Category Archives: Emotional issues

Solstice = return of the light? It’s still DARK.

Salmon Creek - early January

I know the light is returning, but I don’t see it yet. It’s cold, damp, and dark in the Pacific Northwest right now.

I want to huddle by my own fireside, but I don’t have one any more. I should get off my duff and go for a walk, but it’s too yucky (and my dear walking buddy is IN HAWAII where it’s 83 degrees and sunny). That pisses me off too.

Whine, whine, whine.

In his book, The Winter Solstice, John Matthews writes:

The Winter Solstice has always been recognized as a mysterious, shadowy, uncertain time, when the conviction that the sun would return becomes doubtful and the gates between the worlds stand ajar.

We need the dark – the fertile time underground without which we couldn’t grow. We wouldn’t know Light if we didn’t have Dark, Up without Down. The tide comes in and then it goes out.

But I want to rush through these transition times. I don’t want to linger at the threshold, just being where I am. I want to be settled again. New home, new adventure. Clear and in the Light.

A little sun wouldn’t hurt either.

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Filed under Baby steps, Emotional issues

Home-buying on the rebound: bad idea

100-year-old charmer could have been mine...

I closed the sale of my beloved home on December 11, and thought I’d be perfectly happy floating for awhile.

Wrong. I hate living out of a few boxes. I’m already itching for a new love. Need that warm cozy feeling of Committed Relationship to My Place.

So a couple of days ago I started poking around the real estate listings to get a feel for what was out there. Wondering: should I buy or should I rent?

Two things make me think I should rent:

  • Renting is less expensive (no property taxes, expensive repairs, interest payments).
  • Renting is more flexible – you can unencumber yourself relatively quickly, stay light on your feet. Some time here, some time there, some travel, whatever. No seller’s outrageous closing costs.

More things make me think I should buy:

  • You can put your personal stamp on a home – colorful paint, yard revisions, open a wall here, build shelves in there. You can rarely do this with a rental.
  • Packing up and stuffing my stuff into a storage unit was A BIG DRAG. No sane person goes through that process more than once a decade.
  • You can settle into a neighborhood in a permanent sort of way – make friends across the street, join the neighborhood association, walk your neighbor’s dog when he’s away and vice versa – that sort of thing.
  • Oh yeah… and there’s the $6500 tax credit if the place is in escrow by April 30. That would cover a lot of paint.

My realtor friend and I went out for a look-see yesterday where I want to live in the downtown area. The 3rd house we saw was a charmer, and I was ready to buy! It was 100 years old, airy, quirky. Right across the street from a good friend. Four blocks from the grocery store and a 15 minute walk to my yoga class, the farmer’s market, restaurants.

I even made my ex, who’s very real estate savy, come and do a walk-thru.  He saw thru the charm to the ancient plumbing, the jerry-rigged kitchen and drafty Victorian era windows. The unreinforced brick construction (god forbid we’d have an earthquake!).

I slept (badly) on it. Woke up in the middle of the night realizing there was no closet for hanging coats, no place to put the broom or vacuum cleaner, and that my rugs were about two inches too long.

Called the realtor back and told her no deal. But now I feel as deflated as if I’d just lost a lover.

What I’ve learned: It’s one thing to live out of a suitcase when you’re actually traveling, but when you’re back in your regular busy life, you need a place to call home. I’m on the case now.

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Filed under Baby steps, Emotional issues, Envisioning a simpler life

Footloose and fancy free!

It’s been 12 days since my house closed and I left for California with a couple of suitcases and a bunch of holiday stuff tossed into the back of my minivan.

The family that bought the house emailed that they’re thrilled with their new home – especially to be moved in in time to enjoy Christmas there.

I keep waiting for the grief to sweep over me, but so far…NADA.

OK, a little twinge when I couldn’t gather greens from my yard for holiday decorations. And a little twinge when I realized that a particular thing I needed was no longer in the second drawer to the left of the stove, but is buried in some poorly marked box deep in the storage unit.

But mostly I feel very light. Light-hearted, light-footed.

