Incorrect Steps

7 min readJun 8, 2024


As Grandma’s health failed, Dad said that he didn’t want to live in a house where someone had died. In some absurd belief, a “Victor” has been haunting the house since we moved in — this would mean Victor died here, no? Dad is playing to his own avoidant tactics of running away from the reality of Grandma having had passed here, however, so it has nothing to do with the general “someone died here,” and a lot more to do with “my mom died here.”

That was her choice, and we went for it.

There was some job searching and hopping involved since her passing before one finally fell into his lap. It doesn’t pay as much as he deserves, but it felt, briefly, like “the job.” And true, it is a fulltime thing with benefits. He thinks now that it is not going to last as he ‘sees the writing on the wall.’

Amidst all of this was this idea that we look for a new house. And with the job, we would look for one that was slightly closer than here. The search continued even beyond the point it ought to have.

It doesn’t make any sense to me.

Financially it doesn’t make sense. As I’ve illustrated previously, I am an utter failure of a human and wouldn’t be able to afford a nice tent to unhousedly camp in. I can’t do much here. But neither can he. The housing market is at a point where you cannot offer less than asking price and get a house — someone will offer more. In my creeping recently I discovered a whopping 60k sale price over asking (although mind this house is a price far beyond anything I could fathom). When we are budgeting so low to begin with, we don’t have that extra 15k (at minimum). It also doesn’t make longterm sense to buy a house in a cheaper area when the prices there are not likely to move like the prices here. It is not much an investment.

Selling this house as-is provides a greater problem when it comes to financials — certain aspects of this house would drive the price down so significantly that it’s not worth it. The price loss over the broken back deck would be more significant than putting in a new (better constructed) one. The price loss over the hole in the floor by the door — where the subflooring is gone entirely — would be significantly greater than the cost to fix it.

Most importantly, if this job isn’t going to last, then it’s financially absurd to sell this house and move to one closer to the job. It is also moving further out of range of other, plentiful jobs. For nothing.

The “this job isn’t going to last” line should have utterly and completely halted any continuation to look into moving or digging deeper into the process of what we ‘need’ to do.

We Need To…

“We need to clean the basement,” “We need to go through the towels,” “We need to clear up some space.”

They all mean the same thing: I need to.

And I need to do it in three weeks, because that’s when we’ll be ready to put this house on the market. Spoiler: we won’t be.

I need to clean the basement: I need to make it presentable, somehow, by making stuff disappear even though there’s no space for the stuff. If given free rein, I would definitely make a lot of things disappear, but they’re things that would simply go into the trash (or out at the curb for the folks that shop at curbmart). This would need to be agreed upon and accepted, and it won’t be. I’ve tried. Like the Beanie Babies I’d sell for a buck a pop, the ones I was blamed for for so long, the ones that have no value whatsoever. Somehow, I need to squish a folded up rocking chair into a tiny, nonexistent space. Somehow, I need to make it so that the giant dog tent down there looks presentable.

Somehow, I need to minimize myself into nonexistence.

I’ve dug through my things and have gone a handful of rounds of anxiously getting rid of stuff, to the extent that Dad once asked me if I was moving out. There still seems like a lot, but objectively it’s not any more than anyone else who has lived in this house has had. Not to mention, an additional comb through my things downstairs requires the basement to be cleaned… all of the things that need to get thrown out, specifically.

I need to go through the towels: we have four households worth of towels in this house. I went through the effort to wash all of them and somewhat organize them. The remainder is for a decision to be made on what is getting donated to a dog shelter, and what is in good condition and can be donated to a charity (a good one, don’t even start). If the decision was mine to make, it would be done. It is not mine to make. I washed the linens, tablecloths, everything, I would get rid of almost all of it. We have selected towels to keep, the rest can go immediately. So they occupy a space, making it more difficult for the basement to be cleaned.

I need to clear up some space: I have done the best I can, but with these other obstacles in the way there is not much I can do. Additional space would also be welcome so that I can stage items for a potential garage sale (which is something Dad is dragging his feet on because he does not want to do it). What is left are things he needs to get through and decide on.

I have been doing a substantial amount of work to clean three inhabitants and our long-dead relatives’ stuff out. I have reached a limit, and without executive decision-making, I can do no more.

The house is not ready for anyone to come and seriously look at it. Three weeks, impossible. Not without a sale, a dumpster, and a blanket “okay” to do anything and everything.


Moving beyond ambiguity in “cleaning,” there is this notion that people will come and look at the house. It needs to look nice, staged, and every bedroom is an utter disaster.

I live in my room. It is my work space, my sleeping space, my gaming space, my animal space. Dad’s room is his storage and clothing space — he doesn’t use it as a bedroom. Grandma’s room is also storage for the eight-hundred-thousand items of clothing she has, and now apparently some of Dad’s clothing as well. And he got on my case about using it to store boxes I was taking to a friend’s garage sale…boxes that I moved to her house…

The downstairs “bedroom” is storage for all sorts of things. To his credit, he did make it look somewhat nicer, but it ultimately is not ‘staged’ as it is just storage.

Which reminds me that I moved his LPs over into it and he more or less explicitly told me that I need to go through them, exclude the right ones (Beatles and ?), and try to sell the others. They are his, that is his job.

The rest of the downstairs is full of all manner of things. I have my stuff down there, in a corner, and the rest of it is full of other things. I pulled out all of his baseball cards so he could go through them at some random point in the future. Not in three weeks. Because his stuff isn’t the problem, see, it’s mine. It’s me, I am the problem. Although most of the space isn’t occupied by me, my stuff is the reason that none of this can work out.

There’s no feasible way to make this house look good without getting through the things that are there. I have done my part.

So I am anxious.

I find myself looking around my room wondering what else I don’t need. This skull with a skeleton popping out of it that I was going to repaint. Yes, he’d look marvelous, but I don’t see myself taking up this task anytime soon. I could just cover him in gesso and put him in the pile of additional things to bring to my friend’s house. Or I could throw him out. I could throw these dragons out. I could churn again, and again, and again, and find fewer items each time to toss. Put a dumpster under my window and make my life easier.

The incredible want to purge is overwhelming. Somehow this will solve things, because the problem is me. Consciously, I say it is not. Subconsciously, I believe it is.

I, too, find myself partaking in avoidant tactics. Anything to make the hurt, the anxiety, the panic, go away. Anything except deal with the issue, which includes a conversation we’re not ready to have. At least he isn’t, and I have no approach to take as the kindest words will still be met with an immense amount of pushback.

We are not ready to move. Not financially, not house-wise, not realistically in any sense. This notion of three weeks seems intensely harrowing. It is a deadline that cannot be reached.

All for what? To move into someplace with a lower value now and in the future, with money that isn’t guaranteed to exist for very long, to escape the semi-emptiness of the place.

I like it here. This town. A different house I could get behind, but I don’t want to move further south. Further away from my family, my best friend, I don’t want to end up moving so far away that I have to discontinue seeing my doctor. I’m sure he’ll retire sooner than I’d like, but I picked this unicorn out of a list and I don’t feel I have the luck to manage that again sooner than I want.

I hate the idea of being further away from a highway. It adds more than ten minutes to a drive to see my friend, or to get up north to see my family, and that’s already a drive I loathe the length of.

I hate feeling like I’m the problem, hate having been told it enough times to believe it, hate that I believe it so deeply that my thought is to purge my own things, when my own things are not the problem.

I’m not the problem.

And we are not ready to make any moves.




Someone told me I was a good writer. I'm not, so this is a blog. Tend to one’s own flame, and do not extinguish the flames of others.