If you’re retired, saying that you’re downsizing sounds innocuous, like announcing you’re going to take it easy in retirement. That is, until moving house drives you nuts.
I’ve just been through a round of downsizing, and my experiences stand out like little explosions in my desire for tranquility. The downsizing was physically good for my Parkinson’s disease, as I had an intense opportunity to stretch (reaching for dust balls) and lift weights (packing boxes), but I would not wish the trauma of it on anyone.
When I retired nine months ago, I thought I’d pull in my belt. My financial planner and I expected me to downsize. I didn’t need three irons on reserve for pressing my clothes. I didn’t need silverware saved for the day my son moves out of the house. Who needs to be owned by their possessions?
I researched where I’d live. I visited senior communities, and learned to decipher the difference between Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC’s), and other forms of elderly living. I decided I could postpone senior living for independent living in a nice little condo or apartment. There seemed to be plenty of inventory on the market in the summer, and I assumed I’d find something under a million bucks in the Bay Area that would provide security for a peaceful retirement.
I started my cut back with a neighborhood garage sale. I unloaded my ladder, cat beds, kid’s bedroom furniture and obvious excesses accumulated over the years. I trekked to consignment shops to let go of old acquisitions—an Irish coat stand, a giant mirror, and family hand-me-downs.
Emboldened by my newfound desire for freedom from possessions, I said goodbye to most of my furniture by giving it to victims of the wine country fires. I was touched when one sufferer choked with tears when I gave him a favorite of mine, an armoire that needed the right space. He fell in love with the character that I had seen in the piece when I bought it years ago. That was my best giving moment.
Around that time, I chose a realtor, and put the house on the market. Droves of people came to the house. It sold immediately. Instantly, I had an exit date and no place to go. The real estate market that seemed bountiful previously, unexpectedly shrank with the change in seasons, and I could not find anything to buy in my price range.
Winter was coming, and I imagined living in a storage container. I extended my search for a home. I gave my patio furniture, and potted Japanese maples to the neighbors, and made three treks to my daughter’s home with stuff for online sales.
I eventually found a condominium, and although it is not perfect, I hope it will be okay once I figure out what to do with the excess stuff strewn all over the floor.
The memory of my moving day is a foreshadowing of why not to buy furniture for the new place. On the day the moving truck arrived, I realized that I owned about a container’s worth of belongings that would not fit in my new home. I had to jump on the moving truck, and hand-direct what would go, and stay. I felt like a member of the Donner party as I dismissed my favorites including a piano, and antique buffet to lessen the endless load. I remember the horror of looking at the slowly diminishing pile thinking that it would never end.
The packing boxes finally dwindled. Now that I have moved, my next life challenge is how to unload what’s in storage, now that I’m paying for it. As always, I wonder how I can diminish my load!