A good time to downsize — or 'right-size'

"Let a joy keep you "¦ reach out your hands and take it as it runs by." These poetic words by Carl Sandburg were beautifully scripted in pen-and-ink calligraphy by my long-deceased mother.

I have 10 originals found in a dusty Ziploc bag at the bottom of a box marked "keep/save." Quite honestly, few other items in the box deserved that label.

Finding a bit of my mother has been the most joyful part of the moving process we are undertaking this week. But moving your household goods lock, stock and barrel — and, for the record, we have more than one of each of those — is rewarding in ways I had not expected.

Let me begin by acknowledging that a later-in-life move is difficult. Fewer than 2 percent of people over age 70 are willing to move from a long-held residence. When relocations occur for the 70-plus age group, it's often a forced placement in a nursing care environment or a move-in-with-the kids when a spouse dies.

We chose to downsize — or "right-size" — while the choice was ours to make.

We are planners by nature, and my spouse is better at it than I am. He designed all aspects of this move. It was stressful at times but went remarkably smoothly, and we were able to accomplish it with neither of us getting too cranky or losing patience, although I did come close — twice.

The plan included culling through our many books and making countless trips to the local library to donate them, cataloging each box for tax purposes. The nice thing about library donations is you visit your books at a later date. We found we had some fairly interesting and even valuable books — especially those we donated to the Jackson County Genealogy Library (www.rvgslibrary.org).

We were delighted when a friend reminded us that our seats-10-comfortably dining table and the matching china cabinet would be a great donation to the Hospice Unique Boutique in Ashland (www.hospiceuniqueboutique.org), which generates revenue for hospice programs and for COHO (Choosing Options, Honoring Options). COHO (www.cohoroguevalley.org) has an educational series going on right now, by the way, and once I unpack the kitchen I plan to catch the last three sessions.

Right now, I'm making my 12th trip to Goodwill. I've spent so much time there lately, sometimes they wave and call me by name when I drive up.

We are doing things this week so that our children will not have to after we die. I was surprised when my daughter called me the morning of the move to acknowledge that. And to thank me for finding the pictures of her at exactly the same age as her 1-year-old son.

I also sent her a copy of Grandma Dee's calligraphy. She's having it framed. See how this works?

I have contemplated the words that best describe making the tough decision about "should I go or should I stay," and then all the little decisions about what to keep or save. Someone suggested the word was "liberating."

Not yet — I still have the kitchen to unpack.

Sharon Johnson is a retired Oregon State University associate professor emeritus. Reach her at Sharon@hmj.com.


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