Sunday, October 21, 2018

378. How to Get Rid of Stuff

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                 How to Get Rid of Stuff

Since my partner Bob’s death two months ago, as his executor I’ve had the problem of getting rid of huge amounts of stuff that I don’t want – stuff that clutters up my living room and reminds me of his slow decline from Parkinson’s.  Once cozy and welcoming, for years the living room has been a dying room, part hospital room and part medical supplies warehouse.  I want to liberate it, to make it livable again.  The hospital bed was gone, reclaimed by the supplier, but a wheelchair and walker remained, and a whole row of big cartons crammed with unused medical supplies.  What to do?  All kinds of people have wanted to help.  For instance:

·      The head of acquisitions at Delgatto, the country’s leading jewelry buyer from the public, offers sincerest condolences for the passing of Robert E. Lagerstrom, wishes me peace during this difficult time,  offers a free evaluation of jewelry, diamonds, and watches, and includes an elegant brochure.
·      Sotheby’s is sorry for my loss, and a senior global real estate advisor associated with them offers to sell the estate with patience, compassion, and trust.
·      A licensed associate real estate broker with The Corcoran Group knows that families can be overwhelmed by the probate process and offers to help.
·      The principal broker of the Stephen P. Wald Real Estate Associates wants to help remove personal property and furniture and prepare my properties for sale.
·      The Ragazzi Gallery offers to appraise my property for estate liquidation.
·      Connors & Sullivan, attorneys at law, want to preserve my assets and protect my family.

         While only the name of Sotheby’s is known to me, I am touched by the concern of these strangers, so eager to help, but to date I have no need of their services.  This will especially disappoint Mr. Connors of the last-named firm, who in a full-face photo, fingers clasped, flashes a fiendish smile, as if gloating over the fees for services about to flow his way.  (No offense intended to Mr. Connors; I’m sure he knows his stuff.)

         But for me, these dear folks aren’t the answer.  Thanks to a recommendation from the lawyer who did my will, I am already getting help, and in the process have learned of an occupation hitherto unknown to me.  Have you ever heard of a senior move manager?  Neither had I, until recently.  And what does such a manager offer?  All kinds of services:

·      An overall plan for clearing things out.
·      Organizing and sorting possessions, and help in deciding what to give away, sell, or discard.
·      Arranging to move anything you want to keep.
·      Arranging for sale, donation, or disposal of items to be discarded.
·      Completely emptying your apartment.
·      Hiring a contractor and overseeing painting and other work to make your home ready for sale.

         Of all these services, I only needed arranging items for sale, donation, or disposal.  And what were those items?  First, that long row of cartons at one end of the living room, containing diapers, pads, examination gloves, wash cloths, and a heap of male external catheters – in other words, condoms – the uses of all of which, when not obvious, I prefer not to explain.  Plus the wheelchair with one broken brake.  Plus the collapsible walker.  Plus another carton containing a jumble of sterile pads and dressings, bottles of saline solution (a potent disinfectant), and other items whose use I could not imagine.  Plus, in a big closet in the bedroom, tons of clothing, none of which fitted me or suited my fussy tastes.
         To remove all this stuff and have other items appraised, I had to sign a contract and agree to pay a substantial fee.  That done, the outfit’s head and an assistant came, looked over the clothes, and took photos of leftover medical supplies, Bob’s Coney Island files, and his jewelry.  Then, about a week later, they gave me the immediate results of their investigation:

·      Housing Works on West 10th Street, but a short distance from my building, would take the clothes, two trips by taxi anticipated.
·      The AFYA Foundation, which has a drop-off site on East 17th Street, will take the medical supplies, including the wheelchair and walker.  They supply such stuff to people in need all over the world.  Two trips by taxi anticipated.
·      A dealer in the Diamond District will look at the jewelry, but I must accompany them there.
·      Alas, Bob’s Coney Island memorabilia don’t interest any of their dealers, nor do the three small Wedgwood items that I had discovered and informed them of by e-mail.

         I opted not to go with them to the jewelry dealer, but, being greedy for space, anticipated with joy the removal of the medical supplies and clothing, which would require only one visit by them.  It was not the memory of Bob that I was escaping, but the memory of Parkinson’s, that slow, insidious affliction.  So we scheduled the visit.

         Last Tuesday she came, the same young assistant who had come before.  (I’ll call her Verna, though that’s not her real name.)  Brimming with energy, Verna immediately started consolidating the medical supplies in cartons, emptying some cartons by adding their contents to another.  Since it was clear that I could help best by getting out of the way, I repaired to the bedroom, where I had piled Bob’s clothing in heaps on the bed, and started removing the hangars. 
         A series of weird shrieks then came in rapid succession from the living room, too rhythmic and repetitious to make me suspect foul play.    Curious, I finally looked in.  Verna was yanking off stretches of tape from a dispenser and taping the cartons shut.  Before my eyes the long row of cartons was shrinking down to half as many.  I could at last imagine that whole end of the living room purged of these leftover supplies, many of them grim reminders of Bob’s long decline and my feeble attempts to help.  Down the four flights Verna went with the cartons, following which she returned, collapsed the wheelchair to half its size, and took it down as well.  I had thought that just getting the wheelchair down would be an epic struggle, an ordeal, but she toted it down in no time.  Promising to return in an hour, she then summoned Uber and whisked everything away to the drop-off site.  Good-bye Parkinson’s, good-bye the stomach-twisting knots of hope and grief. 

