Of all the things I’ve saved through the years memorabilia has to be my downfall. It’s a crazy obsession I have and one my husband will never understand. Memorabilia includes souvenirs I collected on trips, boarding passes, brochures, rocks, shells, foreign coins, postcards etc… My memorabilia was also programs, awards, report cards, certificates, team rosters and schedules, calendars, birthday cards, Christmas cards, art work, school work, more cards… it’s endless. It takes up a lot of space and during all of our downsizing, packing and moving it has created way more stress than it’s worth. Carting all the memorabilia from one place to the next is a burden.
Packing up my home office for the second time. Notice, in the foreground, I’m still filling a bin with memorabilia to recycle.
On the Move Again
At the beginning of February Rob and I were presented with the opportunity to lease a condo in Bend, Oregon. It is in the exact location we’ve had our eyes on for a couple years. It’s near the river trail we love to run. We’ll have a view of six mountains, and it’s within walking distance to shopping, restaurants and breweries. Skiing on Mt. Bachelor is about a twenty minute drive away.
Bend is an active outdoor community that fits the lifestyle we want for our future. As empty nesters and with both of us working from home, moving away from Portland was possible. However, it wasn’t an easy decision. Portland has been our home for most of the past twenty-five years. Our friends and community connections are in Portland, therefore, leaving is emotionally difficult.
Change is an Opportunity
Ultimately, we decided that change is an opportunity for growth, and new experiences are exciting. This one year lease is a trial period for us. We will see if living in Bend provides us with more opportunities to live the active lifestyle we want and to experience life with a smaller footprint. At the end of the year we can reevaluate and decide if we want to make Bend our home, try another location, travel around the country in a Sprinter van, hike the Pacific Crest Trail or move back to Portland.
We spent February continuing to purge even more of our belongings including some furniture. With this move we truly are downsizing. I wrote about our move and the process of getting rid of things after Christmas in the post STEPS ALONG A PATH TOWARDS CHANGE from January 19, 2017.
At that time we only downsized by about 600 square feet, but this move to a condo will give us almost half of the space we are used to. To prepare for less space we sold furniture and decorations. We donated countless car loads of stuff we no longer need or have room for. I spent a weekend scanning and recycling twenty-two years worth of saved memorabilia from traveling, school, cards, awards, sports, and summer camps. Needless to say, moving twice within two months is exhausting. It consumed our time and energy in February.
These two bins were overflowing at the beginning of my beach weekend. What’s left are a few things to save and a little more to weed out.
5 Lessons I’ve Learned from Saving Memorabilia
I have learned some important lessons while sorting through my mounds of memorabilia. I’m not kidding about the mounds. The amount of paper I saved over the years was astonishing. I’m a scrapbooker. In fact, I sold scrapbooking supplies as a home based business for twelve years. I saved everything from birth announcements to teeth (eww) and ticket stubs to Christmas wish lists. Anything that I thought would help me tell the story behind my pictures when it came to writing about all of our picture worthy experiences was stuck into a file. I realize that not everyone has this compulsion. If you are one of those people who doesn’t save and hang onto things then you might laugh at my lessons. You will have no use for them because you were blessed with the ability to live in the moment and not attempt to hang onto the past. Your job to downsize someday will be much easier and less emotional than mine has been. Now that I’ve lived through the storing, organizing, filing, moving, moving again, digitizing, tossing, etc, here’s an enlightened approach that I wish I had figured out 22 years ago.
1. Make a decision right away
Don’t file everything thinking you’ll weed it out when the time comes. There’s an old adage; “Out of sight out of mind”. I think I was out of my mind for saving some of the things I did! Teeth? Really? Oh, well I have a laughable picture of them now.
The problem was, I knew how full my files were. I knew I had piles tucked here and there. I knew there were some bins in the attic full of memorabilia. Just knowing they were there was stressful. Thinking about the time I needed to organize and put all of these memories into albums with the pictures made my heart race and my chest tighten. I almost needed a paper bag to keep me from hyperventilating. I could have saved myself a lot of angst and time had I just been more selective to begin with.
2. Weed It Out Every Year
At the end of a school year pick out a few pieces of your child’s work to show their academic progress, writing, and artistic style. Keep a couple of pieces that touch your heart and remind you of your child at that age. Take a picture of large items and get rid of everything else! I kept school lunch menus and the teacher’s weekly reports from Keaton’s entire first grade year! Yes, I kept too much.