The last few days I’ve stayed with an old friend, helping her get her house ready for her extended family to arrive for Christmas. She has a gorgeous home near the California coast, high on a ridge with spectacular views in all directions. Many people would kill to live in a place like this.

But she was not enjoying it. She fretted about getting the tree decorated. She fussed about food preparations. She was in a flap about cleaning the house (to her high standards) in time.  Would the yard person show up? Would the garbage man make a timely pickup? No way just enjoying where she is.

I’ve been there. Oh yeah, have I been there!

But not this year. It wasn’t my house, and it wasn’t my problem, so I just plowed through whatever task she set me to – no big deal. The more challenging the better. I had a blast.

No emotional attachment = no stress.

Must.Remember.This.

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Filed under 101 Reasons to Downsize, Attachment - Vairagya, Emotional issues, Envisioning a simpler life

Goodwill for the homeless?

I don’t need to look far in San Francisco so see what homeless looks like here. Several homeless people camp outside my son’s office in the Mission District. Matted hair, dirty face and hands, worldly possessions stuffed into a garbage bag stuffed into a shopping cart pinched from Safeway.

In the past month of radical downsizing I delivered to Goodwill the equivalent of a dozen shopping carts-full of perfectly good clothing and under-used household goods.  And several more cart-full equivalents to other local charities.

What does Goodwill DO with all that stuff?

I had washed and neatly folded the sheets, blankets, and quilts. I tried to pin, tape or tie shoelaces together, pants and jackets of suits, lids and pots, so that they would actually be useful to someone.  However when I got to Goodwill the man placed anything that seemed hard (shoes, pots etc) into one bin, and tossed everything soft into a bin marked “fabric”.

Suddenly I remembered that my friend Kristen goes to the Goodwill outlet (can you believe, even Goodwill has an outlet!) and pays something like a dollar for five pounds of fabric (which could be anything from perfectly good sheets, sweaters, kid’s overalls, to rags).  She uses it for various forms of fabric art.

I wanted to snatch back the quilts and blankets. Hey! That could go to the guy on Ethan’s corner who sleeps under pieces of cardboard.  Even if that sweater was a little “tired” (as Judi called a few of my clothes) and beyond reselling, it would keep someone on the street warm on a winter’s night.

If you go into a Goodwill these days, you’ll see that they have quite a retail operation going. In fact in my town alone there are at least two “Goodwill Superstores.” Salvation Army is another that has expanded mightily – but I don’t donate to them because I don’t appreciate their missionary zeal.

If I’d had more time and energy during the downsize process I’d have researched the most direct and cost-effective places to get my good stuff to the folks who need it most. Goodwill was close by and easy.

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Filed under Downsizing, Emotional issues, Resources, Spiritual lessons

No distractions = FOCUS!

One of my biggest goals in this downsize maneuver was to re-center myself, to stop feeling so pulled by external responsibilities and the demands of maintaining a big house and garden.

It’s in my yankee nature to be a Responsible Person. But I was responsible for so much that my attention span was more suited to a gnat. Flitting here and there, frustrated that I never seemed to accomplish my own priorities.

Here in San Francisco, staying in my son’s apartment while he’s off at work, I’m able to be totally engaged in what I’m doing – to sit down to one task and complete it, even!

So far, so good.

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Filed under 101 Reasons to Downsize, Downsizing, Emotional issues, Envisioning a simpler life

I’m OUT! and gone.

I thought I could finish packing and cleaning in three or four hours on Friday, so I could head south before noon – but the piles of crap were like mushrooms after a rain and more grubby corners kept revealing themselves.

Even with all my ex’s cleaning assistance, I didn’t finish till 3 – and could have gone on longer if the eager new owners hadn’t pulled up in the UHaul and told me not to bother with washing the floors, etc.

Those last few minutes locking up the house for the final time were hard. I cried.

A wiser person might have stayed in town one more night to recuperate from the strain and get a fresh start in the morning, but I’m not that person.

I drove out the driveway and kept on going… up 78th and onto I-5. I was headed for the holidays!with my kids in California.

Never mind that rush hour was beginning and I fed right into a traffic jam all the way through Portland, making for a getaway with all the drama of a morning commute. I didn’t care – I just needed to get out of town.

