The Suitcase Lady

Downsizing

October 6, 2020, 8:08 pm

Earlier this year, I spent a long weekend helping a good friend downsize her apartment. She wanted to prune her possessions in advance of a planned move, and she realized her accumulation of things was causing her worry, not enjoyment.

Paradoxically, just before I left on this mission, I ran across a wonderful quotation by Sarah Whiting, the dean of Harvard’s Graduate School of Design.

“Moving makes you conscious of many things. Not least among them is confronting the astounding number of things that you own and realizing that only a few are just right”.

I’ve only moved three times in my entire life. However, I think I could be certified as an experienced sifter and winnower. Being a firm believer in Mies van der Rohe’s famous mantra, “less is more”, I am an ongoing contributor to thrift stores. In addition, I have executed five of my family members’ estates. That task entails the ultimate downsizing.

Sorting out and finding the proper homes for a relative’s lifetime accumulation of earthly possessions is a challenging experience which is highly charged with emotion. There’s mountains of stuff, and only the most meaningful items can be saved. Tough decisions must be made. And it is slow going. When a pack of saved letters is found, for example, it’s instinctual to stop sorting and start reading.

When I look around our house now, I realize I am living in a storybook.  I have the best of what we have gathered in 56 years of marriage plus the best of our inherited possessions. And our house is not a museum. We use my grandmother’s dishes and wine glasses, my mother-in-law’s big blue mixing bowl, my parent’s 76 year-old, pig-shaped cutting board and countless other items that are infused with happy recollections.

The downsizing weekend went well. I made many, many trips to my friend’s favorite charity thrift store with the rental car stuffed every time. And my friend shared her family stories with me as various objects brought floods of memories. When we were finished, we had professional cleaners come in to do a deep cleaning.

My friend has decided a move will not be necessary. Her space is no longer overwhelming…it is a joy.


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