Report from Louisiana: Downsizing

By:  Pat Austin   

SHREVEPORT – With my retirement in a couple of months drawing ever closer, and as crime and violence in Shreveport becomes ever more prevalent, we have been giving more and more serious thought to pulling up and moving out of this hellhole  town, and moving to the small community in south Louisiana where we visit five times a year.

No place is perfect, I know this, but some places are more perfect than others.

But this moving thing? It isn’t as easy as it sounds. I have lived in this house since 1978 and my grandparents lived here before me. My mother grew up in this house. It’s not a fine, family home passed down from generation to generation – it’s a comfortable, two-bedroom house in an aging neighborhood.

The problem is that I look around me and I wonder, what am I going to do with ALL THIS STUFF?!  My goodness but I’ve accumulated a lot of stuff.  And I often tell my husband that he is just one paperclip away from being a hoarder.

I want to downsize.

There are days when I look around and think, “Why on earth am I keeping this?” and throw it, whatever it is, into the trashcan. There are other days when I want to list everything I own for sale online. I could pay off a couple of credit cards with the proceeds, I am certain.

I went through a Depression glass phase a few years ago and now I have three china cabinets filled with the stuff. Ok, it’s pretty, but why do I need six lime green salad plates? Or three clear pink coffee cups? An assortment of cut crystal bowls. Vases, pitchers, salt and pepper shakers, and toothpick holders. I have probably fifty of those tiny, individual salt bowls. Several of those have tiny sterling silver spoons with them.

Why do I need to keep all this stuff?!  My children will not want this after I am gone. Of this, I am certain.

I have some 200 DVDs.  In this age of streaming video, why do I still have these? And let’s please not even open the discussion on books. I am literally drowning in books and I can say in all honesty that I do purge these once or twice a year and donate them to the university book bazaar fundraiser. I still have enough books to fill a U-Haul.

Once I actually retire, I will purge a lot of clothes from my closet, but t-shirts, man, I have a lot of those. Way too many.

Dishes. I have several complete sets of dishes – at least two are antiques, wedding china from both sets of grandparents. My mom’s sterling silver flatware. Kitchen Kitsch – vintage canisters, jadeite, vintage ice cream scoops, enamelware bowls of all sizes, and an assortment of drip coffeepots. Now, the coffeepots I can use – when the power is out, a good old-fashioned drip coffeepot can replace the Keurig or the Mr. Coffee in a heartbeat and taste much better. But do I need six of them?!

Old electronics that I don’t know what to do with. We have at least six old computers around here.

This is getting embarrassing now that I’m writing this.

And sweet goodness I haven’t even gone to the garage yet, but that’s easier because most things in there can go straight to the trash. That’s sort of a wasteland before the final commitment to throw away. An old twin mattress, a wooden rocking chair nobody had room for, now covered in mold. Countless boxes of Mardi Gras beads. A couple of discarded weedeaters.  A broken table someone thought we might fix but never did. Lawn chairs. A non-working window air conditioner unit.

In a way, I envy people that move often because I am certain they don’t accumulate junk like all this. I look around and some of the things I really treasure and have a sentimental attachment too, but others, not so much. I tried reading that Marie Kondo book once about throwing out things that don’t “spark joy,” but the thought of picking up each item in my house and deliberating on whether or not it sparked joy seemed like such a massive undertaking I just couldn’t do it.

I do think it is time to start asking myself some hard questions about what I need to keep in my life and what needs to find a new home, or the trash bin. And it would be pretty cool if I could sell off some of these things that might have value to someone else now that I’ve enjoyed them for a while. And perhaps if I can downsize significantly, I can actually see my way clear to sell my house and move away to a place where people don’t get shot every single day and where you don’t hear gunfire when sitting inside your own home at night. The lawlessness here is really prompting some serious thoughts of change.

But before I rent the moving truck, I have to go throw out my collection of Southern Living magazines, the tarnished brass candlesticks that have been stuck in a drawer for two decades, the size three jeans that I will never fit into again, the wooden fish I bought at Pier I twenty years ago because I wanted to live at the beach, the Rolling Rock salt and pepper shakers with missing caps, a couple of broken tv trays, and a beat up Easter egg tree with missing ornaments.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

6 thoughts on “Report from Louisiana: Downsizing

  1. My brother-in-law was helping me move once and I had a basement full of boxes, most of which were “contents unknown.” I was throwing many of them out without opening them, which horrified him. I told him the boxes had not been opened in more than 20 years, that I’d never been rich enough for them to have contained anything valuable, and that if I hadn’t needed what was in them in two decades I never would.

    I think he was reconsidering the wisdom of having married my sister.

  2. Lived alone for years after my 2nd divorce … me and 2 dogs on a mountain in Pa. … rented a 10 yard dumpster last year … filled it with junk … and I mean junk, sold plenty of good stuff on Craigslist before that and any clothes went to Goodwill … but the rest just went into the dumpster … am planning on getting another dumpster this spring because frankly it looks like I never got rid of the first load … used to tell my Mom that her house looked like a museum to the dead (she kept stuff from every deceased relative) … I guess the fruit didn’t fall far from that tree … God help me if I ever try to move …

  3. I feel for you. When my mother passed had to try to deal with a large house and storage barn. After two weeks and 2000 miles from home was finally done. The local re sells and helpers were loaded down.
    Two years ago a neighbor had to go to assisted living and dealt with his stuff.
    I look at all of mine and try to get rid of a few things a week.
    Recycle magazines and the paper recyclers might take books.
    Good luck

  4. I understand and sympathize with your dilemma. My wife and I have gone through the same process when our parents died or went into assisted living. A lifetime of stuff: furniture, dishes, memories, records, etc that have to be gone through and dealt with. I still have boxes of papers and photographs that my mother had that I inherited when she died in 2013. I like to say that you spend the first half of your life accumulating stuff and the second half getting rid of it.

    I don’t have any good advice about how to deal with it other than start in on it now. The longer you wait the worse it gets and the more likely you end up dumping it all into a construction dumpster at the last minute. Go to an estate sale and you see someone’s whole life on display; loved possessions, memories, and so on, and strangers are pawing over it looking to get something for 10 cents on the dollar. My wife and I are keenly aware of everything we buy these days. Do we want our kids to have to deal with this when we are gone?

    1. The nicest thing my mom ever did for me (and she was awesome) was to take care of all of that sort of thing in her lifetime. And she left notes as to where everything was to go. When we had to empty her house it was simple. A great example.

      And yes, we go…went…to estate sales. I had to stop when I realized I was bringing things home because I felt sorry that their owner had passed.

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