Sunday, June 25, 2017

Downsizing: a difference of opinion

My husband Art and I have lived in our house in Washington State for 22 years. We have eight children between us. When we bought the house, three of the kids lived with us and two of them visited on Tuesday and Thursday and every other weekend. We needed the space as well as the RV we kept in the back of the house. We were both still working.

Today, the kids are grown and gone, except for one son, who's been renting a room from us for the two years he went to nursing school. He's graduated now, passed his boards, and found a job. He'll be finding his own place before too long.

We love the house, but we no longer need the space.

Or the stairs: five up to the front porch, one more to the split entry, five more to the main floor or 13 down to the laundry room, second bathroom and garage. Art slipped on the ice on the outside stairs about five years ago and broke two ribs.

Or the steep downhill driveway, created a dozen years ago when the city installed sidewalks for the safety of the kids walking to school. Workers had to raise the top of the driveway by several feet to accommodate the sidewalk and then pour asphalt to make up the difference. Soon after, Art slipped on the ice in that driveway and tore a rotator cuff.

Or the big yard, with its raised beds for vegetables and its grape arbor and its strawberries and raspberries and blueberries. We love the food but don't have the stamina to take care of it. At present our resident son is growing the vegetables, but we have had to hire a young person to do the weeding. Again, it's the stamina thing. Plus, we travel.

In the 22 years we have lived in that house, we have acquired "stuff". We have boxes of stuff and drawers of stuff and closets of stuff and a shed full of stuff. We have clothes in the sizes we wear now and in the sizes we wish we wore now. We have books we have read and hope to read. We have spices in the kitchen with long-expired shelf lives.

Four years ago we began to spend our winters in Tucson. We rented, then bought, a park model (trailer) in a 55+ RV resort. Four steps up. We live on one level. In 620 square feet. Contentedly.
We don't have much stuff in Tucson. We have acquired only what we need. It is gloriously simple.

Our plan for the next few years is to spend five months a year in Tucson, and the rest of the time here in Washington State. With some travel time from each location. Art and I agree on this plan.

Here's where we differ: I want to downsize and find a smaller place here in Washington. Maybe a condo to buy or rent, or a single-level home with a small yard and low maintenance. Art wants to stay where we are.

I am the talker of the two of us, and Art is the no talker. He knows exactly what I think and how I feel about downsizing. I wasn't so sure about his thoughts or feelings on the subject. Last week I said, "Are you reluctant to move because (1) this house is full of memories or (2) this house is full of stuff we will have to get rid of or (3) moving will be an acknowledgment that we are getting old?" And he said, "Probably some of all three." So now I know!

I've been suggesting for years that he go through some of his stuff. Recently I've been describing the process as "lightening our load". Art usually hears this as me trying to control him. As recently as last week, I'm embarrassed to admit, I said, "You know, if you die first you will be leaving all your stuff for me and the kids to take care of." I may even have said he was being selfish. I hope I didn't, but I might have. Art has never responded positively to my suggestions.

I've been pretty discouraged lately about whether we'll ever downsize. About how many falls one of us may take on the stairs or the driveway. About who will be the first to break a hip.

Then yesterday, I came home and found two large plastic bags on the floor of our bedroom. They were full, with twist ties. Art was in our closet, working. Going through his clothes. Taking out the ones that no longer fit. Downsizing! "I found a dozen pairs of brand new socks," he told me, "from when I worked and when we spent the winters here. I don't need them any more. I'm going to see if any of the boys can use them." I said I thought that was a magnificent idea. I restrained myself from doing a happy dance.

Then I went into the closet myself. I pulled out my 35-year-old plastic sewing box, from when I used to sew. I gave my sewing machine to a friend nearly 20 years ago. I have two pocket sewing kits now. I texted my neighbor and asked her if she'd like the box. If not, it's going to Goodwill this week.

I'm tempted to go look at apartments. But I don't want to rush either of us. We can simplify first, lighten our load. Then we can find another place for our months in Washington State.

Or maybe somewhere else. Who knows?

22 comments:

AWmom said...

Hi! Love your blog! I don't follow all of the Korando rules but this year we took two categories a day and sorted them. You put everything together of one category pick a number and go! .in the pens category we had 300 who knew our number we decided on was50 we Donated the rest, we are nearing the end of it and we have donated 37 boxes and bags so far! So many things we found we didn't know we had

whalechaser said...

It is a bittersweet but strangely rewarding experience. Don't rush it. It takes longer thN you you think and probably requires three passes before you claim success. Great blog!

Meryl Baer said...

Decluttering, downsizing, getting rid of stuff in the long run is a great relief and a lot of work in the short run, but well worth it. A new activity, once in a while, can be looking alternative places to live. No rush!

Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com said...

Hi Linda! Good for you for taking (and getting your husband) to take that first step. I get that it can be intimidating but once you get going it can be strangely intoxicating. That's why I call it "Rightsizing" instead of downsizing becuase downsizing carries all those negatives with it. Rightsizing on the other hand is a move toward something much more positive at this time in your lives. Yes, it will likely take some time but if you can make it interesting and fun, then so much the better. A couple of suggestions come to mind, start talking about different communities that offer features that you really like....for example, my husband and I just took up pickleball and it would be REALLY great to live in a community that had that close. The more you get excited about some sort of amenity you want to be closer to, the more you can start considering properties that have what you want. The second thing is to hang out with people who have already done what you want to do. We love to get together with friends and chat about all the things we get to do because we don't have to maintain a huge house and/or the cost of it. It's fun when you can encourage each other. As I think you know, I write about rightsizing on my own blog quite a bit so pop over if you want more inspiration. And don't give up! ~Kathy

Terra Hangen said...

