Category Archives: Family issues

My daughter, my angel

I don’t know how anyone downsizes out of the big family home alone. The job is immense and takes five times longer than you could possibly imagine.

My daughter has been here for four days – left her usual job as Household Administrator and Sanitation Engineer in Oakland, California so she could perform a ramped-up version of the same duties with me in Vancouver, Washington.

I kiss the ground on which she walks.

Together we have sorted, tossed and packed unbelievable amounts of stuff.  Evidently my belongings were stored under pressure, because when a cabinet door is opened, its contents explode into a heap fifty times the size of the cabinet dimensions. Kind of like one of those paper-thin sponges when you add water.

I have this thing about like being packed with like. Kitchen pots with kitchen pots. Sweaters with sweaters. Tstchotchkes with tstchotckes. This makes packing a challenge, especially for volunteer help who just want to get the stuff stuffed.

My daughter notes, correctly, that when you pack really heavy kitchen pots you need something light and fluffy to cushion and fill the box so it is still carryable. So I have pots and sweaters in a box, tstchotckes and towels in a box, books and undies in a box.

You get the idea. Like with unlike. The boxes are labeled, but not so specifically that I could actually find the blue sweater without searching through all the boxes in which sweaters may be the only cushioning material.

Boxes are now piled in every room. Goodwill is better off too. I sure hope I have sufficient storage space!

Despite all this concerted effort, when Heather leaves tonight I’ll still have days of work ahead.

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Filed under 101 Reasons to Downsize, Downsizing, Family issues, Getting organized, Storage

Open House Deadline = week of insanity

Hearing my pitiful whimpers as OH-Day (Open House Day) rapidly approached, on Friday the Rescue Angels (my dear kids Heather and Ethan) flew in from the Bay Area – Ethan just for the weekend, and Heather for the whole week.

This is why we have children. Yup.

Heather brought my 5 & 8 year-old grandsons as well, who added to the amusement but weren’t exactly worker bees. At home they have no TV, no VCR. So whenever they got too bored with watching us slave away we shoved a Star Wars movie into the slot.

Mesmerized

Mesmerized

Elliott's not so sure about this...

Elliott's not so sure about this...

First we did the gross stuff. Gross as in big. Hauling boxes of photo albums, books, notebooks, excess cookware, etc to the storeroom, bagging excess bed linens and clothing for Goodwill, and moving out the bookshelves and cupboards thus emptied.

That left the dirt.
It revealed the cobwebs.
And it left lots of piles of random shit… in what box will that go so I won’t lose it forever???

Heather never stopped. When she wasn’t folding linens or scrubbing out the frig, she was keeping the crew fed with fabulous food. A mix of what I had in the garden, and what needed to be eaten down in the cupboards.

We eat well

We eat well

The more orderly the place got, the more we could see imperfections that had been camouflaged for years.
And yet, miraculously, minutes before the first realtor showed up we finished, and the place looked FABULOUS.

See for yourself here: the virtual tour put together by my realtor. It looks like it’s always been this calm and lovely.

And in a way, it always has been…just hidden by all the STUFF.
.

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Filed under Family issues, Inspiration & encouragement

What about the family piano??

Mom's piano

The piano is a dying fixture in the American home.  So claims a recent story in the Los Angeles Times.

105,000 acoustic pianos (upright and grand) were sold in the US in 2000. By 2007 sales had plunged to 54,000.  Given today’s economy, we could be chopping them for firewood in a few years.

People are buying electronic keyboards instead – keyboards that are light, portable, and include attachments that control the furnace, shampoo the carpet,  and flip pancakes.

This is very bad news for me.

I am the keeper of a 1936 Steinway baby grand – a gift from my mother to my son, who is a talented pianist. Maybe I should say was a talented pianist. We refurbished it at great expense and he played the heck out of it from age 11 till he left for college in 2001.

A few months later I bought a too-big home  because it had a living room spacious enough to accommodate his precious piano which he would return to claim any minute.

Right.

First issue: he’s scarcely touched it in eight years, even when he was living at home the last few months.

Second issue: he’s globe-trotting for the forseeable future. A baby grand will not fit in his backpack. And when he returns it will probably not fit in some shoebox bachelor apartment either.

Third issue: my own future cottage/condo/shoebox won’t have space for a piano unless I put a mattress on top of  it and call it my bed.

There’s so much history with this piano. My grandparents bought it for my mom as a college graduation present  ($990 for the piano, $10 for the bench = $1,000 total).  She taught singing for 70 years with it,  playing it so much the brass sustain pedal was worn to a nub.  My two sisters and I  shed tears of frustration on its (real) ivory keys at our daily practice sessions.

After being refurbished and refinished the piano was appraised at $40k.

Needless to say it’s one of the biggest and most emotionally loaded THINGS that must be dealt with in this downsizing process. Not to mention the pain in my heart that my son’s connection to the piano seems have come undone.

He and I need to have a little chat about the piano’s future…

Meanwhile here’s more from the LA Times story…

The piano has been the center of many American homes for generations, not only a proclamation of a love of music but also often a statement about striving for success.

“In a very traditional sense, the piano did stand for something. It was a symbol of mobility, moving up,” especially among immigrant families, said Joe Lamond, president of the International Music Products Assn., based in Carlsbad and known as NAMM. Some real estate agents still will move a piano into a house that’s for sale to class it up, he said.

In many homes these days, a piano isn’t so much a musical instrument as it is just another piece of furniture.  ….