3. Don’t Save Every Christmas Card You Receive
Send the Christmas cards to the recycling bin in January! The stack of all the Christmas cards I saved could quite possibly have reached three feet high. This goes for most other cards as well.
4. Scan and Take Pictures of the Important Things
A good scanner can be your friend. Set aside a few hours in January to go through everything you saved the previous year. If you follow 1-3 there won’t be so much. Thin it out even more and then scan what you can. Save the scans in the folder with your pictures from the year or the pictures from that event if you sort that way. As I said earlier, I spent a weekend with girlfriends at the beach scanning some “treasures” that I pulled out from two big bins. I love my scanner. It is an Epson flatbed scanner that scans photos, documents, negatives with a high enough resolution to make enlarged prints. It also allows me to make color fixes on faded pictures. You can take pictures of three dimensional items or those larger pieces of children’s art work.
5. Don’t Save for Some Day
Don’t save something just because you think you might do something with it some day. I can almost guarantee that “someday” will never come. When it came down to it I never had the time to get to all of those scrapbooks that I imagined in my head. I have many completed albums that we enjoy now and then. It is fun to reminisce and look back at the photos and stories that document the events and adventures of our family. However, in the grand scheme of things how important is it to remember the price of a movie and when you saw it? I think that time spent in the present is more valuable. The experiences we had as a family are a part of us and important memories are there without the pieces of paper that show what we did. When you save it all the decision to keep or toss has to be made all over again. Of course, it is easier when you realize you don’t have room to save those things and you are exhausted from sorting through it all. Toss it! You’ll feel a little lighter and a little less stressed and more capable of enjoying the present.
Why did I feel compelled to save it all?
Did I think I would forget without the memorabilia? Mostly, it came down to scrapbooking. I thought I could write a better story if I hung onto the details. My big life lesson here is that the time in our lives is precious and slips away much too quickly. Fill your time with what is truly important.
Are you a saver or a tosser? If you are a tosser I’d like to know your secret. If you are a saver what is the most embarrassing or ridiculous thing you have saved? For me it is my children’s teeth and school menus. Or, maybe it’s the bandaid from Rikley’s first shot and the sticks from the popsicles Keaton ate after his adenoid surgery. I told you I was a compulsive saver. One last take away, I don’t need the bandaid to remember how I cradled Rikley’s head and sang into his ear when he got shots.
Thank you for reading I would love it if you’d leave a comment.
Steps Along A Path Towards Change
I’ve been taking steps along a path towards change. I’m not talking about the kind of change that jingles in your pocket or falls between the seats in your car. I’m talking about the changes that happen in our lives. Life is all about changing, and change is all around us. It’s inevitable and little changes happen every day. It’s the big changes that challenge us, create stress, make you struggle and make you realize what is truly important.
Sometimes the path looks dark and lonely.
“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” John F. Kennedy
What I’m learning is that change isn’t necessarily bad, It’s just different. Most importantly, it’s our response to change that determines its impact. It’s a path we all travel, and one thing I have learned from all my years of hiking is that there can be a lot of beauty at the end of a particularly challenging or scary path.
“Life ain’t always beautiful. Sometimes it’s just plain hard. Life can knock you down…but the struggles make you stronger and the changes make you wise. No, life ain’t always beautiful. Tears will fall sometimes. Life ain’t always beautiful, but it’s a beautiful ride” song by Gary Allen and written by Tommy Lee James and Cynthia Evelyn Thompson
A Decision for Big Change
In my blog post, Obstacles; Two Weeks to Declutter, I wrote about our decision to sell our home of eleven years. We started the process in September with the goal to be out of it by the end of the year. While we were excited with the sales process and getting a step closer to our empty nest simplifications, I now realize just how much stress this change brought on. Add in Thanksgiving and Christmas, which we hosted, and you could say we had the lion’s share of stress.
For me the best way to handle it all was to break it up into parts and take on one piece at a time. First, we dealt with selling the house and the work of getting it ready, an Open House, inspections and the appraisal. Second, after we had a signed agreement, we started to conquer getting rid of the things we didn’t want to move. Next, we packed up things we didn’t need for the month of December and I focused on being ready for Christmas. Finally, on the day after Christmas we begun the final packing and moving.We were completely out of the house on December 28th.
