Downsizing Chronicles: The Storage Locker, Part Two


Most of the stuff you see in this picture has gone on its way…but there’s still a lot inside the storage locker! 😦

Oh, well. So my plan to empty my storage unit during the month of March was a bit overly ambitious, and even more overly optimistic.

The point is, as one of our readers pointed out in a comment posted on my last post (and I take some comfort in the fact that she is a professional organizer!) I made progress! And that is what I am choosing to focus on.

It turns out that two of the three complicating factors to my move turned out to be if not insurmountable obstacles, clear signs that my idea of totally emptying my storage unit, moving some of it to France, and some of it to Minnesota, all within less than a month, turned out to be not so doable. Or at least not the smartest thing to do at this time, for a variety of reasons.

So: a lot of my “stuff” is still in the same storage locker where I left it two years ago.

And so, instead of the inspiring picture of an empty locker that I had so optimistically imagined posting today, here instead is my interim report, unaccompanied by a photo of the storage unit because even though a lot of stuff went out of there, it doesn’t actually look so much like it did!!! 😦 (My coauthor has been able to post such a picture, of her emptied storage locker, in this post, and the fact she has been able to do so I hold before me as an inspiring vision of what is possible, even for those of us who are, at heart, “keepers, not throwers.” 🙂 )

AND YET! The truth is, that there IS a lot less stuff in the locker now than there was when I arrived there in early March.  Some of what was in there (very little!) went to my millennial, minimalist son, who is now furnishing his first apartment in New York. A lot more of it (books, lamps, dishes, towels, etc) went to various local thrift stores and charities.

Also, many more pounds of paper went into recycling bins in Maryland. (Some of this was paper I had no problem getting rid of, but had not had time to do in my far-too-rapid moving out of my home two years ago; some of what I dumped this time was excruciating for me to do, but I did it. There will be more on that process later..)

A few of the precious things I wanted to have with me (mostly family pictures, some sheet music, a very few select books, a quilt made for me by my mom and my two grandmothers, and some art work) were packed into the one almost-empty suitcase I had brought with me, and the rest filled a second suitcase that was in the storage unit. Here are a few of the things that made it into my suitcases for my return to France.

A few small items of jewelry and other antique objects that I realized I am probably never going to wear or have room to display, I left in my favorite local thrift store, which also takes some items on consignment. There I had an interesting lesson in What to Do With Old Jewelry and Other Things Like That from the kind and knowledgeable volunteers. (There will be more on why they became my favorites in another post too…)


Me with my new friend Kay (at left), one of the volunteers at the St. John’s Norwood Op Shop in Bethesda, Maryland. Here she is reviewing and pricing some of the things I left with them on consignment. The volunteers at St. John’s Norwood are very nice people, they run a well-organized shop, and the proceeds from the store benefit local charities. I felt good about leaving my stuff there!

This journey really began, for me, with the downsizing of my parents’ home more than 15 years ago, the experience that led to writing the book that my coauthor and I wrote, Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home. And as we have pointed out in our book, for most people downsizing doesn’t happen just once. For most people it happens several times in their lives.

Having just emerged from a fresh bout with this very human, often very physically and emotionally challenging activity, has brought both practical information and tips, and material for contemplation and reflection back into the forefront of my mind. There will be more of all that to share in the weeks and months to come. I hope that some of what I remembered, discovered, rediscovered, or learned for the first time this time, will help others get through the experience less painfully, more joyfully. It can be done! 🙂

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


Might As Well Laugh…

For a while when we were searching for a title for our book I thought it should be called “Help for the Worst Days of Your Life.” (Fortunately, sounder minds prevailed, and it became Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home.)

The thing is, for most people there are plenty of moments when the overwhelming job of emptying out a family home, especially one that has been lived in for many years, can feel like the worst days of your life (if, that is, you are lucky enough to have escaped other even worst fates, such as serious illness, or war).

BUT. There are also moments of comic relief from time to time, and somehow knowing that other people have felt just as overwhelmed as you and your family have felt can be oddly comforting (not to mention occasionally laugh-out-loud funny).

That’s why I’m hoping we can pool a collection of stories about funny moments in downsizing the family home, to share with others.

I remember one of the people I interviewed for the book telling me that after ALL the boxes in the house were packed and sealed, and just before the movers were supposed to arrive, her Dad suddenly realized that he didn’t know where his keys to the new house were. After some retracing of steps, and frantic remembering of when he had last had them, he realized that the sad probability was that somehow the keys had been packed into one of the boxes in the kitchen.

After a discouraging, and unfruitful search through many of the boxes, the keys were discovered in the kitchen, all right–in the refrigerator!

Go figure.

One of the funniest things that happened in our family had to do with the fate of a sampler of a Model T Ford that my mother had cross-stitched and framed. My brother-in-law, who grew up with very few possessions, had been very helpful as we were going through all the things in our Dad’s house before it was sold. We kept telling him he should take something he would like, something to remember our parents by, and he kept saying there wasn’t really anything he wanted. Finally, looking at the sampler of the Model T, he said, “Well, maybe I would like that.”  So we set it aside in what we thought was a safe corner of the living room for him.

The next day, in an almost unbelievably unlucky move, my brother, who was moving out of the way to let someone pass by him, stepped back and suddenly we all heard that disheartening sound of crunching glass–under his foot!

You guessed it. It was the sampler of the Model T–salvageable yes, but not nearly as nice as it had been the day before, and now needing work before it could be enjoyed.

I’ve never heard my brother-in-law hoot in just exactly the same kind of way either before or since.

Those are two of the most evocative stories I know of–not really laugh-out-loud funny, but certainly funny enough to bring about a rueful smile and a feeling of recognition for those who are out there right now in Downsizing Land, tripping over boxes, losing keys, smashing the frames of pictures that have just been given to long-suffering brothers-in-law who asked for only one little thing, and that was it.

What stories do YOU have to share with those people who need cheering up right about now? We’re offering a free copy of our book to the person who provides the story that makes us laugh the hardest.

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

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