         I swept up after her, put the emptied cartons together to create a surface where surplus bedding could be placed, stacked the bedding there, and gloried in the liberation of the living room, and in my own liberation as well.  Having long been a hospital room and medical supply warehouse, the room was now beginning to look again like a living room.

         An hour later Verna was back, having delivered the stuff with only one trip.  It was almost noon, and I was about to have lunch. 
         “Don’t you get a lunch break?” I asked.
         “No,” she said.  “I just snack along the way.”
         So while I started lunch, this young dynamo began inventorying the clothes I had laid out on the bed in the bedroom.
         By now I was getting curious about this young woman’s profession.  “What is the name for your occupation?” I asked.
         “Senior move manager,” she replied, while sorting out the clothes.
         “Have you been at it very long?”
         “About two and a half years.”
         “And how did you ever get such a job?”
         “Katie, my boss, put an ad in an artists’ website.  She figured that the odd hours would appeal to artists.  And they do.”
         “You’re an artist?”
         “Yes I am.”
         “What kind of art do you do?”
         “Right now, mostly collages.”
         I gave her my card, telling her that I might mention her in a post for my blog.  Then, at my request, Verna agreed to add my name to her mailing list, so I would learn of any exhibition she was in.  Her strange profession struck me as very New York, since young artists, actors, and dancers have always flocked here to launch their careers, and for a little income usually work as waiters in restaurants.  An alternative, I now learned, is a job as a senior move manager.  Her colleagues include several young artists and dancers, likewise attracted by the odd hours, as opposed to a standard 9 to 5 job.
         “By the way,” she said, “have you checked the pockets of the clothes?”
         “No,” I confessed, wary of dirty handkerchiefs and who knows what else.
         She proceeded to do so, and soon gave me a small bag heavy with coins, since Bob never bothered to make change.  And so, having just gotten rid of a stash of change I had found in his bureau drawer, I was loaded down with more.  It will take me weeks to get rid of it, a little here and a little there.

         Soon this marvel left, having loaded all the clothes into three big plastic bags.  Instead of summoning Uber again, she said she’d probably just tote the stuff to Housing Works on foot – further proof of her remarkable energy.  And she was knowledgeable as well: inventories of the medical supplies and clothing donations would be mailed me, so I could take their value off my taxable income – an advantage that I hadn’t even thought of, being focused on getting the stuff out of the apartment.  I was almost sorry to see her go.

         Two days later the inventories came by mail.  The medical supplies highlights:

·      For the wheelchair with one faulty brake: a mere $25.
·      For the walker: $15.
·      For 1 pair of cushioned foot booties (I hadn’t even known the name for them!): $10.
·      9 boxes of synthetic examination gloves, 7 unopened and 2 opened: a surprising $80.
·      For a box of Freedom Coloplast male catheters (those things again!) totaling about 100 in number, an amazing $100.

Good riddance to all.  The fair market value for these and other items: $345.

         And the fair market value for my clothing donations to Housing Works?  Here are some items:

·      2 sweaters: $10.
·      3 neckties (carefully packaged by me): $9.
·      1 earmuffs (tossed in by me, not sure they counted as clothing): $3, or $1.50 per ear.
·      1 wool overcoat (too big for me): $25.
·      4 button-down shirts (I don’t like button-downs): $40.
·      8 coats/jackets: $80.

Total value: $199.

         $345 + $199 = $544.  The Housing Works statement assured me that my donations would give a second chance to New Yorkers in need, and the AFYA Foundation promised to donate the medical supplies to people in need all over the world.  Reflecting on this, I got a do-gooder’s warm, fuzzy feeling inside and basked in the glow of my generosity.  Plus $544 in income tax deductions!  IRS, this year I dread thee not.

         So if you have tons of stuff to get rid of, consider senior move managers.  God bless them.  Like estate liquidators, crematorium managers, and forensic pathologists (see posts #300 and #301), they perform a useful and necessary task.  It cost me only $326.58, and was worth every penny of it.  My living room is mine again at last.

Coming soon:
  The Sensual: What Is It?


All books are available online as indicated, or from the author.

1.  No Place for Normal: New York / Stories from the Most Exciting City in the World (Mill City Press, 2015).  Winner of the Tenth Annual National Indie Excellence Award for Regional Non-Fiction; first place in the Travel category of the 2015-2016 Reader Views Literary Awards; and Honorable Mention in the Culture category of the Eric Hoffer Book Awards for 2016.  All about anything and everything New York: alcoholics, abortionists, greenmarkets, Occupy Wall Street, the Gay Pride Parade, my mugging in Central Park, peyote visions, and an artist who made art of a blackened human toe.  

