A Story from our e-Book Winner

Thank you to Fran Rupley for sending in a heartwarming story about her bedroom set and the memories it brings up for her. Fran is the winner of our e-book giveaway!

Here’s Fran’s story.

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“It was 1960; I was 16 years old and had my own bedroom for the first time, instead of sharing with my sister. The whole family went to a local auction where I spent my own $125 to buy a used bedroom set, $5 for an old rocking chair, and $5 for a box of old books, which to my surprise contained a hand-written diary of a teen girl from 1916!

I am now looking here for inspiration on downsizing, especially after last year’s experience downsizing my 90-year-old mother from a 3-bedroom home to a small supervised senior apartment. An estate sale brought pennies on the dollar cost of her excess possessions, and the sales agents kept half. Many unsold items went to a thrift store, recycle, or trash. We did not have a lot of time to relocate her, due to health concerns.

At least I do have the luxury of time before I am forced to downsize, but with a large home and property to maintain, that time is growing shorter for my 73-year-old husband and my almost 70-year-old self.

I still have my auction treasures; the bedroom set was our first after our marriage. Over the years, it went from it’s factory ivory paint, to avocado green in the 70′s, to colonial blue in my Early American phase, and finally to a professional staining and refinishing, and is proudly used in a guest room. My Dad first helped me paint my rocking chair bright blue; I remember using it to rock my little son, who is now 45! The chair is also now refinished and in the guest room.

But now the diary and many other small treasures are being listed and sold on Ebay. My extra bedrooms are becoming only guest rooms instead of more space to put things. I can’t yet sell much of the furniture, and most of the rest will not go be able to go with us; however, I do hope for 2 bedrooms, so I can keep my treasured teen bedroom set and rocking chair!”

 

Share a Story, Win an e-Book

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In honor of Women’s History Month, now coming to an end, we would like to hear from you, our readers, about the women in your life. Share a story with us, by leaving a comment to this post, and we will choose one lucky winner to receive a copy of our new, updated e-book, Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home.

Share a family story about any of the women in your life – mother, grandmother, aunt, daughter, teacher, mentor. Recount a favorite family story, tell us about a treasured family object, describe a particular family quirk. What objects has your family kept over the years? What do the objects mean to you? What are your fondest family memories?

We look forward to hearing what makes your family special, how your family handles its treasures, how you keep and pass along the family memories.

The deadline for entries is Monday, April 7, 2014.

Thanks for being part of our extended “family” of readers!

Linda Hetzer and Janet Hulstrand are coauthors of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home, now available as an e-book.

“Emptying the Family Home WIthout Battling Siblings”

Many thanks to Jill Yanish and PBS’s Next Avenue for featuring us and our new e-book Moving On in her article about downsizing the home. Here it is: 

Keep? Sell? Toss? These three options are ammo for the battle when clearing the family home after a parent leaves it. Read more…

Are you a “Keeper” or a “Thrower” When Downsizing?

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David McGrievey

When she retired in early 2010 journalist Ellen Goodman wrote: “There is a trick to a graceful exit. It begins with the vision to recognize when a job, a life stage, or a relationship is over – and to let go.”

There is a time to let go of a family home, too, and often it’s not as graceful an exit as some family members may have hoped for. It entails multiple steps which include, in broad terms, first, coming to an agreement that it’s time to let go of the home; next, creating a timetable that works for everyone involved; and lastly, actually getting rid of lots of stuff.

Getting rid of our stuff is a difficult task for everyone, but especially for people who appreciate the memories that are intertwined with the possessions.

When we were interviewing people for our book Moving On, we found, as we say in the book, that there are “basically two kinds of people when it comes to cleaning out a house. There are ‘the throwers,’ who relish the experience of clearing out and moving on, and who will empty a house quickly and efficiently. And there are ‘the keepers,’ who will be compelled to preserve special things as well as memories, and who will linger over the process.”

What’s it like to be a “keeper” or a “thrower” in the midst of downsizing?

“Throwers” are people “who relish the experience of clearing out and moving on, and who will empty a house quickly and efficiently.”

On the upside, “throwers” get the job done. They are people who can let go of things easily and seem to have the ability to separate the object from the memory. “Throwers” may not feel the emotional component of downsizing or they may be less inclined to delve into those feelings. They do not get bogged down in emotions or memories.

On the downside, by working quickly, “throwers” may miss out on both good things and interesting experiences. On the practical side, they may miss hidden money or valuables. A recent post by Goodwill tells the story of an employee who found $2,600 inside a bag of donated clothing. Donated, perhaps, too quickly by a “thrower.” On the emotional side, “throwers” may miss reading poignant entries from a grandparent’s diary or perusing a parent’s yearbook or discovering their own baby clothes.

