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I’ve come to conclude that as you get older, downsizing is a fact of life. I’ve been doing it for several years now. And, with more of us taking charge of our elderly parents’ downsizing, we often have to decide what to do with their lifetime accumulation of belongings. The New York Times this week had a feature article on how we have become a society “hooked on storage.” Happily, in the Denver area, we don’t have to drive miles to our storage units. But, the prices are comparable everywhere. Many of us pay thousands of dollars a year to store our kid’s first drawings, the artifacts we brought back from other countries on vacations, the furniture that will not fit in our downsized homes or apartments. Is it worth it? A few moves ago, I decided “no.” My parents had two storage lockers and I had one. Between us, we spent $400 a month on the units. Between 1991 and 2005, I had never been to mine. My parents had never been to their’s. Every time once of us moved, we just designated certain boxes and furniture “storage” and had the moving company deliver those items to the unit instead of to our respective new homes. After my father died and once my mother had moved from an apartment at an assisted living facility to a nursing home, it was time to sell their stuff. Yes, it took days and days to go through their 50 years of accumulated possessions and decide what to keep. But, how many serving dishes and deck chairs does one need? I found an auction house willing to come to the storage unit, take what they thought they could sell, and agree to dispose of the rest. I retained just two boxes of things I thought my sister or I would want. After that, the next time I moved, it was easy. I called the auction company and they took everything in my house that wouldn’t fit in my downsized condo. I saved one box of things I thought my son might want — his report cards, drawings and photographs. All those stuffed animals, quilts and baby clothes would never mean to him what they had meant to me. Instead of thinking I might need excess furniture, rugs and art if I bought a bigger or second home, I decided I’d buy new things if that happened. Are there things I sometimes wish I kept? Yes, but they are insignificant in the big picture. Nothing I can’t replace. My suggestion: Take a digital photo of the things you love but don’t have space for. Look at the pictures when you want to reminisce. Life is too short to be chained down by possessions. As Don Henley sang in Gimme What You Got, “You don’t see no hearses with luggage racks.”
You spend your whole life Just pilin’ it up there You got stack and stacks and stacks Then, Gabriel comes and taps you on the shoulder But you don’t see no hearses with luggage racks