The Steps I Took
Most of my stress came from making decisions on what to keep and what to get rid of. Then there were decisions and work that went into how, when, and where do we disperse SO MUCH STUFF! These were the steps I took.
DECIDE ON WHAT TO KEEP AND LET THE REST GO
Selling our house was an opportunity to have less clutter in our lives. Rob and I started to look around at new places to live. We asked ourselves, “Where do we want to be?” Since we are not currently tied to a location for its proximity to work (we’re both working from home) or school boundaries we, could quite literally go anywhere.
In her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo suggests to her readers that they should have a very clear picture in their head of what they want their living space to look like and what lifestyle they want. My picture does not involve a big house with lots of rooms. It used to, but now I want less space to manage. I want more time to do the things that bring me happiness and the activities that bring vitality into my days. My vision of our empty nest is one where we will have the ability to do more while having less.
So, we went to the Portland RV show in November and dreamed of working while traveling the country in a Sprinter Van, which appeals to me on many levels. Then we started to look at condos in the Portland Pearl district. I saw a couple I liked and this gave me a concrete visual feel for what less than 1500 square feet looks like.
Kondo’s philosophy is to keep the things that bring you joy and discard everything else. So with the vision of a small and clutter free space in my head and the questions, “Does this bring me joy?” and “Will this fit in my new space? resonating, I filled our garage with items to discard. Fortunately for Rob he is still on the keep list.
2. DECIDE HOW TO GET RID OF THINGS
We decided that a garage sale should be our next step. We already donated a closet full of clothing in August. However now, given the amount of items we had, it seemed reasonable to try to sell what we could in a garage sale. December first doesn’t’ seem like the wisest time to hold a garage sale, but given our timeline, we couldn’t wait for spring.
I have amazing friends who jumped in to help me sort, price and organize it all. As we did this I came upon some items that have more value than what they’d get at a garage sale. I saved these to post on sites like Nextdoor, Craig’s List and maybe Ebay. We worked for four days and this is what my garage looked like when it was all set up. We could not have pulled this off without the tireless help of friends.
Even though our garage sale was a December success, we were still left with an enormous amount of STUFF!
3. REEVALUATE AND COME UP WITH ANOTHER PLAN OF ATTACK
Anyone who has had a garage sale knows that not everything will sell. Therefore, you must have a plan on what to do with what remains. You certainly don’t want it back inside your home! I identified some items that I thought could sell at a local consignment store and took those there. We donated boxes and boxes of items to charity. Then there are the higher value items that I set aside for selling online. It’s a long and arduous task. Even with everything I cleared out to sell and donate there was still plenty left inside our home. When it came time to move we were surprised by how much we had to pack up and take with us.
Looking Forward to the Changes Ahead of Me
We decided to rent a house close by and take some time to evaluate our next step. It’s a lovely home, and although it is smaller that the one we left, it is still much bigger than where we plan to land. So, as I continue to weed out the things I don’t use or that don’t speak to my heart, I’m keeping two thoughts from Marie Kondo in my head.
- “No matter how wonderful things used to be, we cannot live in the past. The joy and excitement we feel here and now are more important.”
- “Does it spark joy?”
I truly believe that the whole process of clearing away the clutter will bring new energy to my life and help me live with vitality. After all, my goal is to live well as long as I possibly can. Taking steps along a path towards change, and meeting the challenges along the way with an open mind, is one step towards achieving my goal.
What challenges you most when trying to tidy up your home? Are you currently challenged by a particular change in your life? I’d love to hear from my empty nest friends and how your empty nest has changed your everyday life.
Leave a comment and be entered into a drawing to win a copy of Marie Kondo’s book. You can share this post on Facebook to earn 2 more entries. If you follow Vitality in Focus on Facebook like this post and leave a comment there for another entry. I will draw a name on January 26, 2017.
About the Pictures
The pictures in this post were taken during our recent heavy snow storm. This kind of snow is very rare in Portland. After the snow fell we were graced with days of sunshine and cold temperatures. The snow lasted a week and I enjoyed every day of it. These pictures were taken on a walk through the Tualatin Hills Nature Park. My fingers were numb, but it was worth every step I took.
Life happens and sometimes there are obstacles in our path that we must remove before continuing on our way. Or we must learn to work around the obstacles like the trees above that are finding a way to grow on and in between the boulders in the rockslide.
