When my mother moved from her condo into a senior retirement apartment at age 89, she was overwhelmed. So were her children. What to do with all of the stuff she had accumulated over a lifetime? Turns out, there are folks who help people with this type of move. A very nice woman came over and helped Mom and her kids "edit" her possessions.
Granted, this was tough to do. Mom was on her own for the first time. Decisions had to be made about what things to keep. But all in all, she was able to let go of a lot of stuff and still end up feeling surrounded by the things that meant the most to her.
I'll confess at this point -- I'm an HGTV addict. No doubt watching shows like Property Brothers and Love it or List It inspired me to undertake what my husband I and believed would be a minor remodeling project. After living in a 100+-year-old house for over 40 years with a small door leading into the kitchen, we finally bit the bullet and decided to go for the open concept that is all the rage. Part of the wall between our much-used kitchen and little-used dining room would finally come down.
Anyone who has done any home improvement project will understand the next part. The floors didn't match, so the kitchen floor had to go. There were surprise pipes in the wall that had to be rerouted because they supplied heat to our bedroom radiator. There were surprise pipes in the kitchen floor so the wood had to go a different direction from what we had hoped. And while we were at it, why not replace the very old stove and add a kitchen island?
And so, the scope of our little project grew and grew. We are now living in the one HGTV show I am not a fan of -- the tiny house. In case you never saw this show, folks are building homes with less than 1,000 square feet. They say that's enough space for a couple, and they may be right. But that's a lot of "editing" to make everything fit.
Currently, we have combined our living room, dining room, and kitchen into one room that feels like one of those tiny homes. Aside from the fact that I can't really cook in this space (a plus in my book), we are doing OK. Of course, we also can't have our grandkids visit and that's not as great. But for the time the project goes on, this is our cozy environment and we are managing fine.
So what lessons have I learned?
- Stuff expands to fill the space you have. If you live in a big old house, you accumulate a ton of stuff.
- You don't really need most of the things you have. The hard part is the "editing" -- how to let go of your grandmother's old pot or the afghan your aunt knitted. The one thing I can promise you is your kids don't want these things either.
- Your kids may have left the nest long ago, but their childhood possessions didn't exit with them. I wrote a post once about my empty nest and all of the things my kids had left behind. Those things are still here.
- This is such a first world issue. Most folks have very little. So it's fine to let go of things others could be using.
When it comes time to leave this big old house do some real downsizing, I really think I will be fine. What I don't donate or toss in this kitchen project will require some thought down the line when we decide to sell our house. But it will also be an intriguing exercise in what really matters.