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Old legal documents, still reparable boots, lumpy 70’s pottery we bought as newlyweds, the sewing machine, the textile collection that will never now be used.

The average age of diocesan seniors (about 75?) means that many of us will have downsized or are considering it. Some have the possibility of aging-in-place but most of us see what is ahead. Stairs, isolation, maintenance, health, access to services, finances, transportation, and lifestyle changes are some of the issues. Why do we resist it? Our Stuff!

We think of dust to dust as a Lenten theme but it applies to the stuff that seniors must relinquish and who wants to do that? All that work, all those decisions. You know your children, grandchildren, neighbours and friends don’t want your stuff. The Thrift stores will take some of it, overloaded as they are with the belongings that seniors are trying to donate. Along the highway out of town there are acres of storage units.  But renting storage is not the answer. It is expensive and not a permanent solution. You know you will never live in a largish home again. You must dispose of that stuff.

The oak table that belonged to your aunt, the rug from your childhood home, photo albums, children’s’ art and science projects, out of fashion, still-good clothing, guest room linens, wheelbarrows, heirloom clock, books and bookcases.

“The art of losing is not hard to master,” begins a poem by  Elizabeth Bishop, who experienced many losses. Her poem goes on to list some of those losses in a brave voice. The poem ends, “the art of losing may look like (Write it!) like disaster!”

The piles of our stuff to go to the dump took two truckloads. The boxes to go to the Thrift stores filled hallways and rooms. Yes, we relented and put some large art pieces and heavy furniture in a storage locker “to dispose of later”.  A mistake.

The skiing and golf equipment were jettisoned some decades ago but now we had to admit we will not go camping again. Sigh. Out went all the beautiful Coleman camping gear.

We alternated between moods of “must keep” and “relinquish, relinquish!”.  Shocked to see how identified we have been with our stuff, we repented.  On what is our identity truly founded?  Have we sought status in our possessions?  How did we fall into that secular trap of acquisition?  Did we not have mentors who counselled against this or were we blindly following models of acquisition?

Many years ago, when we cleaned out my mother-in-law’s house where she had lived for decades with her two sisters, (it took us six months to do) we vowed, “Never will we gather so much stuff and never will we leave this task to others!” Hah.

The stuff is not us. Our value, dignity is not invested in what we gathered. One day, we will be transformed into our essence. It will not involve our possessions, not even gold and silver. Once again we will be dust into which new, eternal life will be breathed.

A warning: when downsizing, don’t look at old photos! That distraction will seriously delay the sort/pack process.

What was hardest? The mementoes, not for their value, (often they have no dollar worth) but laden with memories. That’s not a disaster; memories can be stored in the heart.

Hannah Main-van der Kamp recently moved with husband and dog from an old spacious, semi-rural house to a house half the size in town.
This is part I of a 3-piece series on Downsizing. Part 2 will focus on the criteria for mementoes: keep/toss. Readers are invited to comment on their experience. Please email Hannah care of diocesan communications officer, RMurray@vancouver.anglican with subject line DOWNSIZING.

IMAGES in top scroll and above in the body copy

iStock illustration ID:49969585 Credit: Aleutie

iStock illustration ID:926846482 Credit: Aleutie