“Keepers” are people who are “compelled to preserve special things as well as memories, and who will linger over the process.”

On the upside, “keepers” are the ones who preserve both memories and objects. Recently a display at my local library showed memorabilia that was well over 100 years old – a photograph of the building (the street was so different!) and the interior (the librarian’s desk was the same!) and a ledger listing patrons’ names and the books they were taking out – all saved by a “keeper” of a librarian so we could enjoy the history of the library decades later. “Keepers” donate items to libraries, historical societies, and genealogical societies, as well as pass along to their own family the stories and the mementoes that make each family unique.

On the downside, “keepers” take too long to get the job done. (Is it ever really done, they often wonder.) As they savor each item, they are likely to get mired in the emotions, sometimes to the point of even agonizing over the decision to keep, toss, or donate. They are prone to being sentimental, which as J. D. Salinger says, is “giving a thing more tenderness than God gives to it.”

Is it better to be a “keeper” or a “thrower” when it comes to downsizing?

We need both “keepers” and “throwers” to get the job done. As we say in our book, it takes a combination of these attributes to successfully downsize a family home. Sometimes that combination comes from various family members; it helps to be tolerant of attitudes different than your own, especially the attitudes of your siblings, and to strive to find a balance between those who want to throw out everything and those who need to mull over the many decisions involved.

Successful downsizing, as we say in the book, is coming “to the realization that the most valuable thing in the house is the life that has been lived there.” That is a graceful exit.

Linda Hetzer is an editor and author of books on home designcrafts, and food, and coauthor of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home

“3 Things That Will Help You Downsize and De-clutter”

Again many thanks to Rachel Adelson for her coverage of the various  issues raised when downsizing the family home. This is the second in her three-part series, published in the Huffington Post  on March 17, 2014.

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My previous post about the emotional journey of downsizing traveled the Internet widely. The discussion of how to work through separation anxiety from “stuff” seemed to touch a chord. Sigh.

Read more…

“Time to Let Go: Amber’s™ Journey”

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A beautiful, sensitive, and well-balanced approach to the question of what to keep and what to let go…and most of all when to do it…our blog “share” for this week… Read it here: Time to Let Go: Amber’s™ Journey.

Emptying a Family Home: A Wellspring of Emotion

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Last month, the New York Times ran a wonderful eight-day series in their Opinionator column, titled “The Task.”

Olivia Judson, an evolutionary biologist, former Times columnist–and a supremely graceful and sensitive writer–is the author of the series. In it she describes in great detail, with honesty and candor, the deeply emotional and difficult process of dismantling her parents’ home after the death of her father. Step by step she walks her readers through the myriad decisions that needed to be made as she and her brother went through mountains of accumulated “stuff”—54 file drawers in her father’s office alone!  Along the way she explains and indeed shows just how and why these decisions are not so easy to make, and shares the memories and emotions—some beautiful and poignant, some painful—evoked in the process.

Almost as interesting as the posts themselves are the comments published in response to the series, and the conversations it has engendered. So far, more than 800 readers have responded. The vast majority of them express sympathy and solidarity with what Judson was going through; a few advised her to just pitch everything into a dumpster; others warned her not to throw things out too quickly, and some gave helpful suggestions about what to do with some of the things. Quite a few vowed not to leave their children with such a task. Most simply shared their own similar experiences, memories of childhood homes (several very interesting comments recount the prominent role of childhood homes in dreams), dread of going through this process themselves one day, or appreciation of the rewarding discoveries that come along with the drudgery.

Quite a few readers said they were moved to tears while reading Judson’s essays. For me one of the most moving comments was one in which the respondent confessed he had found himself crying as he read, adding “No idea why.”

What was very clear to me in reading this series was that no matter how much we might wish that the process of emptying a beloved home of everything in it could be straightforward and rational, a logistical task that simply requires organizing and executing the transfer of objects from one place to another (or rather, others), it is anything but either simple or straightforward. It is complex and deeply emotional, and for many of us it is heartbreaking in ways we can hardly fathom.

In the final essay Judson tells how she follows the advice of a friend to choose a “memory stone” to help her through the final goodbye to her childhood home. I won’t attempt to retell the story for her: you can read the entire series here, and I recommend that you do read it, essay by essay, in order.

It’s a wonderful tribute to both the beauty and the pain of what one of my favorite poets, James A. Emanuel, referred to as “this load that makes us human.”  And though each of us has to find our own way of saying goodbye to the past, in listening to the stories of how others have done it we can find helpful guidance, and the comforting knowledge that we are not alone.

Janet Hulstrand is a writer/editor,  writing coachtravel blogger, and coauthor of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home.

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