If you love the city (or hate it), this may be the book for you.  An award winner, it sold well at BookCon 2017 and 2018, and at the Brooklyn Book Festival 2018.


"If you want wonderful inside tales about New York, this is the book for you.  Cliff Browder has a way with his writing that makes the city I lived in for 40 plus years come alive in a new and delightful way. A refreshing view on NYC that will not disappoint."  Five-star Amazon customer review by Bill L.

"To read No Place for Normal: New York is to enter into Cliff Browder’s rich and engaging sixty years of adult life in New York. Yes, he delves back before his time – from the city’s origins to the 19th Century that Ms. Trollope and Mr. Dickens encounter to robber barons and slums that marked highs and lows of the earlier Twentieth Century. But Browder has lived such an engaged and curious life that he can’t help but cross paths with every layer and period of society. There is something Whitmanesque in his outlook."  Five-star Amazon customer review by Michael P. Hartnett.

Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

2.  Bill Hope: His Story (Anaphora Literary Press, 2017), the second novel in the Metropolis series.  New York City, 1870s: From his cell in the gloomy prison known as the Tombs, young Bill Hope spills out in a torrent of words the story of his career as a pickpocket and shoplifter; his brutal treatment at Sing Sing and escape from another prison in a coffin; his forays into brownstones and polite society; and his sojourn among the “loonies” in a madhouse, from which he emerges to face betrayal and death threats, and possible involvement in a murder.  Driving him throughout is a fierce desire for better, a persistent and undying hope.

For readers who like historical fiction and a fast-moving story.


"A real yarn of a story about a lovable pickpocket who gets into trouble and has a great adventure.  A must read."  Five-star Amazon customer review by nicole w brown.

"This was a fun book.  The main character seemed like a cross between Huck Finn and a Charles Dickens character.  I would recommend this."  Four-star LibraryThing review by stephvin.

Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

3.  Dark Knowledge (Anaphora Literary Press, 2018), the third novel in the Metropolis series.  Adult and young adult.  A fast-moving historical novel about New York City and the slave trade, with the sights and sounds and smells of the waterfront. 

New York City, late 1860s.  When young Chris Harmony learns that members of his family may have been involved in the illegal pre-Civil War slave trade, he is appalled.  Determined to learn the truth, he begins an investigation that takes him into a dingy waterfront saloon, musty old maritime records that yield startling secrets, and elegant brownstone parlors that may have been furnished by the trade.  Since those once involved dread exposure, he meets denials and evasions, then threats, and a key witness is murdered.  What price must Chris pay to learn the painful truth and proclaim it?


"A lively and entertaining tale.  The writing styles, plot, pace and character development were excellent."  Four-star LibraryThing early review by BridgitDavis.

"At first the plot ... seemed a bit contrived, but I was soon swept up in the tale."  Four-star LibraryThing early review by snash.

"I am glad that I have read this book as it goes into great detail and the presentation is amazing.  The Author obviously knows his stuff."  Four-star LibraryThing early review by Moiser20.

Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

4.  The Pleasuring of Men (Gival Press, 2011), the first novel in the Metropolis series, tells the story of a respectably raised young man who chooses to become a male prostitute in late 1860s New York and falls in love with his most difficult client.

What was the gay scene like in nineteenth-century New York?   Gay romance, but women have read it and reviewed it.  (The cover illustration doesn't hurt.)


"At times amusing, gritty, heartfelt and a little sexy -- this would make a great summer read."  Four-star Amazon customer review by BobW.

"Really more of a fantasy of a 19th century gay life than any kind of historical representation of the same."  Three-star Goodreads review by Rachel.

"The detail Browder brings to this glimpse into history is only equaled by his writing of credible and interesting characters.  Highly recommended."  Five-star Goodreads review by Nan Hawthorne.

Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

5.  Fascinating New Yorkers: Power Freaks, Mobsters, liberated Women, Creators, Queers and Crazies (Black Rose Writing, 2018).  A collection of posts from this blog.  Short biographical sketches of people, some remembered and some forgotten, who lived or died in New York.  All kinds of wild stuff, plus some stuff that isn't quite wild but fascinating.  New York is a mecca for hustlers of every kind, some likable and some horrible, but they are never boring.

Fascinating NYers eimage.jpg


"Fascinating New Yorkers by Clifford Browder was like sitting down with a dear friend and catching up on the latest gossip and stories. Written with a flair to keep the reader turning the pages, I couldn't stop reading it and thinking about the subjects of each New Yorker. I love NYC and this book just added to the list of reasons why, a must read for those who love NYC and the people who have lived there." Five-star NetGalley review by Patty Ramirez, librarian.

"Unputdownable."  Five-star review by Dipali Sen, retired librarian.

"I felt like I was gossiping with a friend when reading this, as the author wrote about New Yorkers who are unique in one way or another. I am hoping for another book featuring more New Yorkers, as I couldn't put this down and read it in one sitting!" Five-star NetGalley review by Cristie Underwood. 

©   2018   Clifford Browder   

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