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Downsizing one’s home: The ultimate nightmare

Let’s face it! If there’s a human activity that people genuinely dread it is moving house. Moving from one city neighborhood to another is a pain in the neck, but by no means as bad as moving from one part of the country to another.

With a local move, it is possible to keep things under a certain degree of control. There is no need, for instance, to pack fragile lamps and ornaments in cardboard boxes and entrust them to the less than tender mercies of the mover’s men.

They can easily be loaded into the back seat of the family sedan or SUV. And who cares how many trips it takes to shift them all? Local journeys are no great problem.

Moving from one part of the country to another is a different matter altogether. It is not just that the packing turns out to be infinitely more complicated than one ever expected, but the unpacking seems to take forever.

When we moved house from New York to Baltimore, we found ourselves—to our shame—loading the moving van with some cartons we had failed to unpack from our previous move.

Charlotte used to accuse me of being a hoarder. This was entirely unfair. It is simply that I find it hard to throw away or discard things handed down in the family—both her family and mine, for that matter.

As a consequence, the walls of my small cottage are crammed with paintings, most rather fine, but some less so—such as a “primitive” seascape of a Norwegian four- masted barque, daubed by an unknown distant relative.

It is true that a few ruthless relatives have taken unfair advantage of my unwillingness to allow items produced by the inept, but loving hands of family members to go to the dump. But I am not a complete patsy.

After my father passed away, for example, my mother—for reasons of sentimentality, I guess—was unwilling to throw away his spare pair of false teeth.

“Here, Guy,” she said, “You like this sort of thing. You can have them.”

I politely, but firmly, declined.

“I can’t understand you,” she protested, “You were keen enough to take your Great Aunt Elizabeth’s false teeth when you had the chance.”

“Mother,” I said, “I was four years old at the time. My interests have changed over the years.”

But if moving from one place to another is a nightmare, downsizing is infinitely worse. It is not just your own stuff you have to roust out, give away, or otherwise dispose of, there is the stuff your children have abandoned in your cellar and attic.

It is easy enough to get rid of boxes of toy soldiers, once loved dolls and ancient electric train sets. They have collector value. But what to you do with the piles of moldering military equipment Uncle Sam lavished on your son during his military service?

When I was forced to downsize three years ago, I learned, the hard way, that it was the ultimate nightmare.

First, there was the library to consider. Charlotte and I were voracious readers and we had spent more than 40 years acquiring books on all manner of subjects—fiction, non-fiction and, of course, theological.

I donated the theological library—more than 3,000 volumes, all told—to the parish, but this still left the best part of 7,500 books on my hands. After giving away half of them, I still have some 3,500 that I cannot bear to part with packed up in cartons in the garage.

More problematic was the furniture, ornaments, vases and the like. Some of the stuff went to the children, other to the dump, but one of the problems was trying to figure out what would fit in the new, very much smaller, house.

Sadly, Charlotte, already suffering from advanced dementia, was unable to help me, and, while my daughters tried their best, our tastes and priorities are so different their assistance was limited.

Parishioner Anne-Stuart Darrell has come up with a solution to the problems of moving and downsizing—albeit just a tad too late for me. She has founded a company called Maryland Move Managers, Inc. the purpose of which is to take the pain out of saying farewell to the old family homestead.

“It takes courage, strength and an unsentimental heart to downsize a lifetime of possessions,” says Anne-Stuart, “Many of us need a hand to hold, a strong back to help and a practical heart to enable us to look forward, not backward. Fear, sadness, guilt, that feeling of being overwhelmed and other stifling emotions may paralyze us from making decisions and taking actions to clear out the excess baggage in our lives.

“Maybe we just don’t know where to begin,” she goes on, “Or perhaps we feel disloyal if we decide to donate Uncle Harry’s tool chest or toss Grandma’s chipped dishes. But why do we keep those things we never use?

“The truth is, we deserve to be free of those things that just take up space, nag at us and no longer bring joy to our lives. There is peace with living a life unencumbered.”

If downsizing, or simply moving, is a problem for you why not give Anne-Stuart a call at 443-823-9792 to schedule a free one-hour consultation to see if her team of hard-working, kind, well trained and great problem solvers can help. GPH✠

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