In the 21st century, the acoustic piano seems to be a relic of another era. Jeffrey Lavner, a piano teacher at the Colburn School in downtown L.A., puts it this way: “I think piano playing is a little like black-and-white movies.”   [ouch!]

…   Many forces have contributed to the acoustic piano’s troubles. Start with electronic keyboards and digital instruments, with their improving quality and alluring gadgets such as metronomes, USB ports, headphones and recording devices. Not to mention their generally lower price.

“We live in a digital age,” said Brian Majeski, editor of Music Trades magazine. “You have to redefine the instrument.”

And in a time of foreclosures and downsizing, the expense of a traditional piano — which can run from a few thousand dollars to $100,000 or more — may seem untenable, especially for a child who may be eager to play but has no track record in the rigors of daily practice. What’s more, for students, there is ferocious competition for the hours between school and sleep: Homework or video games? Soccer or ballet? Facebook or TV?

In a survey of piano teachers conducted in 2005 for the Piano Manufacturers Assn. International, 89% said that the primary reason a child drops lessons is “too many other activities.” …

[Cross-posted at 365pwords . Piano is a great p word.]

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Filed under Attachment - Vairagya, Back Story, Emotional issues, Family issues, Furniture

Yard Sale poem

yardsale

Just came upon a great poem by the late great Jane Kenyonabout a yard sale at her father’s house after he died . This is just an excerpt from the poem, “Yard Sale”:

Under the stupefying sun
my family’s belongings lie on the lawn
or heaped on borrowed card tables
in the gloom of the garage. Platters,
frying pans, our dead dog’s
dish, box upon box of sheet music,
a wad of my father’s pure linen
hand-rolled handkerchiefs, and his books
on the subsistence farm, a dream
for which his constitution ill suited him.
….
Hours pass. We close the metal strongbox
and sit down, stunned by divestiture.
What would he say?

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Filed under Family issues, Selling stuff

I’m jealous.

Wy-amtrak1

My25-year-old son mooched off his kindly old mum from October thru May, stashing away heaps of money from his job – like so many autumn leaves in  giant trash bags.

And then poof! He took off for Wylie’s Excellent Global Adventure – to travel in distant lands till his money runs out, or I yank on the invisible apron string I tied to his ankle the night before he left (whilst he slept).

To make his money last, his plan is to work for room and board wherever possible. Right now he’s helping a Swedish family renovate their old farmhouse through the WWOOF program (worldwide opportunities  on organic farms).  He’s strong, smart, and a hard worker (when motivated… i.e. not working for his mother).

Suddenly I’m thinking, hey! Instead of downsizing, why don’t I just sell/store everything and get the hell out of town myself. Way out of town. Far away. I would be an aged oddity at a WWOOF placement, but I sure have done my share of garden work and have the experience.  (Not quite the stamina or strength though…).

I know if I really put my mind to it, I could do it. But first I gotta figure out how to sell this place for a decent price. Oh that.

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

Boomerang kid reverses direction

boomerangAnother downsizing step taken today, and I’m feeling pretty weepy about it.

My youngest child left home this afternoon.

It shouldn’t be a big deal; he’s 25 for godssake. It’s not even the first time – he went off to college at 18, and until the past few months he’s hardly been back home. But since September he’s been my housemate in order to save $$ for his big globe-trotting adventure – to parts known and unknown.

I have been totally happy living alone since I left his dad in 2001 (when he left for college, actually). I amuse myself quite well, and mostly handle what needs to be handled.

But “I’ve grown accustomed to his face.”  And his good-natured company, his music, his assistance, his goofiness. It’s been a real pleasure and privilege to get to know him as a responsible young adult who is quite capable of running his own life.

His room is now (mostly) empty of his stuff – his boxes line the walls of my once orderly garage. After some cleaning and buffing I could rent the space while I continue the process of getting rid of my own stuff.

Meanwhile I’ve got a couple of big bags in the car for Goodwill. And a hole in my heart.

Wy-amtrak1

Amtrak to Seattle. Seattle to Dublin. On to Prague, Sweden, Berlin, India, Thailand…

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Filed under Attachment - Vairagya, Baby steps, Emotional issues, Family issues

From materfamilias to mom-in-a-box

I sold a printer cart on Craigslist yesterday, but no nibbles on the crib yet.

Selling the crib brings up all sorts of feelings even though the crib is nothing special.

It’s about my role in the family as materfamilias.The crib represents my ability to host family gatherings, guests from out of town, grandbabies and adult kids who need a few months to regroup.

All three of my kids have returned home for a few months (post college) in their early 20s to regroup before launching into the next thing. My youngest has been here since October and will leave (swine flu permitting) for world travels in late May.  In each case it’s been a privilege to get to know the former child as a young adult.

My daughter was looking forward to sending the little ones up for a week in the summer starting next year, but if I’m living in a shoebox it may be a challenge.

Christmas will be very different too. One of our long-standing traditions is gathering after the little ones are asleep to wrap presents and stuff stockings together. We sit on the floor, everyone facing a different corner so no one can peek at the gift being wrapped– laughing, drinking, passing scissors and tape, drinking, laughing.  And in the morning all waking up way too early to be ready when the little ones come down…

Have to let that one go until someone in the next generation gets a bigger house themselves…

My resistance to this move is in full flower today.

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Filed under Baby steps, Downsizing, Emotional issues, Family issues, Furniture, Selling stuff