A personal account of one boomer’s trek through the perils of downsizing hell!

Have you gone through the mind numbing, nerve pinching, marriage blasting experience of selling your big-ass house and moving into a condo? There’s a goggle-eyed, crazed look about the eyes that stays for months after weeding out your treasures and cutting the umbilical cord from most of your worldly attachments. Happily, this stunned look seems to wane after a few months of watching from the windows of your condo, while someone else shovels the snow and mows the lawn. But there’s a lot to go through before that happens.

Here’s my story: Hubsey and I made the monumental decision to sell our house over a cup of tea one morning. The house was too big, the kids were too far, the drive was too long and life was too short. A condo near the kids was the answer. The good news is – it sold quickly. The bad news is – it sold quickly. The next step was to snap on the rubber gloves and muck it out. So much stuff, so many memories, so little time.

Shocking secrets! This painful phase of downsizing was like a roller-coaster ride into perdition. There’s always one partner who is a collector of peculiarities, and in this case it isn’t me. Seriously! I’m not saying that my beloved Hubsey is an oddball, but rummaging through the darkest corners of our garage, we did uncover a collection of oddities that reflected his supreme oddness; like a large wooden-bin of coal, a case of moldy peach preserves circa 1922, a WWI bayonet with questionable stains on the blade, a well-used hookah pipe and a rather deflated looking blow-up doll. All these items had colorful stories screaming to be told. Unfortunately, they were dug out in deadly silence by our panic-stricken daughter and sniggering son-in-law during a Saturday morning mucking-out-marathon.

Painful stuff: As we sorted through the storyboard of our lives, a flood of memories washed over me, drowning out my sense of selection. How could we choose what things to take into our new life, and what to discard like abandoned puppies on a highway? Just how much could we squeeze into our condo and small storage locker? What were we to do with the gazillion tools in Hubsey’s workshop, the storage boxes stacked to the ceiling in the furnace room or the enormous pine box filled with old vinyl records? And would my new condo have space for my eleven rocking chairs? (Okay, so maybe I have some oddities too.)

Shrinking our piles: We asked our only daughter to rummage through the pickings and take what she wanted. But the poor girl could only haul away so much. The piles just weren’t going down fast enough, and our dreaded closing date was looming large! Short of finding a super-duper vat of Preparation H – nothing was going to magically shrink those piles. Fraught with emotions and the pure physical challenges of backbreaking work, we wanted desperately to turn back the clock and wake up from this nightmare. My sagely advice at this stage of the horror show is to do what I did: dig down deep, cry yourself to sleep and jump in with both feet! This is going to hurt!

Top 10 things I learned:

  1. A floor plan of your new condo is invaluable. Measure each piece of furniture you want to keep and make cutouts so you can move them around on the floor plan like a dollhouse. This is a great way to see what will fit in your new place. Warning: not recommended for sissies. Big screen TV’s and well-loved recliners may not be condo-worthy.
  2. Tape an outline of your condo storage locker on the floor – like they do for dead bodies. After much pushing, pulling and pouting, stack the things you can’t part with in this space – like a precarious block of Lego’s. If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit and leave it off the moving truck. Proceed with caution: can be deadly to relationships.
  3. No off-site storage allowed! Sometimes when the pushing, pulling and pouting doesn’t work and you reach an impasse on what to keep, you may be tempted to cheat and rent a storage locker. Hopefully your children will arrive in full swat-gear to talk you down from the ledge. When it’s stored, it gets ignored!

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