Saturday, September 4, 2010

Retirement Downsizing—Facing the Music

For many of us, retiring means downsizing. Moving from a big house, reducing its contents, thinning out closets. Retiring can mean having to give up things we’ve owned and loved forever. The attraction may be illogical, but the more it’s based on sentiment, the harder the decision. For me, downsizing is one of the most difficult aspects of retirement planning. It hits me with a double whammy.

For many years, I was an obsessive collector. I always felt that one of something was lonely and needed a friend. Once I made the pair, I was sunk. Because whenever I came across another related item, I was compelled to bring it home to introduce it to the others. You can see how this got out of hand.

Though I’ve managed to curtail the incoming additions, I have a problem breaking up the families that already live with me. If you haven’t picked up on this already, I have a more serious problem than simply amassing stuff. I anthropomorphize almost everything, no matter how inanimate the object. So my double whammy is that I’m not just breaking up families, I’m parting with my children.

If I’m evaluating two wrought iron floor lamps, trying to decide which stays and which goes, I imagine the one I plan to discard saying, “Why me? Why not him? Why am I not as lovable? Look how interesting MY shade is! Just put a stronger bulb in me, for heaven’s sake!”

I’ve concluded that the only way to thin out my collections is to get rid of each one in its entirety. This comes with its own problems. Take my collection of figural cookie jars. (Please!) I know there won’t be room for them in a smaller home.

But as I prepare to sell them, I find myself thinking: “Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy must be priced as a pair. Can’t split them up,” (even though she’s perfect and he has a chip on his hat.) And then, “The tortoise and the hare really belong together.” (Never mind that my brother brought me the turtle from his trip to Guatemala, and the rabbit was made by one of my father’s co-workers in her ceramic class and isn’t even a cookie jar. It just looks like one.) And then, “Chances are, the pig in the farmer’s overalls and the elephant in the sailor suit will appeal to the same buyer. But wait! That leaves the cat in the French schoolgirl uniform all by herself…”

Maybe somewhere out there is someone as obsessive as I am who will take the entire collection, in tact. Yeah, right. And maybe someday pigs will fly. But if so, please don’t let him leave without his friend, the elephant.

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