Friday, April 4, 2008

2 December: The Great Giveaway Begins

It is difficult to believe that one week from today, our apartment will be virtually empty, and two weeks from today, we will be flying home to Michigan. I have moved several times in my life, but those transitions have typically involved packing up all of my worldly possessions and taking them along with me to a new and unfamiliar place. This time around is a strange reversal on the theme: we are giving up all of the belongings that have populated our home for more than two years, but are returning to our own home and well-known surroundings. I will be very sad to say goodbye to our bright, airy apartment in our quaint green house on Brucknerstraße. We might not have picked out the furniture ourselves, but the pieces have become part of the fabric of our lives, just as the whole house has become our home away from home. It is somewhat disconcerting to think that soon all of our possessions will be scattered across Stuttgart and beyond, in the homes of friends and strangers. I take some comfort in knowing that Beth will have our dining room set, Debbie will have our desk, Jane will have our plates, Jürgen will have my photographs of the Southwest, and all of our other things will be put to good use by people who want and need them. But that doesn’t make up for the strange sense of emptiness that I feel when I imagine saying goodbye to all of this and returning home to the mundane life of Michigan.

I’ve done everything in my power over the past couple of weeks to sell our remaining furniture. I created a website, gave a flyer to Shannon to post on base, put an announcement on the Stuttgart Newcomers e-mail list, and have been talking up our stuff with all of my friends. I’ve also been trying to sell some of the bigger items on German eBay, including the black leather chair and ottoman and two side tables in the living room, the bookcase in the office, our bed, wardrobe, and two dressers in the bedroom, the coat rack in the foyer, and the dining room rug. We are also trying to sell our voltage converter, which weighs half a ton. It cost around $250 but we have no interest (or need) in taking it back to the U.S. The only thing we used it for was to power our computer speakers, which weren’t dual-voltage, so we probably didn’t really need it in the first place. Beth helped me out with my first eBay listing, which was the black chair and ottoman, and we finally figured out how to specify “pick-up only.” I started the bidding on the chair at 200 Euro because we really wanted to get some money for it, but Beth encouraged me to start the other auctions at 1 Euro; otherwise she warned that my listings wouldn’t get any interest at all. I don’t know if this is the case on American eBay, but the German site is flooded with commercial outfits, so private sellers really get short shrift.

As of today, the auction results are pretty depressing. I sold the black chair and ottoman for my minimum bid of 200 Euro. They were purchased by an American woman whose husband works for Mercedes and has been taking German lessons from Stefanie. She came by a week or so ago to check out our things and expressed an interest in the chair, but only offered me 150 Euro for it. I told her I would put it on eBay and she was kind enough to bid on it. I’ve also sold the bookcase for 21 Euro, the dining room rug for 6 Euro (it originally cost 350 Euro), the upright dresser for 41 Euro, and the voltage converter for a whopping 4 Euro. There’s been no takers on the wardrobe or bed, which are the biggest items we need to get rid of! I know Shannon will buy the wardrobe for 65 Euro if no one bids on it, but her husband is going to be out of town so she would need a lot of help to get it dismantled and moved to her house.

Now I have to start scheduling pick-up times with everyone, which is proving to be a bit complicated. Some people just don’t seem to understand the concept of a set pick-up date – I indicated in each eBay listing that they could pick the items up between the 8th and 10th of December, but people have contacted me trying to pick things up earlier or later. Let’s just say I’m getting a lot of pratice writing e-mails in German!

Most of the people who bought items at our November sale will be coming next weekend, but Axelle, the French woman from the IWC who snatched up a lot of our freebie items, wanted to come today to take a few things because she has houseguests coming next weekend and she knew she wouldn’t be able to take everything in one trip. Her husband, a shy, balding Frenchman with a very small Citröen hatchback, showed up around 11 am and managed to load up his car with one of the dressers, two sets of bedding, the raclette machine, the bookcase from the living room, the storage unit from the foyer, a bread box, and the barbeque. Now our house is starting to look a little funny, with stacks of books and clothes lying around. The movers are coming on Friday, the 7th, to pack up everything that will be shipped back to the States, and then we will empty out the rest of the house next weekend.

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