($950,000) on this property, so their starting position will be somewhat lower than $950K.   Further, if the house has been on the market for more than 90 days, they will probably offer less and expect to pay less.   And if comparable houses have been selling for around $900,000, they probably won't pay much more than that, so their initial offer will be around $850,000 -- or lower!

Sometimes sellers price their house right at the market value.   When they price aggressively,  sellers often receive up too and even over 100% of asing price.   Buyers will pay full asking price, when they see that the home is priced fairly. 

I've often had sellers say to me, "Well we started at $950K and dropped the price to $899... so they should be paying us, at least, $895K." 

WRONG.   Buyers could care less, where the seller initially priced the property.   In their opinion, if you didn't get a sale with the initial asking price, then you were overpriced right from the beginning.   Buyers ONLY look at the current asking price.  

Sellers need to really understand what is happening in their market and in their neighborhood.   Sadly, what a seller has financially put into the house may or may not factor in when determining the fair market value of a property.   Further the appraised value or the assessed value have little to do with the market value.  (Read more at What's the Value of my Home?)

While price matters, I find sellers often hone in on the asking price and devalue some of the other terms.   Some of these other terms can make a deal significantly more valuable.

For example:

The close date... when it comes to owning a home, time is money.   Every day a house sits on the market -- particularly a house that is empty -- sellers are spending money.... taxes, maintenance, utilities, landscaping, etc.  Add it all up and deduct it from the proceeds.   A quick close can mean the difference of hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.

Case in point: My very first deal, two weeks after the house came on the market, the client was offered $805,000 and a quick close.   He refused the deal - he wanted a better offer.   Nine months later, he got his better offer for $810,000.   Sure, he sold the house for more money, but within those 9 months he incurred well over $5,000 of expenses maintaining an empty house.  It was a pyrrhic victory.

Sadly, I've also seen sellers reject a quick close, because it was "inconvenient" -- only to miss an opportunity to get the best deal.   You never know the future and as they say, "a bird in hand..."  Just imagine, if you had received an offer on September 1, 2008 that asked for a quick close, and you turned it down due to inconvenience.  I had some clients, who did exactly that and learned a very costly lesson.

A quick close is a fantastic term and should be given extra weight when evaluating an offer.

Contingencies
Mortgage contingency vs. cash deal.... In general, a cash deal is more valuable than an offer with a mortgage contingency.   Sometimes buyers are unable to get their financing.  Usually you know quickly when there is a problem, but I've had a case or two where the buyers are scrambling days before the close date trying to secure the funds for purchasing a property. 

Today, getting a mortgage is not quite as challenging as it was right after the 2008 financial meltdown... during those days a cash deal was worth A LOT.   Regardless, a cash deal is a beautiful thing and needs to be factored in when evaluating any offer.

Home sale contingency
This is a term, where I might hesitate.   What it means is this:  the sale is contingent on the sale of the buyers' home.   If this term appears on the offer, I would ask for it to be removed.  However,  keep in mind, the buyer probably can't get a mortgage unless they sell their home first.   The only situation,  where I might go along with a home sale contingency, is if a short leash is put on the buyers.   In other words, the buyers have to get their home under contract within no more than 30 days or the deal is over.   Further, I would also factor in the time of year.   A seller might accept a home sale contingency in October or November, but not in the middle of the spring market when there are more buyers looking.

Home close contingency
This term is less onerous.   What it means is this:  the sale is contingent on the close of the sale of the buyers' home.  Their home is already under contract and waiting to close.   I'm not as uncomfortable with this clause, although it's important to know more about their contract.  Have their buyers had their home inspection?   Are they beyond the attorney review period?  How solid and financially stable are their buyers?  All these questions need to be factored in when considering a home close contingency.

Money in escrow 
Money in escrow represents good faith money that buyers are willing to include with their offer.   It is money toward the purchase price, however if the buyer backs out of the deal after all the contingencies are lifted, that money should go to the seller.   Escrow usually comes in two payments: initial escrow (around $1-5,000) with the acceptance of the offer and then a final escrow amount usually at the completion of the attorney review.

While there is no hard and fast rule, how much money are the buyers willing to put in escrow upfront?   I like to see around 5% of the asking price, but for some buyers that's quite a bit. 

