Empty Nester Down-Sizing Thirty-Two Years of Memories

Now that my three children have grown and flown the coop—sadly, they no longer fill the hours of my immediate world—I need to accept my new life without them and, even if reluctantly, move forward. As my children will undoubtedly be setting new roots elsewhere and begin collecting memories of their own, I realize that my husband and I need to make some important changes within our home, too.

Though I have always enjoyed living in a big house with lots of spacious rooms, realistically, with them gone, we no longer need a large living space, nor do we need to keep every little thing we’ve accumulated during the last thirty-two years of Nesting. The accumulations have been considerable, even overwhelming, to say the least. It is now time to down-size, and that means parting with many of our old and no longer relevant memories.

But try to imagine the madness of sorting through thirty-two years’ worth; of what must go and what might be kept. Because, after all, we are down-sizing from a large three bedroom/three bathroom home (roughly 3200 square-feet of living) into a small one bedroom/one bathroom dwelling (not quite 800 square-feet).

It begins with firmly saying:

..This...must go!

But every so often I found myself saying:

Now that...that I just might keep!

However I quickly realized that I cannot and must not save them all. Go they must!

The moment arrived; the dumpster sat outside, enormous and ominous, hungry to be filled, ready and waiting to take all my memories away. And all I could feel was my head spinning, my heart thumping against my chest, and hot, wet tears rolled down my face. Choices needed to be made; but how in the world could I begin to part with what held the many diverse moments of our lives?

Three gumball machines—one red, one, blue, one yellow—two still held colorful candy, though all of the stands were rusting and wobbly, and totally un-fixable. And one already had a severe crack in the glass.

Still, I wondered: But could they be saved? The whole time I battled within.

A box, crushed by weight from other untouched boxes, filled with our little girl’s Bob Mackie collectible Barbie dolls, once beautiful and oh-so colorful, now looked faded and dirty, and certainly ready for the trash.

Once again, temptation to keep them pulled at my heart strings.

But, no, they, too, ultimately unsalvageable, had to go! I finally determined, but not before a self imposed argument followed by another flood of tears.

And then there was an old cardboard box, obviously showing its age, that stored a porcelain tea set, one my father, now a few years passed, had given me when I was a teenager. It held cups and saucers, still perfectly wrapped in fading Sunday comic paper. I’d been keeping this set all these years to give to my oldest daughter. So naturally I decided to keep it. Someday I plan to gift her with it, once I am ready to relinquish ownership, that is.

Fivel! I’d found my son’s old plush toy, a Christmas gift—we’d just seen “An American Tail”—still in great condition. Now this I kept; that I would not throw away. It will be kept along with a teddy bear of mine, one I hold dear, a Gund, a Christmas present from my husband, one he’d brought back for me while on a trip back East, New York (over thirty-two years ago). We’d just recently been engaged when he gave it to me. No matter how old and ugly, how could I part with it?

On and on we sorted through our collected memories, picking and choosing and weighing their significance until we lightened our load by filling, first, a 15-yard dumpster and then a 10-yard dumpster. Once we got started there was no going back. I allowed my heart to be hardened in order to do the once unthinkable!

In the end, well, I have no regrets. If we didn’t “clean house” now, then our children would have been left to do what we should have done in the first place.

Virginia Kahler-Anderson

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