By Tim Hayes
About a decade ago, give or take, my parents moved from a single-family home into an apartment. In the process, they downsized considerably, ridding the house of extraneous stuff, whittling down their wardrobes, holding garage sales, and shuffling whatever they could to my two sisters and me.
Visits to their apartment – small, but bright…close, but sufficient for their needs and lifestyle – seemed to bear witness to their success in downsizing. It felt like they had what life required, and just enough of it.
Alas, that perception, my siblings and I discovered over the past month, had been cataclysmically optimistic.
The time came for my folks to move to a very nice, brand new, wonderful retirement complex, where they would still have their own apartment but not have to worry about cooking, cleaning, or chances to socialize. My siblings and I thought this place would be perfect too, so plans began to make it happen.
In helping to pack their “small” apartment, the crushing reality became abundantly clear. You can still stuff a ton of stuff into a small space – so much so that you will have forgotten half of it’s even there until you start packing boxes for a move.
In no way is this phenomenon unique to my parents. Actually, I may be the worst offender I know in this regard.
We’re not talking “Hoarders”-level psychosis, lord knows, but if we ever had to clean our house out for a move? Well, it could turn into a career, is all I’m saying.
Our multi-level house has no basement, just a garage. So the garage has become an ad hoc basement, with the cars sentenced to a life outdoors. A freestanding shed – actually more like a cabin-sized structure – sits at the far end of our large backyard and has served as an ersatz storage facility. Moving company boxes from 15 years ago, dusty Barbie Dream Houses, bikes with rusty pedals and flat tires, dead lawn mowers, even an old molded plastic wading pool, all wait out there in drafty silence for deliverance that has yet to arrive.
We swear up and down every spring to clean out that shed. Still untouched. Still waiting. No emancipation just yet. Maybe this will be the year, though, after seeing the results of accumulation and clutter achieved even by a diligent, fastidious couple like my parents. I’ve often said that my shed issues could be solved quickly and easily with only two items: a can of kerosene and a match.
(Side comment to my insurance agent: That is a joke. We now resume our blog, already in progress…)
A dear aunt passed away a couple of months ago, and with no children and a late husband, her will named my Mom as an executor. We went through the house and realized it would be a Herculean effort to empty it, dispose of its contents, get it prepared for sale, and shepherd it through the entire real estate sales process. Then, like Superman bounding from the sky, we found a guy willing to buy the property – all contents included – for a non-negotiable price, so that he could fix it up and flip it at a profit.
Sold! A godsend. But it also served as a cautionary tale for my folks, my sisters, and me.
Occasionally while tooling around town in my car, a commercial for one of those junk removal services comes on the radio. They make it sound so simple. “Just point!” the jolly junkman says. “And whatever you point to will disappear!” We got an estimate from those guys once. You can guess what else will disappear when they arrive. Your wallet, mostly.
So here we are, older, sadder, wiser, and every bit as overwhelmed with accumulated items as ever. Mom and Dad – we’re happy for you in your new home. You’re more downsized and streamlined than ever. You’ve set an impossible standard for the rest of us to meet, but that’s okay. At least we have something to aspire to.
Maybe I’ll take a walk back to that shed this weekend.
Copyright 2019 Timothy P. Hayes