I guess the question I would ask, is the amount in escrow enough, that buyers won't leave it on the table?  For a buyer purchasing a $250,000 home, even $5,000 is a lot to walk away from.    For buyers purchasing a $2M home, we would expect significantly more money in escrow -- at least, $75,000.

* * *

These are only the major terms that we tend to see in our market.  There are many others including things like tax prorations, home warranties, home appraisal contingencies, "as is" clause just to name a few.   It's a given that offers have attorney and inspection review contingencies as well.

Sellers, before an offer comes in, read the whole contract, so you understand the language that is there.  Sellers will also have an attorney review period where the attorney can advise the seller on the terms of the deal.

So what is a good offer?

Here is my advice to sellers, when answering that question:
  • Look at the whole offer -- not just the asking price.
  • A quick close is a beautiful thing and should be given a little more weight. 
  • Understand market values and trends in your neighborhood -- don't assume the offer on your home is going to be exceptional, when the neighbors are getting average offers.
  • I know this sounds self-serving, but if you have an experienced agent, please listen to them.  They have seen a lot in this market and can probably advise you whether the deal is decent or not. 
Finally, consider the value of "done."  Moving on is your ultimate goal.  You may not be thrilled with the offer, but some money is better than no money and being DONE can feel great!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Name that colonial home - a 4th of July quiz


Can you match the house to its owner?
Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe


Montpelier
                      Ash Lawn - Highland


Mount Vernon

Peacefield

With gratitude to our founding fathers, 
I wish you a happy 4th of July!


Saturday, June 30, 2018

How's the Market? July, 2018

Here we are -- the last day of the second quarter for 2018.  Where did the time go?

June is over, so we have crossed the halfway mark for the year. I thought I would present a very unscientific chart that shows inventory sold for the first half of the year – versus what is currently on the market. I say unscientific because real estate sales are seasonal, so we typically sell more in the first half of the year than in the second half. Homes that are under contract or are in pending status are included with active properties, so that number is a little on the high side, since some of these properties are no longer actively being marketed.  Regardless, I thought the results were pretty interesting.



The way to read this chart – the red line is number of units that are currently on the market. The white line represents the number of units that have closed in the first six months. For me, what pops out in this chart are the extremes of the North Shore. Some towns have sold more than are active. Conversely, current inventory in some towns exceed the number of sales we have had in the first part of the year. The other communities are fairly balanced. Interesting.

So how was the market in June? These next charts show units sold and the median prices.




The months of inventory is the best way to tell about the health of a market. Anything less than 6 months is considered a sellers' market -- anything more than 8 months is considered a buyers' market. The level of inventory has not deviated much over the last few months.  There continues to be a shortage of inventory in Wilmette and Evanston. 

 In the next chart, I show the high-end sales for each community. The highest sale this month was in Winnetka - a new home built in 2017 on Linden Street.

There are currently 217 houses for sale on the North Shore that are priced greater than $2M. During the month of June, 10 houses closed in this price range:

Community
Sold this Month
# for Sale
Evanston
0
6
Wilmette
2
7
Kenilworth
1
18
Winnetka
5
62
Northfield
0
9
Glencoe
1
21
Highland Park
0
20
Lake Forest
1
71
Lake Bluff
0
3


Hoping the heat wave eases up in order to celebrate the 4th in style.  Wishing you a happy holiday!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Green Tips: How to reduce your carbon footprint

From the New York Times:
"Climate change can be overwhelming. The science is complex, and when it comes to future impacts, there are still a lot of unknowns. While real solutions will require action on a global scale, there are choices you can make in your day-to-day life to lessen your personal impact on the environment. This guide will walk you through some of them."

How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Summer on the Shore

It may be late in coming, but summer is here and there is nothing better than the North Shore for summer fun.   So many things are happening, that it would be impossible to list everything... Ravinia is kicking off another season; the Chicago Botanic Gardens are as beautiful as ever and our lake is indeed pretty special... here are a few other things to consider for summer fun.

Bring a lawn chair or spread a blanket and participate in parades, entertainment, food, and fun for the whole family. 

Enjoy!

Wednesdays in the Woods
Wednesdays in the Woods at Hubbard Park: On Wednesdays throughout June and July a summer concert series! The Grand Food Center will be on-site selling hot dogs, brats, burgers, chips, candy, beverages and Chef Tim’s Specials from 6:00–8:15 pm. Adults can enjoy a beverage at the Winnetka Park Foundation’s Beer and Wine Garden from 6–8:30 pm.

