Like many retired couples, we’d decided to downsize and move from our two-story colonial to a much smaller ranch-style home. By nature organized and industrious, we figured that packing up the house would be a snap.
Were we ever wrong.
Evidently, not only are we organized and industrious, we are also savers. And we saved a lot. More than a lot. Everything.
From a basement full of such Smithsonian-worthy items as old computer parts, a vacuum-tube television, a slide rule, rotary phones, and transistor radios, to shelves filled with college text books and term papers that have remained unopened since we graduated in the late 60s and closets with clothes we haven’t worn in the last decade, we’d accumulated enough stuff to turn a normal clean-out into an archaeological dig.
And in the course of plowing through the layers and detritus of the possessions we’d amassed over 33 years in our house, we learned a few things about moving to a smaller home:
You will never need the things that you save ‘just in case.’ Among the items that went to our local donation center or hit the dumpster after years of sitting around waiting to be needed were rusty tools, old chairs, a nest of cell phone chargers, a variety of unidentifiable remotes, the Sesame Street linens our son slept on when he was a boy — he’s now 37 — and a shag rake.
If it’s broken, throw it out. To be filed under the “what-were-we-thinking-when-we-saved-this” category were such items as a tricycle missing all three wheels and its seat, one broken crutch, a torn basketball net, a three-legged bridge table, and a dismantled goose-neck lamp I didn’t know we owned.
If you think it’s worth something on eBay, don’t save it, sell it. And before you try to sell it, make sure it does indeed have value. I had been hoarding McDonald’s collectibles, convinced their sale would allow us to move into a condo on Easy Street. Turns out the combined worth of the articles was $11.93, hardly enough to move us to the curb.
If you haven’t worn it in a year, throw it out.That means that all those wide-lapelled, shoulder-padded blazers should have disappeared from my closet circa 2001. Adhering to my own new rule also meant I was forced to acknowledge that those elephant-wide bell bottoms from the ’70s probably aren’t going to come back into style after all.
Avoid sentimentality…if you can. Not only did we still have our children’s report cards, we had our own. And yes, I am proud of my perfect attendance record in the third grade, but even I had to admit we didn’t need to hold on to my certificate of recognition any longer. Harder to throw away were years of drawings by our children and our grandchildren. In an unexpected show of endearing sentiment, my husband was adamant about keeping the drawings. Since I was similarly inclined, a box of artwork and other gifts made by small hands is moving with us.
Destroy your old love letters. Unless you don’t care if your children find your hormone-fueled love letters to each other after you are gone, get rid of all those sure-to-make-them-blush missives now. We spent a whole morning reading, laughing over, and burning letters that probably would have sent our children into therapy for the rest of their lives had they read them.
I am happy to report that we are almost done packing, and despite the stress of moving and an occasional tug-of-war over what to keep and what to toss, we remain a happily married couple.
Of course, we still have to clean out the garage.