Musical Chairs

Photo by Federica Campanaro / Unsplash

When the last person living in the family home dies, there is the practical matter of what to do with all of the furnishings and other belongings. If their surviving children and grandchildren already have complete households and Goodwill isn’t accepting furniture donations due to the pandemic, where does it all go? Sure, Craigslist might be an option. is another. Local thrift stores that benefit nonprofits would be my first choice for donation but when it comes to furniture or other large items, they have become very selective. Here’s one example.

Many years ago, I was given a big, bulky, dark pine hutch (vintage 1970s) that my parents no longer wanted when they downsized to a smaller one. It served its purpose over the years for me, especially since my kitchen doesn’t have much storage space.

Later, in his retirement, my father designed and built a hutch from scratch, stained it a warm pecan color and added bronze hardware, even including a plate rail. Simple and beautiful, this one replaced the smaller pine hutch in their dining room.

After my father passed away it was agreed between my brothers and I, that I would take the hutch that Dad built. First, my husband and I would need to get our old behemoth out of the house and on its way. Easier said than done, even though we have a utility trailer to haul it with. Thrift stores now want you to send them a photo of a piece of furniture you’d like to donate so they can decide whether they’ll take it. One thrift store in Santa Rosa doesn’t even want a photo. Their sign out front boldly states, “No Outdated Furniture.”

We were also told by the Recycle and Reuse facility at our local refuse site that they, too, want to pre-approve an item before accepting it. The man there added, “and if we don’t want it, the dump is right here so you can still get rid of it.” Geez, thanks. The old hutch was definitely outdated, but still in great shape—too nice to be tossed.

I’m happy to say it finally found a temporary home at ReStore, the resale shop that benefits Habitat for Humanity.

And so this process goes along for us like I imagine it does in other families. The trappings of a long life are dismantled and redistributed. What isn’t treasured and can’t be assimilated is sold or donated. There have been some moments when it feels a bit like musical chairs. Without the music and the giggles.

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