By the time the traffic thinned my spirits had lifted and I imagined myself making it at least to Medford before quitting for the night, up and over the Siskiyous in the morning and on into SF by supper.

Right.

A little south of Salem it began to drizzle. Traffic slowed to a crawl. Then my car lost its connection with the road – and I began to skate. It turns out that the week of 20 degree weather made the ground so cold that when the rain hit it, a sheet of black ice formed instantly. Thank god the road was dead straight because staying on the road was challenging enough at 15 mph.

I decided to bag it in Eugene with dear old friends if I could just make the turnoff. Miraculously the off-ramp and Eugene streets were clear and Christine and Bill plied me with champagne and cracked crab to celebrate my exit and safe landing.  The gods were definitely smiling on me.

When the streets thawed (after a tasty lunch – thanks guys!) I got back on the road and made it over the  Siskiyous before the next spate of bad weather rolled in.  Still, it was seven hours on the road today and my butt is sore.

What amazes me is how serene and blithe I feel. I know I did the right thing by selling, and even though the next step has not yet revealed itself to me it’s ok.

As Christine pointed out last night, this is the first time I’ve not been responsible for someone or something else. No kids, no pets (for the moment anyway), no house, no yard, no spouse, no official job…  just space and options.

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Filed under Baby steps, Emotional issues, Envisioning a simpler life, Inspiration & encouragement

Friends: indispensable during a move

Even my cat, Bama, wants to help.

Over the past week I’ve also had major packing and cleaning help from Chris, Patty, Skip and Sue. Down and dirty help, especially from Chris. She and I have cooked a half dozen charity dinners in my kitchen, so she knows her way around my house, and we work really well together.

I can’t imagine tackling a job of this size alone. Friends are indispensible. A friend:

  • sees your stuff objectively and isn’t emotionally attached to it,
  • talks you through challenging decisions,
  • helps you stay on task,
  • keeps you from getting discouraged,
  • makes the work much less painful

And I believe they take perverse pleasure in being able to deal cavalierly with Stuff that’s not their own. A thousand hugs to all of you.

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Filed under Attachment - Vairagya, Downsizing, Emotional issues, Getting organized, Inspiration & encouragement

Downsizing my closet, with help.

My well-dressed and ruthlessly honest friend Judi came over this morning to help me tackle that which I’ve been unable to tackle alone… my closet.

I thought I’d done so well this summer when I filled two large bags for Goodwill. But when I thought about squeezing my clothes into a couple of suitcases and a wardrobe box, it was clear a radical clothesectomy was required.

Mostly I dress very casually because I work from home. When I’m not at my desk I’m pulling weeds in the yard or muscles at yoga.

But I do like color, so I’ve got sweaters, tops and scarves in a rainbow of colors that look good on me. Some have the patina of age on them. Some were good ideas worn once.

Judi hauled them all out of the closet and arranged them by color in stacks on the bed. It became clear that I had an over-abundance of tops in certain colors, and an over-abundance of tops with round t-shirt necks which I recently decided are extremely unflattering on a person with an older shorter wrinkled neck. Not naming names.

An article I read awhile back said that we hang onto our clothes for three reasons:

  1. They represent a financial investment we don’t feel we’ve recouped;
  2. We have associations, memories, feelings attached to them; and
  3. We imagine a time in the future when we’ll need or want them.

Since I rarely spend much on an article of clothing #1 isn’t a real problem for me. Nor is #2 (at least in terms of clothes… we’re not going to talk about books, photos, art, vases, paper… ).

My problem is #3 – imagining the future. Unlike so many I’m not hanging on to a wardrobe in four different sizes, because I’ve been a size 6 for decades. But I do imagine a future in which that shade of purple will come back, that shape jacket, that style of bell-bottoms. I imagine a future in which I will be invited to a costume party, a rodeo, the Black and White Ball, a hike in the Arctic, and dinner with Barack Obama.

Judi disabused me of all those fantasies, and long story short, we filled three LARGE trash bags with Goodwill material. Whenever I faltered, she had me try the thing on and look in the mirror. If the mirror didn’t convince me, the look on her face did.

