In Context: Thoughts on Downsizing

November 21, 2022

Today you can click on the image and read what I was reading and someone else’s thoughts on downsizing.

My downsizing is ongoing. Often when we are involved in something we find other people who are involved in the same pursuit.

It doesn’t matter if it is eldercare, or downsizing, or painting a good watercolor graduated wash. It is good to learn of other perspectives and reframe our own. Nudges like this from the Universe help us remember that there are positive ways to look at even horrendous circumstances.

Reynolds Price’s book, “A Whole New Life,” provided me with a new perspective on my life when I read it in the 1990s during a difficult time. Here’s an interview Terry Gross made with Price in 1994.

Viktor Frankl’s book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” helped me during another difficult time when I was an undergraduate in university. (It is also an interesting book to reread as you age.)

Readers of my blog will know that I found Roz Chast’s book on her relationship with her aging parents a wonderful delight when I was in the midst of eldercare for Dick’s parents. (This link is to my blog post about eldercare in which I mention the book at the very end under “Recommended Reading.” You can find the book at your local bookseller. My copy is in some box, stacked in storage…

What’s Important About Downsizing?

Some people may tell you that by downsizing you’re making space for yourself in your life. (And other happy quips like that. Frankly I just want to slap those people. I love being surrounded by the thousands of books that shaped my mind!

So that brings us back to the following truth (which is not as difficult to cope with as the three books referred to above):

It is NEVER TOO EARLY to start downsizing.

It is going to take much longer than you think, even if your plans aren’t exploded by something like a pandemic.

If you have kids or relatives who might end up cleaning up after you die do not be so rude and unthinking as to leave it all for them to do.

Do it now.

It doesn’t get easier. The longer you let it go the more things can go wrong. (Like everything, even your valuable stuff you want Aunt Jane to have, ends up in a landfill!)

I have found that downsizing (coming so quickly after cataract surgery took away my “comfort blanket” of being able to draw myself out of any box), has been a time where I have had to look at my entire life and make decisions about who I am and what matters—not for some stupid online profile to explain myself to strangers; but so that I can update myself into someone I still recognize.

If you want to like that person you’re becoming, start downsizing!

    • Beverlee
    • November 21, 2022

    Thank you for this, Roz. Perfect timing and a perfect way to reframe. Also a perfect sketch with a perfectly dried out Tombow fude.

    1. Reply

      Beverlee, glad it came at a good time. Good luck with all your downsizing efforts. Pace yourself. And I’m glad you enjoyed that dried out pen sketch. I can’t help myself!

  1. Reply

    I started a major purge in 2020 and unloaded 8 black trash bags of just paper documents and items I had been hauling from home to home every time I’ve moved since I was in college. I also gave away clothes, some books, knicknacks, 3 full boxes of xeroxed journal articles from my graduate research, and there is STILL MORE. But it did feel good to do as much as I did. The attic is about 40% emptier. This is a good reminder to keep at it.

    1. Reply

      Congratulations on getting the process going. Now you can whittle down that 60%. I’m cheering you on!

    • Karen
    • November 21, 2022

    “…just want to slap those people” = priceless!

    1. Reply

      You know it’s true. And you know you want to too! I’ve seen that look on your face!

    • Paul
    • November 21, 2022

    After moving both our mothers to one room studio apartments, and having to empty and sell two family homes, I know only too well about downsizing!!! The experience has certainly given us reason for pause and think about what WE would actually take with us under similar circumstances. Thanks for the reminder to accelerate the purge of excess baggage accumulated over almost 7 decades!

    1. Reply

      When you talk about it as almost 7 decades that puts even a different slant on things. I’ve got 42 years and we’ve got 4 businesses, and now I’m thinking why isn’t there MORE STUFF!!!!!

      I carry on. Thank you for the pep talks!

    • Diane
    • November 22, 2022

    “If you want to like the person you’re becoming….” Wow! Yes.

    • Joanne Kalvaitis
    • November 22, 2022

    I’d like to suggest another thing many of us don’t think of—I have two adult children who will inherit equally. My daughter is my executor. I’ve left provision in my will for her to be paid a sum from the estate for the work she’ll have to do. I was my mothers executor and wasn’t paid and the work wasn’t recognized with a thank you from my siblings.

    1. Reply

      Joanne, I think that’s a great suggestion for people but not everyone leaves enough in their “estate” to follow through on this.

      Dick and I did everything for his folks without reimbursement (and using some of our own money as well as our own time). We were happy to do that because we loved them and were grateful to share their lives with them. However, they didn’t have an estate. The money they had was needed for their health care etc.

      In my case I have no idea how things will end up, but frankly, having had 2 businesses (graphic design and a teaching business) living in a house were Dick also had multiple businesses I don’t think there could be enough money to pay someone to work through all that would have been left if we were not doing the downsizing. Plus I hate the idea of putting that on someone.

      I really think it’s better to do it all oneself and let the young folks focus on their own lives and jobs. Even if one pays someone in their family as executor it means they will have to juggle that task as well as whatever paid job they already have, and whatever family issues they already have, and whatever health issues they have already.

      That’s a lot to put on someone. I’ve seen too many of my friends cleaning up after their parents or other relatives while working through chemo on their own and so on.

      Also it puts an emotional burden on someone.

      I say all this fully admitting that I took this on for my inlaws with wide open eyes and don’t regret it a moment, or bear them any ill will, but it cost me over 5 years of full productivity in my own life, and since that was five years when I still had good vision it is quite a loss as an artist in earnings and productivity.

      I am grateful I had the relationship with them that I don’t regret a second of doing that, but it comes at a real cost. And it did put additional strain on my marital relationship, just organizing everything; and it took focus away from my family and friends.

      Everything has a cost from a monetary, employment/career, health, family, life plan, whatever aspect.

      I really encourage everyone to clean this stuff up themselves and not leave it to their children.

      Right now you could be meeting with your daughter, having her fill out a time sheet, and boxing the stuff and letting her disperse the stuff, and she could be paid based on the hours she put in if that’s what you agreed, but you’d still be there to help her make any tough decisions. That seems kinder to me from the other side of the equation.

      And more fun, a sort of additional bonding situation, and a sort of “This is Your Life” moment if you want to make it into that and if she and you are on the same family history vibe.

      I wish you both the best of luck.

    • Alison Ogle
    • November 23, 2022

    This is a fantastic drawing Roz! Thanks for posting – I always take away something special from your generous sharing of your journals, and I don’t say thank you enough. Thank you x

    1. Reply

      Thank you for stopping by and letting me know you enjoyed this sketch! I appreciate it.

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