Hubbard Woods Park in Winnetka
1065 Gage St
Winnetka, IL
(847) 501-2040
Winnetka Music Festival
June 15, 2018 - June 16, 2018

Winnetka Music Festival is a free, 2-day immersion of high quality music in the Elm Street District. New music will be offered around every corner, including local restaurants, food trucks, retail, parks. Also a children's stage, street musicians and craft beer trucks. Music will be performed across two main outdoor stages and two indoor stages as well as a Family stage. 

Winnetka's Elm Street District
Elm Street between the west and east side of Green Bay Road
Winnetka, IL
847-501-6000
Father's Day Brunch
June 17, 2018

Celebrate the male rock star in your family this year by bringing your father to Tower Road Beach for the annual Father’s Day Brunch. Participate in our Inaugural Speed Baggo Tournament, take pictures with the entire family in the photobooth, test how fast you can throw your world famous fastball, and eat some delicious brunch brought to you by the Grand Food Center!
Tower Beach Road
Located at Tower & Sheridan Road
Winnetka, IL
(847) 501-2040
Bahá’í House of Worship Choral Festival
June 14, 2018 - June 17, 2018

Each year more than 200 singers from diverse backgrounds and faiths come from around the globe to attend the Bahá’í House of Worship Choral Festival. Since its start in 2006, the annual Bahá’í House of Worship Choral Festival has attracted singers and sacred music lovers from around the world. 

Bahá’í House of Worship
100 Linden Avenue
Wilmette, IL
847-733-3584
Custer Fair
June 17, 2018 - June 18, 2018

Custer Fair: Over 300 local and regional artists, craftspeople, and commercial vendors come together over Father's Day weekend to exhibit and sell paintings, ceramics, pottery, photographs, jewelry, graphic arts, wearable art, country and home craft, antiques and collectables.
Begins at Chicago Avenue
Chicago Ave. and Main St. to Washington St.
Evanston, IL
(224) 714-7085
Downtown Sip and Stroll
June 21, 2018

Sip, shop and stroll your way through downtown Evanston on the fourth annual Downtown Sip & Stroll (formerly called the Wine Walk)! Stop in at businesses to sample a range of wines (or other beverages) and take advantage of special sales and promotions.

Downtown Evanston: Wristbands at Vinic Wine or 1509 Chicago Ave
Pick up wristband at Bottle & Bottega Evanston at 1016 Davis St
Evanston, IL
Movie in the Park: Jumanji
June 22, 2018

Movie in the Park: Jumanji— Welcome to the Jungle. Once a month throughout the summer at one of Winnetka’s lovely parks to enjoy a new or classic film. All movies will begin at dusk with food and beverage available through the Grand Food Center.

Elder Lane Beach
239 Sheridan Rd
Winnetka, IL
(847) 501-2040
Tuesdays, June 11, July 9, August 13
Do you play an instrument or read poetry? Are you involved in dance or a play and need a relaxing, comfortable environment to practice in front of others? Whatever your talent, come and join us for Open Mic Nites at the Fire Circle in a beautiful beach setting.

Forest Park Beach
Lake Forest, IL  dalzota@cityoflakeforest.com

Thursdays, June and July
Bring a lawn chair or spread a blanket and enjoy musical entertainment, food, and fun for the whole family. Concerts will feature the best musical talent the Chicagoland area has to offer.

Market Square
Lake Forest, IL
Art in the Village
June 23, 2018 - June 24, 2018

The village had added more businesses and restaurants to the area and they are excited to expand the spaces within the park to offer both artists and patrons a wonderful experience.

Hubbard Woods Park
Green Bay Road
Winnetka , IL
(847)446-2870
Evanston Chamber Artisan Summerfest
June 24, 2018 - June 25, 2018

The Evanston Chamber Artisan SummerFest, formerly known as the Fountain Square Art Festival, returns to Downtown Evanston for the 38th year. The North Shore's largest and oldest fine arts fair will have eclectic works of more than 150 juried artists.
Downtown Evanston
Intersection of Sherman and Church Streets
Evanston, IL
(847) 328-1500
Glencoe Sidewalk Sale
June 29, 2018 - June 30, 2018

Head to downtown Glencoe for great merchandise, great prices, food, fun and most importantly, bargains galore!

