Start Downsizing Now While You are In Charge

There is a post called "Sorry, Nobody Wants Your Parents Stuff"  from Richard Eisenberg over at Next Avenue nextavenue.org (a great site for Boomers) that has become really popular and shared all over the net. http://www.nextavenue.org/nobody-wants-parents-stuff/ It's a great read and quotes Mary Kay Buysse, executive director of the National Association of Senior Move Managers (NASMM) speaking about Senior Move Managers encountering the same issues of getting rid of outdated furniture, etc. The post tells of the trying time he and his sister had dealing with their dad's estate after he passed away. A very interesting view point on generational differences, tastes in furnishings and styles of living. At the end of the post he outlines "8 Tips for Home Unfurnishing" which offers wise advice. That post and tip number 1.-Start mobilizing while your parents are around. “Every single person, if their parents are still alive, needs to go back and collect the stories of their stuff,” says Kylen. “That will help sell the stuff.” Or it might help you decide to hold onto it. prompted me to write this post:    

Start downsizing now while you are in charge or work together as a family to sort through your things.

On the way back from the 2017 NASMM conference in Indianapolis, I had the opportunity to speak with Eva Dougherty owner of Smooth Transitions Seattle. We talked about the fact that adult children as well as grand's and great's don't want your stuff, they want your stories. This was such a true and moving statement! My Grandmother had amazing stories that I had no idea about until late in her life. She was born in Chicago and moved with her family when she was very young to Los Angeles via the famous Route 66. She made friends with Ester Williams in a Los Angeles public pool, later becoming best friends. She was actor Jackie Coogan's dance partner, remember Uncle Fester? She and Jackie were scheduled to be part of the grand opening for the famous Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles. Unfortunately my grandmother fell ill and missed the grand opening!  

 My grandmother Ione Wooster and her brother Edward taking a break along Route 66

My grandmother Ione Wooster and her brother Edward taking a break along Route 66

We all have our own amazing stories to tell and some of them are tied to belongings we have. It's one of the main reasons seniors struggle with letting go and downsizing their stuff. It's so very important as a family we listen to those stories and record them in some way so that it's easier for the senior to let go of the physical object. Being in charge of your own downsizing can be a great way to pull family and friends together, you can make it a party! You don't need to be moving to start the process and it's better if you are not. Give yourself time to go through your stuff and share the memories and experiences with the people you love. Celebrating and sorting through your life, telling stories, laughing, crying and handing off a treasure to be loved by the next generation can all be spiritually rewarding. Letting go of objects accumulated over the years allows for new experiences and memories to come in and you might just find that after talking about your stuff, some things weren't worth keeping in the first place!

Unfortunately many downsizings or estate dispersals happen in the late stages of a seniors life out of an urgent need due to health issues or a death. Many times the Senior loses the control of the outcome, families become rushed, emotions run high and the urge to just "have it all taken away by someone else" becomes the default. When the dust settles, the objective to handle the situation is completed, belongings dispersed and the stories lost. I know this first hand. One day my Grandmother decided it was time to tell me the story of her life. Sure I knew some things about her history, she was my grandmother and we were very close but she felt it was time to share and enjoy every detail with me. We began by going through an old suitcase that had journeyed from Chicago to Los Angeles stuffed with pictures, letters and cards. There were people and places she wanted me to remember and I cant. She wanted to tape record her stories for the future and we didn't. She told me that I was really going to miss her someday and I do. I thought we still had so much time together. After my grandmother passed away my parents couldn't deal with the situation very well. My mom withdrew and my dad did his best to shoulder the burden and "clean out the house" so it could be sold by calling in a service that paid him some dollar amount just to haul it all away. Before the big truck arrived, my dad said "you better go into the house and take out what you want" badabing, badaboom. My parents lived with my grandparents until I was 9. When we finally moved out it was down the street a block away. Growing up, I was at my grandparents house all of the time and now here I was standing alone in that little house looking around at all of my grandparents familiar things. What was I going take? It was all so overwhelming. Sure there were mementos, art and objects scattered about I could have picked up but they didn't mean anything to me as much as all of the experiences I had shared with my grandmother including the day she began telling me her story. Needless to say, I picked up that old suitcase that had traveled from Chicago to Los Angeles stuffed with pictures, letters and cards and walked out. Twenty years later I'm still going through the contents of that old suitcase trying to rebuild my grandmothers story.