RUTHLESS. That is my plan.
The purple apron that my friend Julie made me that I’ve worn twice in 30 years. Gone.
The Lladro figurine my sister-in-law brought us from Spain which doesn’t go with our rustic pottery. Gone.
The matching lamps on our nightstands that we bought in New York that are classic but the shades need replacing. Gone.
Or, maybe I should replace the shades.
I’ve taken a hard line with my husband.
His baby grand will take up one whole room.
His bike is a health priority.
We can squeeze in the espresso maker.
But if he wants to keep the dozens of labor-history books he thinks he will read in retirement, then he must let go of the vinyl record albums and the old Stereophile magazines and the enlarger and the baseball cards.
He must critically review each and every T-shirt and select only a few. (I remember how good he looked in a Kelly-green T-shirt and a jean jacket in law school. And that he sometimes wore a T-shirt that said Men of Quality Respect Women’s Equality.)
Oh my. That’s what we will face. Digressions from ruthlessness. Diversions into sentiment and shared memories. The siren call of the photo albums.
I must be vigilant or we will never finish.
What to toss? What to give? What to sell?
My world is spinning. My head aches.
My heart just wants a soft landing.
How We Did It
We found the perfect two-bedroom condo before we had our four-bedroom house ready to sell, so we had only about two weeks to get the house ready to list. We needed to get rid of all the stuff the real-estate agent said had to go, and all the stuff that we wouldn’t have room for in the new place.
- Our Son. We recruited our millennial son who lived nearby in the District to post ads on Craigslist for some furniture and my husband’s gigantic stereo speakers. We agreed that he could pocket half of the proceeds if he both managed the sales and arranged to be at the house for the pickups to help with the heavy lifting.
- Wheaton Regional Library. We donated several boxes of books and records to Friends of the Library in Montgomery County, Wheaton branch. (Okay, yes, I did also pick up a few used books on my way back out.)
- Neighborhood Listserv. Over the course of the two weeks, I regularly sent out e-mails to our listserv, successfully unloading bookcases, a bed, a big hammock and a clarinet. I also posted to the listserv random things we put out on the curb for free pickup. The fringe benefit was we met some really nice folks we had never met before, and reconnected with others we hadn’t seen since the kids moved out.
- Housewares and Clothing Donations. I donated a trunkload of stuff to Value Village on New Hampshire Avenue and another to A Wider Circle on Brookville Road, both in Silver Spring. Both locations had helpful volunteers to take things from the car.
- Storage Unit. We rented a locker on Plyers Mill Road in Kensington for the transition and were pleasantly surprised at the excellent customer service as well as the cleanliness and accessibility of the space. Next up: I’m downsizing the storage space to a smaller unit this summer. Really. I am. It’s in print.
— Robin Talbert
Robin Talbert has been a lawyer, nonprofit executive and consultant.
While You’re At It
I’m also a survivor of the downsizing and moving wars, having recently left a 3,000-square-foot house in Bethesda for a 1,760-square-foot apartment in D.C. As my friends will attest, my husband and I don’t have a lot of “stuff”; even so, the “de-accessioning” process was tough. Relatives were the recipients of several large pieces of furniture, including my Brown Jordan patio table, umbrella and chairs (sob). Someone on our neighborhood chat bought our guest bed. We made several trips to Goodwill to donate clothes and small household items and drove two or three carloads of books to the Friends of the Library, both in Rockville. Montgomery County Habitat ReStore took TVs, old phones, a grill and a few sections of a sectional couch.
But my secret weapon in this move was a woman named Tyler Whitmore of Tada Homes, who specializes in space planning, organization and downsizing, and oh by the way, is an interior designer. She was recommended by my real estate agent when we mentioned we wanted help in transitioning from home to apartment.
Tyler suggested items we should part with, either because they wouldn’t fit in the new space or weren’t worth moving. (We didn’t want to rent storage space, if not absolutely necessary.) Some of those, including an entertainment cabinet and several art posters, went to her consignment store on Kensington’s Howard Avenue. She arranged an appointment for us at the Container Store to buy fittings to maximize our closet space and alerted us to pieces of furniture we’d want to look at that would fit nicely in the new space. We bought a sleep sofa for the guest room at Room & Board. For me, what was most valuable was, once everything arrived in our new space, she and her colleague helped us unpack, arrange furniture, hang pictures and organize the kitchen.
Not that we’re completely settled in. As I write this, I’m sitting in the guest room/my office, surrounded by files, boxes of pictures, office supplies and odd decorative accessories that we’ve yet to find a place for. Let’s just say it’s a work in progress.