Brilliant news about giving away things you don't need or use; a step in the direction of downsizing to a smaller home which will be all on one level and not as dangerous as your driveway when icy. This is a good first step.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

A person has to be ready to downsize. Asking Art what was troubling him probably helped him face the feelings that were getting in his way. I love that he went ahead and started while you were out!

Bonnie said...

Courage, dear! It seems the men have to mull over the idea before they take action sometimes. Much better to control the change to more manageable living now then to have it forced on you in a crisis.

DJan said...

Good for you both. I think when we moved here in 2008 from Colorado that the rightsizing we did has held. We do buy stuff but we don't have a huge place to store stuff, so it doesn't stick around for long. :-)

Tom Sightings said...

Well, it's like a lot of other things. You don't do it until you're ready. Sounds like Art is getting ready!

joeh said...

I call it addition by subtraction, but it is not easy.

Linda Reeder said...

We will have to face downsizing at some point. We've talked about it. I think neither of us is ready. We are still collecting stuff, although we have slowed down on that too.
I agree that having Art identify what his fears are has kicked him into action. Mediation at work?

Denise Alessi said...

A little each day! As we have been painting rooms and closets, I am amazed at how much we have collected in the 15 years of being in our house.

Olga Hebert said...

I have no problem downsizing and getting rid of stuff for some reason. My first husband accused me of not having a sentimental bone in my body so I guess I am meant to think of it as some kind of defect. I literally feel this weight on my chest when I am around piles of stuff.

I have been asked to help a couple friends declutter. The first was not successful as she is an actual hoarder. The space under the bed was filled with old magazines and newspapers. When I hauled out the recycle bin, which seemed like a most logical step, she gasped. Oh, no, she had to go through all those in case of recipes she might want to try. I had to walk away.

The second friend was moving and downsizing under unexpected time constraints. It wasn't easy for her, but she did much better than #1. She has now referred me to another friend who needs to get rid of piles of stored "stuff." I should start my own business, but that not being able to breathe thing would not be good for my health.

Arkansas Patti said...

Baby steps but actually those are pretty good steps in the right direction. Hope you can keep it going.

#1Nana said...

...and at our house we just got the permit to build the new storage barn! It's actually not that bad, as it will put the Airstream, tractor, and Paul's truck under cover. We're both systematically going through stuff. The garage is now full of stuff that we want to go. Last week I sold a bed and a dresser. I'm motivated to have a yard sale and get rid of it all since my car is now parked outside, but I'm glad to have a place to pile things we want to get rid of. Once it hits the garage I've let it go!

Janette said...

Art doing it on his own is HUGE. Next step for us was to pile up all the "kid stuff" and say, "take it or it is going". Letting them choose helped the process along. WE were encouraged to get rid of so many things. I liked Laura's idea of scanning all pictures. When my brother asked me if I wanted a photo of our great grand parents, I whipped out my phone and took a picture. Thanked him and moved along !

joared said...

Sounds like you're on the right track -- a track I need to get on. Think I've been held back by the three things you listed since I've been alone. Must remember to take pictures of some things and see if that helps. I don't plan to relocate, but have said the kindest thing oldsters can do for their kids is sort through and dispose of things before dying.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

Getting rid of stuff is not easy, but so necessary. My parents were packrats and, after they died, it took us two years of working on their house every weekend to clear it of clutter. I'd rather throw away, donate and give my stuff as I choose myself instead of having relatives do it. Bob and I delivered a lot from our home of 29 years in Los Angeles before moving to Arizona seven years ago. Our "downsizing" was a little different -- less stuff in a larger house! But it is built for older people -- no stairs or step down. I still need to do some decluttering and giving away of heirlooms from my grandmother. If not now, when? I won't have more energy next year or the next!

Pothen said...

HI Linda,
Your story sounds very much like ours. The only difference is that you are like me and my wife is like Art.
Pothen.

Dee said...

Dear Linda, having moved nine years ago and having lived in that 1870 home for 32 years, I, too, had accumulated a lot of "stuff." Decluttering is not easy--bags to throw in the trash, bags for Good Will, bags to keep, bags to give away to family or friends. Sorting all that means making a lot of decisions and that's tiring, but oh, so worth it.

Your plan seems sound to me--downsize or lighten the load and then look for a smaller place there in Washington or elsewhere. It's a new adventure and it looks like your husband has begun the journey with you. Peace.

Madeline Kasian said...

Once we started the downsizing project it picked up steam. We're in a smaller yet still spacious house, perfect for growing older in-- no stairs, a pool which we love, a smaller yard to care for, a friendly neighborhood. Affordable taxes.Reduced utility bills. We USE every inch of this place.. no "extra" areas for accumulating. We don't seem to miss the stuff we gave away,sold, or donated.We had too much anyway!! Now, life is about experiences, not things.We no longer collect stuff, our art collection is complete and gives us joy, I don't accumulate magazines and books like I used to.I kept only the ones that fit in the small wall unit in this house. When we travel I never buy anything to bring home. I have enough.I only want the experience and the memories...

Ken had a harder time giving up some of our space and the larger yard, but now, into year 4, he's happy with the space we have. We took a year and lived in a house up North where there was NO GARDENING! And wildfire danger. Ken agrees being in a town with more resources and services is important. And that made him grateful for the "smaller" yard we have here in town, where he can garden to his heart's content.

It can take a couple of years to get the hang of all this-- but you and Art are experienced at change !! You've made a great start by having your park model here in Arizona..

Allison said...

When we left home ownership, my husband really struggled with giving up the dress shoes. He had been such a well dressed person at work, and it was tough letting go of that. It does pick up steam after you realize it's just stuff.