As we prepare to move from our present house to an apartment condo, we must downsize, purge, get rid of stuff. Parting with many of the things is actually a joy (no more yard work! no more snow removal!) but parting with other things has required me to think carefully about my decisions.
These seem to be the rough rules that have evolved in my mind as I have been going through the process:
- Is there any chance I will use or want to have access to this item ever again in my lifetime? e.g. old files, books, tools, equipment, etc. If the answer is no, then the object is a strong candidate for disposal, subject to the next question.
- If I think the probability is low that I will ever want the object, is there much of a chance that my children and grandchildren might find it of any interest or value when they go through my stuff after I die? If so, I have tried to pass it on now rather than wait for them to have to go through everything then.
If the answers to both questions are no, then it goes. Here are some examples:
- Tools? almost all are gone. I'm keeping a few basic hand tools and my latest power drill. If I ever need any of my other power tools, I'll borrow them back from my son or daughter (and actually try to use their places to do any work!).
- Hardware? I have tonnes of cabinets with little drawers of screws, fasteners, door knob sets, hinges, etc. Gone. If I need them, I'll borrow them or buy new ones.
- Books? Ms. Eclectic and I mostly read e-books these days. Nearly all the books are gone, including copies of those I have written. More difficult decisions involved old books (and other old items) that have been in the family for generations. I finally realized my children and grandchildren won't want to be saddled with them, so I have found good homes for them.
- Old files. What a thrill to be forced to go through all my old files and clear them out. And it was so much easier once we realized that nearly all the files we use are on our computers.
- Old slides? We have 2800 slides (five boxes worth!). I took 'em to a photo shop and am paying through the nose to have them put on DVDs for us and our children. The memories will be fun, but setting up an old slide projector to look at them wouldn't be worth the effort. Gone.
- Alcohol? We're doing our best to get rid of as much as possible so we won't have to move it. 8-)
We still have a long way to go over the next several weeks, and parting with memories is always a bit painful. But for the most part, this cleansing is both physically and emotionally cathartic.
Having had to sort through and make decisions about so many things from my mom's house after she died 16 years ago helped me develop these decision rules. There were so many things in her house (she had lived in the same house for nearly 50 years) that I didn't even look at but just threw out or donated to local charities. But I also kept a bunch of family memorabilia and enjoyed looking through it as I packed it up. I'm hoping I've kept mostly similar types of things for our progeny.
Digression: several years ago I apologized to my older son, David Ricardo Palmer, for having so many boxes of stuff that he'd have to go through after we die. His response, "My only hope, Dad, is that you go in a house fire." I think our downsizing will have been a satisfactory alternative.