One of my favorite stories about emptying the family home was told to us by one of the people we interviewed in the course of writing our book (Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home). Here it is:
When my two sisters and I were breaking up my mother’s house of 40-plus years, we of course came upon things that more than one of us thought we couldn’t live without. After the first few snide comments, we made a “fight shelf” for the disputed items. The “fight shelf” grew into the “fight room,” and by the end of the summer there was quite a stash of memorabilia, none of which had much intrinsic value, but all of which held emotional and political power.
On an early fall morning we went to divvy up the goods, when we were all fresh and cool. We drew straws to determine the order of picks. After each of us had appropriated our first few choices in an orderly fashion, the pickings began to look a little slim. I picked up a very ugly tray and tried to recall who had fought over such a piece of trash. We couldn’t remember!
One by one, we inspected the remaining items, getting more and more amused by what we had once thought was worth fighting over. We ended up laughing uncontrollably. The rest of the contents of the room went to Goodwill, where I hope they found new owners with as much possessive enthusiasm as we had once had.
I like this story for several reasons. For one thing, it illustrates the value of probably the single most important piece of advice we came up with about downsizing the home in writing our book, which is “Take your time.”
Of course it is not always possible to take as much time as these sisters did. Sometimes it is necessary to empty a house in a very short period of time, and such a long cooling-off period would not be possible for all families in this situation.
But in my experience with my family, we found that whenever the disposition of a particular item threatened to cause hard feelings or resentment–even if the cooling-off period was overnight, or even just a few hours later–backing off, and agreeing to decide “later” was inevitably helpful.
The other thing I love about this story is the way it shows how even very amicable families can descend into petty bickering over things when they are forced to part with sentimental items, especially when that process follows close upon the loss of a loved one, or accompanies other distressing or sad changes in the life of the family.
It also shows that with commitment to maintaining family harmony, lots of patience, and a good sense of humor, those tense moments can be turned into opportunities for becoming closer, and even sharing a few laughs along the way.
So, that’s one of my favorite downsizing stories. What are some of yours?
Filed under: childhood home, downsizing the home, Favorite Downsizing Stories, getting rid of stuff, share your stories, take your time, workable strategies | Tagged: creative strategies for downsizing the home, downsizing stories, downsizing the home, family friction when downsizing the home, getting rid of stuff, tips for downsizing the home |