I knew that our empty nest would feel big with just the two of us living in it. For days after we returned from taking Keaton to college I expected him to come through the door after school and ask me, “What time is dinner?” I missed his usual question at breakfast, “What’s for dinner?” Without him here our home was big and empty. We love this home that holds eleven years of memories. It’s large size has allowed us to host extended family members at Thanksgiving and Christmas. We have slept as many as 10 for four nights at Thanksgiving. We finally have the backyard we’ve been dreaming of. We have completed most of the updates we wanted. I knew at some point we would sell. I just didn’t think it would be so soon.
One of the many great attributes of this house is its abundant storage. It has amazing built in storage throughout. The bad thing is that it has enabled me to put off making decisions on whether or not to discard things. I can always find a place to put whatever it is out of sight and not worry about it. This has made my downsizing job much more difficult. I have a friend who always had the rule in her home that if something new came in then something had to go out. I wish I had adopted her rule years ago. My husband really wishes that I had followed her rule.
I knew we wouldn’t stay in this home forever. I knew we would sell and move sooner than later. Our personal goals go beyond this house. I thought I would have a year or more to prepare. At a minimum I was thinking six months of paring down, going through everything and making decisions on what to keep. However, with the housing market in our favor, we decided to put the house up for sale in September.
With this target I had just shy of two weeks to go through every room, every closet, every cupboard, every drawer and an attic in our 4,000 foot house with the task of sorting, tossing and organizing. It was daunting; both physically and emotionally exhausting. When I work under pressure with a looming deadline I get focussed, put on blinders and everything else in life gets put on the back burner. This probably isn’t the best tactic because even running, the one thing that clears my head and controls stress, was put off.
A year or so ago I bought The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. My plan was to read the book and then start on a systematic process of purging. I thought I could learn how to emotionally detach from objects in my home that weren’t important. I knew I could part with many things, but I also knew that it would be difficult. The book sat untouched on a shelf, and I continued to save everything.
With no time to even start the book, I needed to find a way through this huge self-built barrier. I realized I had to throw perfection out the window. That’s not easy for a Virgo. Making the “right” decision for every item was unrealistic, especially since we didn’t have our next house lined up. I focused on job number one, getting the house ready for show.
First, we rented a 10×5’ storage space. This is where we put some things that we knew we wanted to keep but don’t need in the house right now. I also decided that after the house sells we will need to have a large estate sale. There were things I could box up now that we will sell later. I went through every room and removed all the personal photos and collections that were visible. Then I put out some of my autumn decorations. I decorated much more sparsely than my normal style.
When it came to closets I removed excess and had three categories; keep, sell, and garbage. I did this for linen closets, hall closets, and bedroom closets. From our master closet we removed this huge pile of clothes that became a fantastic Goodwill donation. We filled six medium sized packing boxes.
I love walking into our closet now. It is organized and void of clothes we weren’t wearing. About two years ago I started the practice of turning my hangers around on January 1st. Then at the end of the year I could tell what I hadn’t worn that year. This helped me weed out some clothes each year, but there were some pieces that I rationalized into keeping. They might be needed if the right occasion came. This year in January I put rubber bands on the hangers of pieces I hadn’t worn in 2015, but I still thought I should save most of what I hadn’t worn because the right occasion never came. Well this time I was ruthless. I decided to get rid of anything I didn’t truly enjoy wearing or wasn’t necessary. I told myself that if the “right” occasion hadn’t come for several years then it’s likely it won’t ever come, and if it does that piece of clothing will be dated and not something I will want to wear. I wish I had taken a before picture because my after picture is spectacularly different.
This morning I started to read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and within the first 35 pages Marie Kondo explains why I am so thrilled about my decluttered closet, and why I am now taking a little time each day to keep it this way. She says that when we make a profound change it triggers a different mind-set and touches our emotions. There is relief in having less to keep tidy. The feeling of being overwhelmed dissipates. Have you ever made a huge change in a room, your pantry or garden where you just can’t stop looking at it? Do you keep going back because it brings you joy to see the transformation?
There is a lot more to do, but our first goal, to get the house ready to “show”, is done. Once the house sells the process of paring down our belongings to less than half of what we currently have will be another daunting task. I do believe that once the process of downsizing our empty nest is complete I will feel relief from owning less, have freedom to pursue a new purpose and time to focus on wellness.
Have you had to do something similar? What was your process? How did you decide what to keep and what to let go of?