At our house recently, “downsizing” has become a dirty word.
I am not referring to the corporate kind of downsizing, but the kind when you decide to eliminate a number of belongings from your place of residence.
It may be you are selling your home because it has become too much to handle. Perhaps, you need to make space because you and your lover have decided at last to move in together.
Let’s face it, everyone hates to move, but for seniors making a final transition, it can be overwhelming. They may have revised their ‘last will and testament’ once again but it doesn’t address the stuff they need to part with now.
They may feel uncomfortable about donating to charity because half the family shops in second-hand stores anyway.
Finding the right person to help sort their treasured belongings is not easy. The candidate should be sensitive in determining what is “just junk” and what isn’t. He or she must possess superior problem solving skills when faced with objects that appear far too large to fit through a door.
The candidate must not suffer from vertigo when standing on a footstool or at the top of a steep staircase without handrails.
It can begin quite innocently. Usually, the “more responsible” family member is contacted by a senior family member, who informs you, he or she is in the process of “cleaning out” an area of their home and they’ve “found some things” you may be interested in. They will ask if you have time to come over, perhaps entice you with a drink, lunch or dinner. You may accept and hear yourself saying, “Yes, I will bring two dozen, sturdy boxes” and “Yes, I’ll bring the truck.”
You have arrived at the home in transition and upon entering you notice more boxes with stuff already in them. Now, a red flag should go up in your mind, but it does not.
Your favorite type of sustenance has lulled you into a satisfied stupor, so you agree it is time to sort through the hundred or so hard-cover books and the numerous fragile photo albums stuffed with sepia and black and white photos.
You notice the photos have fallen out of the little triangles and, when you start checking their backsides, they are void of any reference to who, what, where and when. You can’t determine which side of the family you are looking at; all are dressed in the same colonial clothing, with facial expressions that suggest they may faint, if the photographer does not take the photo soon.
The containers with slides your family member forgot to mention are already boxed in the vestibule, all 3600 of them, rescued from the “closet of doom”! You make a mental note; you must find a slide projector.
Suddenly, you have run out of time and decide it is more efficient to take everything home and sort it at your “leisure”. You lug the boxes into your truck, careful not to pull a muscle or trip over the family pet or slip on the ice covered steps.
It all seems manageable, until you are almost home and realize you also took the cat, along with grandmother’s stamp collection, aunt Clara’s wicker chair and the eight-foot wall-hanging from Peru.
You wonder how this all happened as you drive around the block six times, trying to formulate a plausible explanation for bringing a cat into the house. You begin to make a speech – aloud, imagining your significant other as the audience.
“Be glad she is not a hoarder,” you say, as you hand the traumatized cat to your partner, who begins to sneeze and cannot seem to stop.
“No good deed goes unpunished.” Before you know it, you are tabulating expenses the cat will generate (because he suffers from ‘feline aids syndrome’).
Complications arise when you receive a reply from a family member you emailed earlier, informing her of finding intimate letters between the pages of Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence.
You think – I put those novels aside on purpose, because I did not want them. How did they slip back in the box? The far-away family member tells you the novels you took, were promised to her. Because of guilt, you do not ask her to repay the $200 it will cost you to ship them.
Yes, we cringe every time we hear the word “downsize.”
The fifth time we inherited another pile of belongings, causing hundreds of man-hours of sorting, compiling, fixing, arranging and storing, we concluded we wanted to be paid for our efforts – set up our own ‘Downsizing’ Agency – name it “Pack and Unpack Ltd.”
The company would “throw a party” at the family member’s home and invite as many friends and family members as possible. The company would provide plenty of alcoholic beverages along with pen and paper; participants would list the things they desire as they stroll throughout the house, listening to Vivaldi or Willie Nelson.
Whilst nibbling on catered canapés, the host announces a contest; the first person to fill their containers and load them into their car wins a free spa day. The evening concludes with coffee fuelled, sober company drivers chauffeuring all participants safely to their homes.
“Seriously?” you say. No, actually, the purpose of this conversation is to suggest you do not have to suffer the emotional and exhausting job of downsizing if you do not want to. Some people actually enjoy the entire process and they are good at it – that is the point.
Bringing in a professional to help someone with the task of downsizing is a real option. A senior’s transition company can indeed take care of all your needs: packing, moving, staging, even getting the home ready for sale if necessary.
Just tell them, “Downsize this!” Be sure to inquire at your local government seniors’ bureau, for approved companies.