Happy Valentine’s Day!
This week’s topic is one I suggested: If you had to get rid of most of your belongings in order to move into a smaller place, what are the things you would not be able to part with?
Almost six months ago, my husband and I sold the house we’d lived in for 30 years and moved to a condo. The move was necessary and probably a bit overdue. Knowing that any place we settled on would be smaller than our house, I started downsizing several months before we even began our search. I’d accumulated massive amounts of craft and sewing supplies, and as self-appointed family historian (translation: the one family member who doesn’t want to throw away letters and old photos) I had lots and lots of STUFF. The square footage in our new place meant that I had to get rid of everything that wasn’t on the main floor of the house. I sold and gave away everything I could, and when I simply ran out of time, I put a lot of things into a storage unit.
Once we took possession of this condo, I had to find places to put all the stuff I hadn’t parted with. I managed to empty the storage unit, but there are little corners of the condo that are still crowded and unorganized. My engineer brother is constantly bugging me about the need to clear things out. Unfortunately, there’s still a lot, and I have a long way to go.
I’ve mentioned before that moving my Mom out of her house and into an independent living senior facility was quite traumatic for all of us. There were so many things that Mom didn’t feel she could part with, and even now, after five years there are times when she’ll ask, “What happened to my (insert random cooking utensil, knick-knack, or item of clothing)?” And then she’ll be angry because we forced her to part with something that was near and dear to her – even though she hadn’t thought about it for many years. Anyway, I vowed to not do that to my children. So I’ve been continuing to purge, and not purchasing things I don’t need. Whenever I buy something that’s not consumable I make sure I get rid of at least one item to make room for it. But I know I’ll have to do more, because eventually someone will have to figure out what to do with all the stuff I still have, and it might as well be me.
So, if I need to downsize again, here are my must-haves, in descending order of importance:
1. Basic needs: a roof over my head, heat in the wintertime, clothing appropriate for the weather and the places I go, nutritious food in the fridge.
2. My electronics: my laptop, of course, and then my phone, my ipad, and my watch.
3. My photo albums. If I can’t have my people and my stuff, I want to have pictures of the times when I had them. I suppose that if I had to get rid of the albums, I COULD scan everything and put them into digital albums, (another reason why electronics are high on my list), but given a choice, I’d prefer to have the regular albums, despite their bulkiness.
4. One comfortable chair, one work chair and a table.
5. My instruments, if I’m still able to play.
6. A way to get to where I need to go (meaning I either need to have a car, have access to public transportation, or live in a place where everything is within walking distance).
I think I could be content with these. If I’m not able to go anywhere, I’d have to live vicariously, by watching other people and reading about them. The electronics would ensure I could do that, as well as allow me to communicate with others who aren’t with me.
As super organized as you are — and I’m being quite sincerely, at least as your organization is Far FAR superior to my own — I don’t doubt that given time and a bit of assistance you could’ve dealt with that extra “corner” of stuff in the condo… and could’ve even allayed the need for that storage unit.
That said, this is a somber topic for me, also, as I’ve been dealing with my own mother’s lifetime of belongings… since we had to downsize her belongings when she went into the nursing home nd we weren’t allowed (by medicaid) to keep her rental cottage with most of her stuff.
I don’t know what I’ll write about on Hound Day, but — as I’ve said many times before — I could take many paragraphs of your well-reasoned analysis and simply glue my own name to it.
Jeff, you are too kind. I’ve resigned myself to being able to either organize MY stuff or my Mom’s stuff, and I’m pretty sure my stuff will come first. I’m just hanging on to mom’s stuff for now.
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My list looks similar to yours. We’ve gone through the process three times, and each felt as if we were downsizing into a smaller space shuttle—a place for everything and everything in a place. Downsizing coupled with decluttering—highly recommended for those still sitting on the decision fence. The benefits far outweigh the potential regrets, and it’s amazing how little we need versus want.
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THREE times??!!! Oh my, I can’t imagine that. Yes, I’m convinced of the benefits, although some of the stuff I have is pretty cool – like my Japanese dolls and artifacts. I’m hoping a museum or something will want some of those. Thanks so much for weighing in!
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You did the best you could with your mom. I think it is particularly hard on some immigrants who had to leave things behind and also gather new things in a new land, to part with what they gathered.
You are a good daughter, and a good mom.
Thanks, Tonette. I imagine it was very difficult for mom, particularly because of her experience through WWII, when things were dire. In her mind, once something is gone, no matter how small, it’s irreplaceable.
It’s time for us to make a move too, but the idea of going through the house and throwing things out is one reason we’re hesitating. We have a lot of stuff.
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It certainly isn’t pleasant! Sort of like pulling out a loose tooth – not pleasant, but it has to be done. And if you don’t, your kids will be stuck with it.
You are so organized. I think downsizing when other people are involved or helping them to downsize would be difficult. So many people have emotional attachments to different things. I especially think it is difficult for those from older generations who perhaps did not have as much while growing up or had to work hard to get what they have. I know there are some who have grown up during the Great Depression and they held onto their possessions dearly because they remembered a time when they had gone without.
All of the things on your list are great things. How many instruments do you play? I don’t think I have ever asked.
When I went to college to learn to become a band director, I had to learn to play all the instruments so that I could teach them. Plus I had to learn basic piano skills. I play oboe and English horn on a regular basis. I play clarinet occasionally. I have a saxophone, trumpet, and flute that I don’t use much. I’ve also got several recorders and my grandfather’s shakuhachi. My daughter took the piano when we moved.
When we moved 8 year ago, we downsized and had to go through what you did. Prior to that we had to clean out 2 condos (Hubs’ mom’s and aunt’s). Everything we didn’t know what to do with went into our (former) house. Had a garage sale, which got rid of many things. Family heirlooms were the hardest to deal with. They had to be saved. Daughter took one look at our very full dining room and garage and said, “please don’t do that to me.” At that time, she would’ve been the one to deal with everything if we were gone. Now, son lives close, too, so it will be a joint endeavor.
So, when we moved, I kept that in mind. Books were the first thing to go. Weight was a big issue as we had to pay movers by the pound. Books went to our local library. I have my books on my iPad. With grandchildren, I have a place for many family keepsakes. Hubs has to think about his “stuff”–tools, HO train stuff, electronics, etc. Furniture went next. Still, have some that can go. DIL helped me sell some furniture on FaceBook Marketplace. It’s a big process and an ongoing one. I still have things to get rid of. I understand where you’re coming from, Patty. Good luck!
Thank you, Diane! Yes, our kids have made noises about not wanting to go through the process again. It’s definitely an ongoing process! Thanks for weighing in.