Downtown Glencoe
Park Ave. & Vernon Ave.
Glencoe, IL
Evanston Made PopUp Shop
Through June 30, 2018

The Evanston Made's Pop Up Shop is located in the lobby of the Evanston Art Center, June 1-30, and features works for sale by Evanston Creatives. Vendors must live or work in Evanston to participate.

Evanston Art Center
1717 Central Street
Evanston, IL
(847) 475-5300
Chicago Botanic Garden Art Festival
June 30, 2018 - July 1, 2018

Stroll and shop among 100 juried artists on the Esplanade. This one-of-a-kind art festival brings botanic-themed and botanic-made photography, paintings, ceramics, cement, metal, fiber, wood, jewelry, and other pieces to the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Chicago Botanic Garden
1000 Lake Cook Road
Glencoe, IL
847-835-5440
Fourth of July Celebration
July 4, 2018

Come on out and show your patriotic spirit! Watch and support local organizations and fellow neighbors as they march in Winnetka’s annual Fourth of July Parade along with orchestras, pipe bands, the Dixieland Bands, jugglers, Uncle Sam on stilts, and so much more!

Starts:Intersection of Elm Street & Glendale Avenue
Ends: Village Green, 525 Maple Street
Winnetka, IL
Lake's Bluff Annual Fourth of July Celebration
July 4, 2018

Not be missed – the annual 4th of July celebration -- one of the most talked about events is the 4th of July Parade.  Even young adults and people who have moved out of the community return to attend the Lake Bluff 4th of July Parade.  Everyone loves the marching bands and performing units. 

Village Green, Lake Bluff
Winnetka Sidewalk Sale
July 13, 2018 - July 14, 2018

Shop 'til you drop as you score great shopping deals around Winnetka's Hubbard Woods, East Elm and West Elm shopping districts.

Various Locations
Winnetka, IL
Central Street Sidewalk Sale
July 12, 2018 - July 16, 2018

The merchants of Central Street move outside for one summer weekend only! Find great products, amazing deals, and delicious food at their annual sidewalk sale!

Central Street
Central Street
Evanston, IL
World Arts and Music Festival
July 21, 2018 - July 22, 2018

Evanston’s lakefront will be transformed into a Global Village for the World Arts & Music Festival, a two-day celebration of global diversity. This free event features art from an abundance of countries, family crafts activities, international cuisine, and live music and dance performances.

Dawes Park
Sheridan Road at Church Street
Evanston, IL
(847) 448-8264
Family Camp Out
July 28, 2018

Enjoy games, a movie, refreshments, and the sounds of the lake overnight while you camp out on the beach. All participants will receive a coupon for a free hot dog, bag of chips, and a soft drink. Grills will be available for those families interested in bringing and cooking their own food.

Tower Beach Road
Located at Tower & Sheridan Road
Winnetka, IL
(847) 501-2040
Downtown Evanston and Main-Dempster Mile Sidewalk Sale
July 27, 2018 - July 29, 2018

Evanston Chalks: Creating an Outdoor Community Chalk Art Gallery The Downtown Evanston Sidewalk Sale is celebrating its 18th year! This annual shopping tradition takes place the final weekend in July and is a great opportunity for stores to clear out their inventory and shoppers to take advantage of deep discounts.

Downtown Evanston and Main-Dempster Mile, Evanston
Evanston, IL
Glencoe Festival of Art
July 29, 2018 - July 30, 2018

The Glencoe Festival of Art takes place in the prestigious Frank Lloyd Wright influenced community of Glencoe, blocks from Lake Michigan on Chicago's famous North Shore area. The Glencoe Festival of Art will showcase the work of more than 110-juried artists from across the country in a variety of mediums, including painting, photography, ceramics, glass, jewelry, and wood.

Downtown Glencoe
Green Bay Road and Park Avenue
Glencoe, IL
847-926-4300
Beer Garden Concert
June 22, 2018 - August 22, 2018

Beer Garden Concert: David Chiriboga Spanish Guitar Duo. 
 Enjoy dinner and music at the Rose Terrace Beer Garden the fourth Friday of every month. Concerts are from 4 to 7 p.m.  

Chicago Botanic Garden
1000 Lake Cook Road
Glencoe, IL
(847) 835-8392
Beer Garden Concert
August 24, 2018

Beer Garden Concert: Silver-Rose Flute and Guitar Duo. Enjoy dinner and music at the Rose Terrace Beer Garden the fourth Friday of every month.

Chicago Botanic Garden
1000 Lake Cook Road
Glencoe, IL
(847) 835-5440
Butterflies and Blooms
Through September 3, 2018

Butterflies & Blooms is a butterfly exhibition where visitors can immerse themselves in a habitat filled with hundreds of live butterflies.

Chicago Botanic Garden
1000 Lake Cook Road
Glencoe, IL
847-835-5440
Biennial 2018
August 31, 2018 - September 30, 2018

Evanston Art Center: Opening and Artists’ Reception is August 31, 6-8pm. Our Biennial is one of the Midwest’s largest and most prestigious juried exhibitions.
Evanston Art Center
1717 Central St.
Evanston, IL
847-475-5300


Monday, June 4, 2018

How's the Market as of June 1, 2018

June is sure busting out all over... my peonies are in full bloom and I'm loving this weather! 

And how about real estate on the North Shore? The first report shows units sold, the second presents the median prices. Sales were fairly brisk this month, although maybe not as great as last year. 



The months of inventory on the first chart is a better way of measuring progress. Anything less than 6 months is considered a sellers' market -- anything more than 8 months is considered a buyers' market. Inventory levels changed very little from April. So while we had more sales, we also had more listings come on the market. Evanston and Wilmette continue to have a shortage of inventory, while Lake Forest continues to have a bit of a surplus.  The other communities are fairly balanced. 

The highest sale this month was a newer home in Winnetka on the lake with over 5,500 square feet of living space.



There are currently 223 houses for sale on the North Shore that are priced greater than $2M. During the month May, 12 houses closed in this price range:


Community
Sold This Month
# for Sale
Evanston
1
7
Wilmette
1
8
Kenilworth
1
21
Winnetka
5
64
Northfield
0
9
Glencoe
2
22
Highland Park
1
18
Lake Forest
1
71
Lake Bluff
0
3

Looks like things are moving well in the North Shore real estate market.


Here's to a wonderful summer!
Source: MRED (Midwest Real Estate Data) Multiple Listing Service

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Green Tips - summer suggestions

As summer comes, here are a few tips from the EPA:

Lawn and Garden
A beautiful and healthy lawn is good for our environment. It can resist damage from weeds, disease, and insect pests.
Here are some tips to follow

  • Develop healthy soil. Make sure your soil has the right pH balance, key nutrients, and good texture. 
  • Choose the right grass for your climate. If your area gets very little rain, don't plant a type of grass that needs a lot of water. 
  • Longer is Better. Make sure the lawn mower blades are sharp. Grass that is slightly long makes a strong, healthy lawn with few pest problems. Weeds have a hard time taking root and growing when grass is around 2½ to 3½ inches for most types of grass.
  • Water Early. It is time to water if footprint impressions stay in the lawn and do not spring back. Water early in the morning and only for short periods for time so the soil may absorb the water. Longer grass has stronger roots and retains water better.
  • Use manual tools. Tools that don't require electric or gasoline engines are especially handy for small yards or small jobs. 

Using and Storing Gasoline
In the summer, lots of portable containers are used to store and transport fuels for lawnmowers, chainsaws and recreational vehicles. These portable containers can emit hydrocarbons; in addition, spills can leak into ground water. Here are some tips to follow to reduce these concerns:

  • Use Proper Containers - Use only containers approved by a nationally recognized testing lab, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL). 
  • Store Carefully - Store as little gasoline as possible and be certain to keep your gasoline container properly sealed. 
  • Avoid Spills - Avoid spilling gasoline on the ground, especially near wells. If a small spill occurs use kitty litter, sawdust or an absorbent towel to soak up the spill, then dispose of it properly.
  • Dispose Properly - Do not dispose of gasoline down the drain, into surface water, onto the ground, or in the trash. 

Have a great summer!



Monday, May 21, 2018

New Listing

Check out my new listing at 660 Morningside Drive, Lake Forest

click here

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Things

She tentatively let me into her home. While she had called me to come over, there was a fearfulness about letting a stranger into her space. I looked around – it was a lovely home. It really was. That said, it felt like it should be nestled in the Berkshires with other saltbox houses. It felt somehow out of place situated in a neighborhood of post-WWII colonials.

She had accumulated hundreds of things. They were everywhere: brass candlesticks; gorgeous earthenware; ceramic figurines, antique trivets, lovely watercolors, chairs and more chairs, quilts and woven cloths not to mention an attic full of dust-covered, unopened boxes.

She pronounced that she wanted to downsize to less than half of much space. She was considering continuing care facilities and was trying to figure out what to do before she moved. We talked about taking down wallpaper, updating fixtures, and all the other things sellers can do to prepare their house for the market.  


When I asked which things, she was going to bring with her, she became flustered and overwhelmed. I’m not sure she realized that things from a four-bedroom house rarely fit comfortably into a two-bedroom apartment. 

I had touched a nerve. As much as I tried to reassure her, I think she was genuinely surprised, that she was going to have to make choices. But how does one choose from a lifetime of accumulated items?   It was like her things were a part of her being and letting go of a chair would be like amputating an arm.

Sadly, in my work, I have seen many families fight over things as the house gets dismantled. It's almost as if, things are what binds them to the person who is gone -- or worse, the person made the possession of these things somehow equivalent to their love.

I had an epiphany about things, when my mother died.  


One moment she was with us – the next moment she was gone. In her wake were so many things. And not one of her things could even begin to fill the void created by her death.  Mother was such a loving, powerful presence in our lives, that her things seemed so insignificant and meaningless.  They were such a poor substitute for the loss in our lives. 

Mother wasn’t protective of her things. I can remember the casualness of how we might rummage in her bedroom dresser for a hair clip or piece of jewelry to wear.  She never complained or made an issue out of it.   She wasn’t much of a collector or even anywhere close to being a hoarder.   Sometimes she would generously gift an admired item to the admirer.  

But Mother was sentimental and had a great eye for beautiful things. She had carefully saved all the baby shoes and handmade dresses my grandmother had stitched for me as a child. Her jewelry box contained bracelets and charms with mysterious initials on them. We reached into the back of her closet and pulled out a shoebox wrapped in string. With some fearful hesitation, we opened the box and were shocked to find a porcelain doll, we’d never seen before. 

In a basement closet, stored carefully in hanging bags were four outfits: her going away suit
Mom in her Girl Scout uniform at 
annual Kenilworth Pancake Breakfast
from her wedding; the bright green dress she had worn at my brother’s wedding, the soft pink dress she had worn at my sister’s wedding and her Girl Scout uniform from when she led the village Girl Scouts. 


I wanted to ask Mom so many questions. Why this doll? Why these dresses? All the things that were left behind meant something to her – but she was gone and took with her the code of what they all meant. What memory or place or person was intertwined with that thing? Were we supposed to get rid of these things -- things she had felt were important enough to keep?


the basement
My basement is now filled with things.  It's ironic, when I moved into this house I vowed I would put nothing in the basement.  That vow lasted about ten years...

Then my sister asked if she could store some furniture in the basement.  And thus the creeping began.  With my parents passing, I became the storage locker for the family “things.” It all crept up on me until now my basement is filled with the old photo albums, historic family pictures and scrapbooks, boxes of Dad's treasured genealogy research, generations of Christmas decorations, reels of home movies, Great-Grandmother Mean’s butterchurn and Great-Grandfather Woodbury’s handmade furniture, Mother and Dad's Sheraton chairs... 


I know some of the code – but not all of it. I know enough, that I feel responsible. These things -- they meant something to someone at some moment in time. Am I going to be the one who drops the ball?

My nieces and nephews don’t want these things. They want to live in a sustainable manner. I laugh. Don't they realize that sustainability would be "shopping" in my basement? 


I want less and yet I find it hard to part with my own things… a little key chain reminds me of the friend that gave it to me; the pottery statue of the Lady of Bath reminds me of my exploring Rye, while living as an expat in the UK; every little trinket box in my box collection has a story or a place or a person or a time in my life … Even as write this, in front of me on my desk are four paperweights. I use none of them, but parting with even one of them is a painful thought. I know the moment. I know the people. I know the place. I know the code. 

We spend our youth in acquisition and then as we approach the last few chapters of our life,  we have to think about divestiture.   
How do we end up with so much stuff – so many things? 

It’s a question that I have been asking myself lately.  I have no good answers. 

I realize this is an existential crisis that many of us are facing right now.

Things.