What was left will indeed fit into 2 suitcases and a wardrobe box.  A personal triumph. It will be easier to choose what to wear and I bet none will be missed.

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Filed under 101 Reasons to Downsize, Attachment - Vairagya, Baby steps, Emotional issues, Inspiration & encouragement

How am I doing?

People who know how much I love this house ask me how I’m holding up under the impending sale and move (of my stuff) into a storage unit.

Surprisingly, astonishingly even, FINE. I’ve been too busy to get emotional – or something like that. It’s been a process that I’ve thought about for a few years and began actively working on this summer. At this point the edge has softened and it’s just WORK.

The endlessness of the work and the logistical organizing of what needs to be done when is the most stressful. I am not good in the logistics department, so I’ve been fortunate to have friends and family members talk me down and through some mental tangles.

Once you start getting rid of stuff, and once you realize how little other people value your stuff when you try to sell it, it begins to lose value in your own eyes. It becomes, well, STUFF.

After my mini-sabbatical in California after the house closes on 12/11 I’ll be back in town, staying with dear friends, taking my time to figure out what’s next.

What’s clear is that my friends and family are my greatest treasures. All else is just STUFF.

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Filed under Attachment - Vairagya, Downsizing, Emotional issues, Envisioning a simpler life, Getting organized, Inspiration & encouragement, Priorities, Selling stuff, Spiritual lessons

What’s your stuff worth? (Hint: not much…)

Lenox plates

I delivered a couple of antiques, some lovely old china and several nice paintings to a local auction house today. The guy had come out a few days ago to eyeball my holdings and estimate what they might bring at auction next month.

It was really depressing.

P1000048This 2,400 year-old ceramic water jug from Greece, for example, was brought here from Europe by my grandfather in the 1930s. It was appraised four years ago at $1000. But the auction guy said cheap copies of such antiquities are now readily available, so no one wants to pay for the real thing. Besides, who wants to worry about the real thing breaking?  (!)  “Well, fine,” I said (suppressing harsher words), “I’m keeping it then.”

Then there is my Grandmother’s gold-rimmed Lenox china (see above). It’s 100 years old, and yet very modern and simple in design. 6 place settings plus platters, serving bowls, etc. all in perfect condition.  “Maybe we’ll get $200,” he said. I muttered something crude under my breath.

Becker clockA lovely Austrian clock from 1880 (which cost $600 at an antique store in 1976 – $2278 in today’s dollars – and is still in perfect working condition)? “I estimate $300 to $400…” This was something that should have APpreciated over time, not DEpreciated.

OK. I can deal with the indignity of being told my Preciouses are worth shit today. They’re just things, I tell myself.

And mostly I’m all right with the financial loss, knowing that someone will be happy to snap them up at a bargain price, and might even come to love them.

But then I had to deliver my art deco oak sideboard, which the auctioneer expected to sell for about what I paid for it back in 1975. It was one of my first major purchases for the house I bought after my first husband died (very young, of cancer). It anchored the dining room as a place where our little family could begin to come together in a new way. I kept our silver, placemats, napkins, and fancy glasses in it – and out of its capaciousness I set the table for many many family meals, holiday celebrations and convivial evenings with friends. (Not shown here is a lovely leaded glass cabinet above the mirrored back.)

P1000016

As we loaded it into the van I was surprised to find myself bursting into tears. Surprised because so far I’ve been pretty sanguine about the whole downsizing process. OK, I am indignant over the lowball prices, but this wasn’t about money. It was about meaning.

The auctioneer sees antique furniture and other family heirlooms like mine every day – to him it’s chopped liver. But to those of us who’ve lived for decades with the piece and imbued it with our energy and memories, it’s amputation. I walk by the place in the dining room where it’s always been and nothing is left but dust bunnies and a mark on the molding.

I suspect that as the house gets increasingly empty I’m going to want to speed up the process of getting out so I don’t have to feel the phantom pain any longer than necessary.

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Filed under Art & antiques, Attachment - Vairagya, Downsizing, Emotional issues, Furniture, Selling stuff