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Have you ever heard a senior complain, “my aging process is going too slow”?  Exactly.

Assuming you will be moving to a smaller abode, whether you take two weeks, two months, or two years to complete the downsizing process, it won’t be long enough. The most difficult decisions will inevitably be left till last, probably the evening before the moving company truck arrives. So, do it when there is still time to take the time. If, with the best choices in the world, you will still, years later, have a few regrets, it will be not because you did not take time to consider carefully.

In the previous piece, I asked the question: what the criteria for “Keep It” are and what makes you decide “Dispense With It”.

I grew up in an immigrant community. There were many jokes about how emigrants decided what to put in the crate for overseas transport such as“We should bring the cinnamon because Dutch cinnamon is the best.” “The rock we use for doorstop, pack it because we might not find such a good rock again in Canada."

Who doesn’t try to cover for future circumstances; what we might have need of one day. Quick answer: if you have not used it for a long time, dispense. If you ever need it again, check out a thrift store for a similar item.“Where moth and rust do corrupt and where thieves break through and steal” is a Gospel reminder that nothing is really safe. You feel a need to secure and look after what you own. Is it worth the energy and hassle?  

So, here’s some questions you might ask yourself honestly. Begin with prayers for discernment and (if that is the case) a confession of hoarding. Can you use it to teach your parents’ descendants something about family history and how that history intersects with the larger history of community and the world? Keep your great grandfather’s WWI uniform. Does it have a personal story such as a great hurt or a deep joy that is still unresolved and you need to work on it more. Keep it. What can be transferred onto a thumb drive? Has someone expressed a serious interest in having it and can it be picked up or delivered now? As in Now. Any large items you feel are truly, truly irreplaceable? Question the double truly. Will a photograph help you to dispose of it? If it’s broken but repairable, can you get it fixed Now. Are you certain that in the place to which you are moving there is room for it? Sure, as in, you have measured it accurately, not just a guess. Had you forgotten all about it until you rediscovered it at the bottom of a stored box? Out it goes.You were foolish to acquire it in the first place and regretted that purchase ever since. Will dispensing with it be a threat to your perceived status? Status? Will it help you to reconnect with someone from years past with whom you desire connection and if so, make that reconnection Now. Is it a very valuable gift from someone you hardly remember who you never liked? Sell it.

Oh of, this is starting to sound too serious. Do not give up anything that helps you stay joyous and generous. Accept your mistakes. Personal story: when we finished our move, the new living room looked like a very large person stuffed into a garment many sizes too small. What did we expect? We kept our large, antique, stuffed furniture!

We also found out to our surprise how much the thrift store (MCC) was willing to accept. We asked and described before it was trucked there. It was okay. Here’s the rub; I volunteer at that thrift store. I try not to look at “our” stuff. I see the framed art on the wall that used to be on our walls, and I whisper to it, “I miss you”.  Confession: I bought one piece back.  Too much missed.

As for renting storage? You’re kidding yourself. All that rental money for storing things that you will have to dispose of eventually. Moth and dust, remember?

What makes our lives rich is our experience of the Lord’s presence, to family and friends, to community. What makes it deep is our recollections of times past, to savour not to gulp.

Some readers offered these suggestions. Have Show & Tell events. Next time you gather for a social group, ask others to bring significant items from family history or personal life and tell the stories of how these have shaped you. When you feel the story has been fairly told and well received there is a sense of completion which diminishes the need to keep or store the item. When you are tasked with emptying a house after the death of the occupant, bring the interesting and/or valuable items to the funeral lunch or memorial dinner, display them and let others choose items to take home. Use local websites for stuff for Sale or Free. Drag it out to the end of the driveway with a big sign FREE. Count everything you own and divide that number by three. Keep one third. My current kitchen counters are one third the size of my previous kitchen. So, I dispensed with two thirds of those cumbersome counter-top kitchen appliances.  So that means less food preparation. Good, I was ready for that anyway. No more three course meals for guests. Come and have a great sandwich.

Return the bulky rock collection to the beach where young guests found them. As we age in smaller places, let’s get lighter and lighter. Actively resist the cult of stuff but keep some room for frivolity. Keep the little collection of young oyster shells, translucent as fine chine, striated with pink and the edges ruffled. 

Hannah Main-van der Kamp is a writer living in Powell River. A senior, she and her husband recently downsized. Author of many poetry books, her newest title, THE SLOUGH AT ALBION (Ekstasis Editions, Victoria) will be out in late Fall 2023


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Credit: Aleutie