The Problem of the Two Pianos

As many of you who have been reading my blogs regularly know, we flooded, and we are still sorting through things, all these months later. We have too much stuff, and so we have to go through stuff to see what stuff is worth keeping, what to give away, and what to discard. By the way, before you judge me for that preceding sentence, I can write decently if so inclined, and I know I am not supposed to use the same word (Stuff) over and over like that but I am trying to make a point that I am overrun with stuff.

(I have already admitted on the Huffington Post no less to an international audience, that I am in fact, a hoarder.)

If anything has ever come close to curing me of my passion for stuff, for collecting, for being a retailer’s dream and a bit of a shop-a-holic, it is having to sort through 30 years of it. It is having to look at a thing and decide, “Is this anything?” (An old Letterman skit that my husband and I loved once upon a time, so we use that riff a lot!)

It is having to pack it up, carefully, if fragile. It is having to justify every single thing that will remain. Sometimes as I go room through room, box through box, I fatigue and put too much stuff in the keep pile because the brain work required to figure out if it will be needed, useful, or too sentimental to toss, is far gone.

There is nothing that tells me I had too much stuff, with the exception of the collector’s toys that took up three large trunks, and with the exception of the four large cardboard boxes of shoes I gave away, than the current dilemma I am facing with having two pianos.

I now have to figure out what to do with them.

Is there another person on Earth who has not one, but two pianos, though they don’t play piano?

I have a baby grand, that is elegant, and beautiful and displays brilliantly with my living room furniture and art. (My former furniture that is, let’s see how the rebuilt items come out.) It is an old piano, bought used for a bargain, and played long enough until the soundboard cracked (probably during our last move many years ago.) It looks spiffy and not old or old-fashioned. We never repaired it because it was such a pretty piece of furniture and because, get this, we had ANOTHER piano on which to play.

The working piano, an upright black laminate, is a rich beautiful sounding piano. My husband can peck out tunes and I can play one-fingered, but the two piano players in the household, my two kids, are long gone.

The upright was tucked away and most people didn’t notice it. When we needed to play, that was the go-to instrument though. It’s nice having a working piano around for occasions.

So now, we are post flood and for some reason, old Nelly, the baby grand, skated through the water damage with nary a trace. It still doesn’t work, but looks great.

The upright, isn’t doing so well. We didn’t remove it during or after remediation and felt the dehumidifiers, fans and the like for weeks on end would save things from being ruined.


Water is a most destructive force. I could show photos of some of the havoc it has reeked with our home and our stuff, but that’s not what this is about.

My sturdy, pretty, black laminate Upright is peeling. Major peeling. The laminate has popped up and come off on several spots.

So, in other words, it is basically worthless to sell now that it would need major chunks of laminate sealed back on, and not so pretty to look at either. However, should I hire a piano tuner, I have no doubt that this machine will produce a high quality piano sound once again.

The baby grand is of course worthless, despite it’s elegant exterior, due to the broken soundboard. You can play it, but it sounds like those kiddy pianos we used to buy at Toys R Us before electronic keyboards came into vogue.

Last year during Chanukah, my son played Ma 0 Tzur, a traditional song to play after candles are lit on the baby grand, becuase we lit candles in the living room right near it. He does this as a matter of tradition – he was always called upon to do this during our many years of big Chanukah parties with friends and all their kids, and so now, he keeps this tradition going. And you know what? It was definitely identifiable on that piano, if not a pretty sound. Again, kind of like those kiddy keyboard toys, but with the correct tune.

So now we are downsizing and I am at a total loss on what to do. We can probably fit one of the two in our new home, but definitely not both.

Do I give up the pretty one for a peeled off laminate one that plays better? Or do I keep the pretty one and forget about having any kind of quality piano sound, which doesn’t matter much now that the kids are grown and gone? But will I regret that when the grandkids come along?

What to do?

As difficult as many of the decisions on “stuff” have been, this one is keeping me awake at night. Should I keep a playing piano that I will never invest in cosmetically fixing? Or keep the pretty one that looks so elegant in our home?

Weigh in, will ya? Thanks!



  • Hi – I saw your stories on Huffington, about wondering what to do with all the “stuff” – and how to decide what memories to keep.
    Some useful “hoarding” advice is to keep it virtually – especially scraps of paper,etc. Take a picture, let it go, and keep that as a JPEG on a thumb drive. You can even let the files play as a “slide show” – and you might even end up reliving those happy memories more often than you did when they were hidden away for years. If you can enlist a young relative to do this, they can hear the stories behind it, maybe even record that too.
    There have also been photo retouchers in past disasters (like Katrina and Fukushima), who have been willing to Photoshop a water-damaged family photo into an image that looks like it was taken yesterday.
    Good luck, and thank you for your posts. There is a high probability that many of us will face a fire/flood/windstorm etc at some point. Your stories really illuminate what actually matters during such an experience!

    • Thank you so much for reading it all and for writing. Thanks for your suggestions! I guess I was not emotionally ready to have to do all this choosing and sorting right now in my life, but no choice, so thanks again!

  • Hi Arlene,
    You know what I what do, but you didn’t ask for that! Ha ha ! If I were you, I would keep the baby grand. I’m a bit paranoid about mold and mildew. I’m afraid the damaged piano might carry nasty smells and would bring these smells and perhaps mold to your new house.
    The grandkids won’t notice that the sound isn’t quite right and if you end up having a real piano player in the future, then you can invest in getting it repaired/tuned.

    • Thanks Liz – I am going with the Baby Grand! got some clarity by writing about it and getting reponses. There is no mold or mildew left on anything, everything was thoroughly treated with Microban. It was from the humidity due to the water that was in the walls etc.

  • Everyone seems to think that if they get rid of something that they don’t use, something terrible will happen. I found the opposite is true. You’ll have more free open space, one less “thing” to fret over and you may even feel joy if you give it to a charity who may actually need one. Ultimately it is your decision which one you give up. Only keep what you really treasure. You will make the right decision. Good luck and good health .

  • We have two pianos as well, and rarely play either. Did you consider contacting a local theater? Maybe a piano could be used as a prop for an upcoming play

  • Arlene, I think you probably know (intellectually at least) what you should do: get rid of both pianos. But I know that this isn’t all about what you SHOULD do. The heart has its own reasons, and for hoarders (and I am one, and not a neat one, like you) there is a lot of anxiety also surrounding the decision to get rid of stuff.
    My advice is to go ahead and do it. There are electronic pianos that take up much less room. They aren’t beautiful, but they will produce sound when needed.

  • Keep the baby grand, but get it repaired so your kids and grandkids can play it! If its too expensive to repair, then get the upright repaired and get rid of the baby grand. No sense keeping something that doesn’t work. I did that with a very old upright radio that was a piece of furniture from my grandfather. Once it left the house, I haven’t missed it. Like someone passing away, I still have memories of the radio when I want to think about it!

  • How about donating both and buying a new one? Maybe one that plays on its own? When we walked into our house for the first time – it had already been vacated – except for the grand piano in the living room. I said to the real estate, agent does the piano come with the house? And she said yes (after some negotiation). So I know what you mean abt having one simply for the decor. The previous owner (who had passed away) used to play it and once in a while we all get the distinct feeling that she visits us to play it once again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *