Sunday, May 20, 2018
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Mary Alice Powell

It's hard to let go of a lifetime of 'stuff'

Another Saturday and the same old chore is on my to-do list: Downsize.

I don't know of any other task that is more stressful than sorting through a lifetime of possessions and trying to dispose of a big percentage of them. Of all the instruction books with directions for everything from hooking up the TV to fixing the washing machine, I have yet to find one titled Downsizing for the Weak of Heart.

I doubt that any of us would heed professional instructions anyway, because we have our own way of dealing with downsizing. Waiting for the right mood to strike is of no use. I should know. I have been avoiding the issue for about a year, maybe longer.

For many seniors downsizing is a way to clear a path for their children when they die. Moving is the best reason, and then there are folks like me who are just plain overwhelmed with so much stuff.

The challenge begins with a stack of stuff that is sorted and then moved to form a second stack of stuff. That procedure continues throughout the house and then begins all over again until the downsizer realizes that nothing has been accomplished.

And so it is another Saturday. The note on the refrigerator reads the same as it did last week. And the week before. But today I mean business, beginning with the kitchen cupboards by removing everything from them and placing the glasses, dishes, bowls, and etc. on all available surfaces to sort and box.

The next step is going out to breakfast for a hearty meal so I can resume the task with vitality. The question is just how many dishes does one person need? And how many different sizes of glassware? I can't possibly put the old fashioned glasses inscribed with Urban Athletic Club in the discard box. The club was in the basement of a house on Lincoln Avenue. Membership was $5 a year and Gracie, the proprietor, made the best soups in town.

As for mother's Noritake china, I have seen similar sets in antique stores with ridiculously low prices. It is too personal to let go of.

I believe one major downsizing step is to mark off a section with a sign "Think About It." We don't want to get rid of something we will wish we had back, heaven forbid.

I can easily part with the blue-and-white dishes that were on sale when LaSalle's went out of business. I can also swallow deep but discard the black dishes that I had to have for a black-and-white dinner theme. But the 12 place settings of heavy pottery El Palomar dishes purchased in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, are locked into the favorite travel memory box.

Don't you just love the response from young relatives when they are offered family heirloom furniture? "This rocking chair was your great grandmother's. She saved soap box tops to get it and it is put together with wooden pegs" was one offer to a second cousin. His response: "How interesting."

I envy people who brag that if they haven't worn something in two years, out it goes. My rule is that if I can't zip it or button it, it's time to consider getting rid of it.

While weeding out the closets I am reminded of the compliments I received on the 20-year-old Carole Little dress I wore to the Elegant Rags fashion show at Fifi's Reprise last fall. Did I say, "Oh, this old thing, It's 20 years old..."?

No, I responded with a polite thank you and moved the dress up front in the closet. There's always another fashion show.

Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor. Contact her at:

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