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{August 20, 2019}   The Pain of Downsizing

So, I’ve decided to come clean or should I say “become clean?” It’s not really my decision; I no longer have a choice. My landlady says the stuff has to go. I now have a deadline.

My kitchen

After living 60 years, this is what I have to show for my life. Beginning with babysitting in my teens, I have worked for most of it and this is what’s left.

My husband took the best stuff: the leather sectional couch, the cherry king sleigh bed with the Temperpedic mattress and the Tiffany lamp (just to name the standouts so you get the idea). And I didn’t argue because I knew I couldn’t afford a place big enough to house that stuff, and I just wanted peace after years of misery.

He took his prizes and moved out of state. I moved to a small apartment that I was lucky enough to find in the newspaper (yes, my mother still got one, thank goodness)with my two cats. I was left to watch a family of renters with two Saint Bernards and two cats ruin our 5000 sq ft house. All the stuff my husband didn’t want was locked in the furnace room in the basement. According to the lease, I was responsible for the yard, and I struggled to mow the acre of hilly lawn before or after work. I did some weeding, but soon gave that up, letting my beloved flowers choke as I felt choked. All of this was hard for a woman in her fifties.

The renters finally moved out because the guy I hired came out three times and couldn’t fix the Thermador double oven and we couldn’t afford to buy a new one. Now what?

We would have to sell the house at a bad time. (No, I didn’t want to move back in and take in boarders as my husband suggested.) We would have to short sell it. And so began the process of going through what was left, yard sale after yard sale alone, making very little, because no one wanted to pay for anything. It was a heartbreaking lesson.

Then the selling process and the negotiating. The new owners fighting me for all the large items I had no place to put and couldn’t move: thousands of dollars of exercise equipment, the pool table, the air hockey table basically given to them. They were the ones who had the money to buy this huge home and they were robbing me! I felt hopeless, humiliated and angry. And my husband, from afar, was angry at me: couldn’t I see that everyone involved was making money but us??? Of course I could — I was the one witnessing everything up close and personal!

The night before the closing, my neighbors and my realtors helped me clean out what was left in the garage. My much-loved neighbors added to their own trash by taking stuff to their house to go out for trash pick-up and the realtors filled their vehicles to use the dumpsters where they lived and worked.

I had moved the items I didn’t want to part with to a storage unit. There were a few items of furniture, but it was mostly memorabilia and sentimental items. I had very little time to go through anything, working two jobs and taking care of my aging mother. The storage place raised the price of the unit every six months. I crammed more stuff into my apartment, gave some things away, had to throw some stuff out that got ruined by mice. Then I downsized to a smaller unit. I tried to put everything into bins so nothing else would get ruined. And the storage place raised the price, again and again, until I was paying the original larger unit price for the smaller unit. I finally brought everything to my apartment to save money.

Which brings me to now. I have consolidated and given away at least 6 bins worth. And now the rest has to go without any more painstaking sorting. And my anger has me writing this. (Healthier than drinking and taking valium.)

Believe me, I know I am fortunate. Plenty of people never have stuff to have to downsize from. And I know someone who lost everything to a fire, including countless gorgeous sweaters she had knitted over the years (I think I was more heartbroken about those sweaters than she was!) But I’m still angry. Angry at this throw-away culture, angry at the people who take advantage of people in bad situations, and angry at myself and my husband for all the money and years we wasted.

I have learned some tough lessons when it is too late to do me much good.

The dear friends who have watched me go through all this tell me I am amazing and inspiring, because I have found within me the resiliency to still try to have a life and find some joy. This is just the highlights (and lowlights) of what I have been through. Maybe I will retell my story in a much more literary and more grammatical format and detail in the future, but the anger and pain demand I write this now.

I hope this action burns out what is left of my anger and shame, and maybe teaches others something. Be kind to people you think are hoarders; they are not broken, they are people in pain and they have been through enough without your judgment.



{June 28, 2011}   The Irony Behind Yard Sales

What is the irony of a yard sale nowadays? The economy is bad and you need to make money, but you can’t; nobody’s spending and everybody’s looking for free stuff. As you drive down the street, it seems like everybody’s selling something in the front yard– their “toys” including motorcycles, boats, and sportscars — to plants or firewood.

Before the advent of online auction sites, yard sales were a legitimate way to make some extra cash when you needed it. If you had furniture as part of your yard sale, you were almost guaranteed to make over $100. These days, having a yard sale is just another way to get rid of extra stuff, not a true money-making activity. If you like meeting people, sitting around for the day, and you hope to see some of your extra stuff find a home, by all means, have a yard sale. Don’t expect to make much money, and expect to put a lot of leftovers out front with a “free” sign or donate them.
My husband and I have had a couple of yard sales, trying to help my mother get rid of some stuff and make her a little money. We were hoping to do the same. When there were initially no customers, we sat silently looking at all the unwanted items. I said, “I’m thinking about all the money we wasted on this stuff.” My husband said, “I’m thinking about all the time I spent working to pay for this stuff.” It was an enlightening and sobering experience.
We eventually got some customers and sold a few things, but I was left with this thought: Don’t buy anything unless you really need it and you plan to use it until it breaks, or you absolutely love it and will enjoy looking at it for the rest of your life.



et cetera
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