Author: Ramos, Jean

Downsizing Is Not For Wimps

As many of you know, my 97 year old mother-in-law, Lorene, passed away on September 9. She would have turned 98 on Christmas Eve. I’m thinking that the song title, “I’ve Lived A Lot in My Time,” pretty well sums things up for her. She was born in 1913, just ten years after the Wright Brothers made their historic flight and one year before the sinking of the Titanic. She lived through 18 American Presidencies, beginning with William Howard Taft and ending with Barack Hussein Obama.

History making events that took place in her lifetime were the completion of the Panama Canal, passing of the 19th Amendment which gave women the right to vote, Charles Lindbergh’s solo flight from NY to Paris, not to mention the two World Wars, Korean War, Vietnam War and the Gulf Wars. She witnessed the first satellites launched into space and the first man on the moon.

Of particular interest to Lorene who worked as a nurse for 57 years (not a typo), was the discovery of penicillin in 1941 and the Salk vaccine, a miracle drug that eradicated polio back in 1955.

As you can imagine, in nearly 98 years, one can accumulate quite a few treasures. She has boxes and boxes of china and crystal, photographs, needlework, knick knacks and the like. Like most folks who lived through the Great Depression, she would hold on to things that most people would toss out; things such as little tin boxes, zip lock bags, greeting cards, buttons and bows. It’s sobering to think that my mother-in-law has not taken one earthly item to her grave. Terry and I have been renting a storage unit to house all of her things, as well as many of his Dad’s earthy goods. Well my friends, it’s been a wake-up call for me, the sorting process has begun.

I began to think of what my daughters would face if I were to leave this planet any time soon. Just from where I’m sitting at my desk, I can see a hundred things that they would toss out or haul to the Goodwill without hesitation. There are two very old wooden cigar boxes, dating back to a time when cigars were 5 cents each; very handy for storing other little worthless trinkets. There’s a kaleidoscope that allows me to see beauty in the mundane. You ought to see the label on the John Ruskin cigar box through my kaleidoscope! Ah, but I’ve digressed. Also from my vantage point, I see two pretty tin boxes; one holds buttons and the other holds picture hanging hooks. There’s also a box of small zip lock bags, I keep them handy for storing beads and earrings, etc. I’m starting to see a pattern here; I have become my “mother-in-law.”

I’ve known for quite a while that I’ve needed to do some major “editing.” I have not reached the point where I qualify for the “Hoarders” TV show, but I’m well on my way. There’s too much of everything! All the closets are exceeding their capacity, too many coats, too many clothes, too many shoes and purses, books and CDs. I believe that if I got rid of all the books that I’ll never read again, I can eliminate two large bookcases.
I have a cousin who lives on a large sailboat. They have a rule that is necessary to abide by and that is, for each item they bring aboard, they must take one off, lest they “sink their ship.” I have definitely recognized a need to downsize and simplify my life. Remember that old Johnny Cash song, “Five Feet High and Rising?” We are up to the gunwales.

I recently read an entertaining book where one of the main characters in the novel was a woman who had a penchant for designer handbags, so much so, that she was running out of room to store them. She came upon a solution; when she bought a new handbag, she would take a used one out to a public place and “set it free’ for who ever found it. Who doesn’t like to “find” something that’s worthwhile? Think of the possibilities, a way to bless others and unburden one self. The same can be done with books. I like the idea of releasing books, just leaving them in random spots with a note to the finder to take, enjoy and pass it on. I could do the same with CDs, leave them in camp sites at Festivals or Camp-outs. This is going to be fun! Maybe downsizing doesn’t have to be painful.

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately. I’ve pondered the idea that there is too much “stuff” being manufactured and made, items that have no usefulness. Some of what we buy is consumable, but the packaging is another story. Much of it will eventually end up in the landfills if it’s not recyclable in some manner. There was a time when I’d go out shopping and I’d tell myself, “There comes a day in everyone’s life when they need to say ‘no’ to themselves,” then I’d laugh and say, “But today is not that day?” Well, I’m not laughing so much anymore. My love affair with “stuff” needed to be curtailed at some point. Maybe this is a lesson that one learns late in life, when you realize you can’t take anything with you. “You never see a hearse towing a U-Haul,” is an old saying, but so true.

Until next time, commit a random act of kindness, set a good book free, praise a child, say “no” to yourself now and then, hug a tree...go green. I’m done. See you at the Fall Camp-Out in Colusa, Lord willing.
Posted:  9/25/2011

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