On downsizing

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We are in a transition phase of sorts. My wife and I are very seriously considering, and making plans for, downsizing. It sounds so simple downsizing. Like buying a half gallon of milk instead of the whole gallon. However, it s one of the most complex activities I have ever considered.

One of the big questions is, Where and how did I ever get all this stuff? I remember well the days of abject poverty. Those days when we owned no furniture and could move from one ratty apartment to another with everything fitting into the beat-up old station wagon. Those were not the good old days but relocation was certainly simpler. Not so now.

Over the decades, we have accumulated an amazing array of stuff. In fact, we have a storage unit where we store some of the stuff we don’t know what to do with.

When we moved into our present house in December 1990, we stored a bunch of our stuff in the attic. As far as I know, the attic stuff remains there and hasn’t seen the light of day since we packed it in there. Surely, there are antiques in the attic that weren’t antiques at the time of storage.

And there’s the books. A good library is an indispensable tool of a minister. Well, I have tools everywhere. Boxes of books are in the storage unit. Even more boxes are in storage in an area of my house. And I have two offices full of books, one home office and the other being my office at the church. And that’s after donating hundreds of books to the Trinity Christian School and Immanuel Seminary libraries a few years ago. What do I do with them? Does anybody even read books anymore?

In 2017, I made something like 15 runs to the Goodwill donation center during an effort to clean out closets. We must have given away 10 winter coats and 15 blankets to our church’s winter outreach to Atlanta’s homeless. I did take over 300 worship music cassettes to Goodwill. Hopefully there are still two or three people who own cassette players.

When we were moving from place to place in the station wagon, we had no furniture. When we moved into our first unfurnished, rented house, our possessions were two-fold: a desk, and a bed. That was it.

Now we have the task of figuring out what to do with the furniture. The house we are considering building is about a third the size of our present domicile. In fact, we are potentially going from a four bedroom, three and a half baths to a one bedroom, 1 1/2 bath home. It’s not a tiny house but it is small.

And that’s what we’re looking for. A simpler life, less stuff, a house without stairs. I’ve had three knee surgeries with one of those being a knee replacement. There’s another knee replacement on the horizon, so stairs are no longer an amenity to be desired.

We currently have three floors, counting the finished basement. If I, or my wife, wish to escape the other’s presence, it is an easy thing to do. With the new place that will be impossible. But we have survived 46 years of marriage so far and I’m sure that adjustments will be made.

Another adjustment will be in the area of oversight. My wife and I raised three sons. In the course of life, six of our 12 grandchildren have lived with us for periods of time. Two of our sons and their wives have lived with us. We have been the safe place in transitions and emergencies.

Now we are looking at building this small house on my eldest son’s property. He hasn’t said so to me, but I know that he is thinking about us in our older years. The oversight, some of it anyway, will go to him. This will be our safe space. Role reversal.

Transitions are often very difficult. It means a way of life is changing. Transitioning from poverty to being much better off took years and it was very hard. Transitioning from having much to having much less will take months is still very hard, but in a different way.

In retrospect, it seems that it would have been far better to have never bought houses and accumulated stuff to fill them. But, in the American dream, that is not the way of our kind.

But I will say this in this place where we have lived for over 27 years, we have accumulated a life full of memories and experiences. Those, we will gladly take with us. Those are the stuff for which we have plenty of room.

[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA between Newnan and Peachtree City (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org.]