Thursday, March 1, 2012

Step 4 - Pull Out the Valuables

Circumstances may allow others to skip this next step, but every run-down home I’ve ever taken on came with more than its share of left behind belongings inside.  It’s been the rule rather than the exception to find clothes in the closets and dishes in the cabinets.  After you get the keys and make the home secure (see Step 3 - Batten Down the Hatches) you need to get to the job of emptying it out so you can get sharper on your plan for resurrecting it.  At this point you'll need a dumpster or some other way of hauling trash off site.  You don't want to keep moving and dealing with unusable junk.  And things that stink, are rotten, or are seriously revolting need the be out of the house as soon as you find them (see It's An Adventure).  As a rule, I always give the contents within the house a personal review myself before I let any contractors in to begin the demolition or start their part of the job because I simply don't want everything to be thrown out.  The things I save from the dumpster fall into one of two categories:  sellables and useables

Sellables are: antiques, collectibles, dishes and crystal, coins, old books, sports memorabilia, and anything else that people would like to buy if they knew you had it.  Sometimes I turn these treasures into cash, but I have saved some interesting knickknacks, special books, and a few sports collectibles over the years and I always pocket any marbles I find (on last count my cache came to 486).  One of my favorite salvaged items is an old glass milk bottle.  I grew up just as the milkman was becoming a thing of the past in our Midwestern town, but I still remember Mom retrieving the family delivery out of the metal box on the front porch.  Not only can I tell the kids about this archaic fact from my childhood (along with a world without child car-seats or bike helmets and only three channels on the TV), but I can show them an example of how the milk used to be delivered for my cereal.  What makes my quart container even more special is that it still bares the label of the dairy which was located in the same town where my wife was born.   

The usables are; tools, pieces of hardware, any type of building material and anything else that I think has a chance of falling into this category and to serve some purpose during the project.  Think along the lines of Tom Hanks in Cast Away or MacGyver.  You may not be on a deserted island or moments from being blown to smithereens, but using what you have is better than running off to the store to replace something you threw away a few days before.  Do you remember how Hanks kept those ice skates in Cast Away?  He knew he wasn't going to be lacing them up and doing figure 8's at an ice rink on the other side of the island.  However, he ended up using them to open coconuts and one of them helped him pop out that abscessed tooth right before the second half of the movie. It's simple practicality to keep the usables.  

Gas is too expensive and take it from me, your time and money will be better spent if you make the most of anything valuable left behind.  If you find yourself moving something multiple times during the renovation, then you can take that as a sign that you probably aren’t going to need it.  That’s the time to throw it away.  However, moving something four or five times may still be more effective than driving to the store to replace a usable that you easily tossed away earlier in the project.



  1. When I tore down that shack there were so many things I wanted to save but couldn't feasibly move on my own. But I saved a bunch of furniture and knick knacks. I like that stuff - it makes me feel connected to the people who lived there in the past.

  2. What are some of your favorite finds, Katy?

  3. we found a zillion razorblades in an in-the-wall-depository in our first house (not for keeps, though!) and an awesome ancient coke bottle in the wall of our 4th house that i'll have forever. luckily, no carcasses so far!

    oh, and no copies of the constitution worth zillions, either.

  4. Yes! We had one of those 'depositories' at The Cottage. There was a little slot in the back of the medicine cabinet just for blades and a pile at the bottle of the wall cavity. Crazy!

    Keeping some things, like your Coke bottle, is like a souvenir. These unique finds are part of the fun for people like us.