I am Downsizing, Again

First, let me say that it is a good thing. I was fortunate in that I had time to prepare for my retirement and move from the parsonage to our retirement home. I was very intentional about the things I gave away, sold, donated or even trashed. When push comes to shove, sometimes things just have to go.

However, I have a piece of unasked for advice, for anyone in the same position. Maybe, keep track of the things that go out the door in a notebook. Not because you would want to take back what you gave, sold or donated.

But the reality is you may, on more than one occasion drive yourself and your spouse crazy looking for that one thing you know you had somewhere. The problem is that somewhere is now residing in someone else’s home, a shop, or even, possibly the landfill.

Depending on your circumstances, said downsizing can be painful, especially if you have a history of holding onto things. And there can be ironic circumstances. I held onto my high school yearbook for 50 years, and not just holding onto it in one location. No, from too many domiciles to count; or to list. Let me just abbreviate by saying, three states, four counties and several homes.

Old picture of a young girl in a white cap and gown for high school graduation.
June 1968

Then, shortly before my retirement in 2018, I asked myself why I was holding onto it when I had no contact with anyone from my graduating class? I threw it out! That was in May. In September of 2018 I reconnected with a high school classmate, who put me in touch with others. In October of 2019 I had dinner with 11 of my classmates. Thankful, no one asked if I had brought my yearbook!

In another instance, I had purchased a book written by a colleauge, about his experience in leading a church through a growth phase. Buying the book seemed like a good, collegial, supportive thing to do. I carried it only to three different homes, but never read it. (So many books, so little time!) So, again, in preparation for retirement, I gave the book away, around March or April of 2018. Can you guess what happened in May of 2018? I was appointed to serve that church! With everything in me, I wanted to put that in caps, but my daughter tells me that is the equivalent of yelling in print.

My current quest for downsizing involves moving my small first floor office, to an upstairs room so that I can make room for a first floor bathroom. Recent past experience, prudence and practicality suggests if we are going to stay in this house for the rest of our lives, having access to a full bathroom on the first floor would be beneficial.

That means, although the two rooms involved are very close in terms of square feet, everything in the down stairs office, will not fit in the upstairs office/craft room. So I am proceeding judiciously. My computer and printer and office supplies are already upstairs in their new cozy digs. I like it.

There is even less “display” space here, and so I am also looking through those three dimensional resources to give to friends and trust that they won’t think that I am severely depressed. That was my big worry when I offered a friend a small oil lamp from The Holy Land. I still have a stuffed frog that I have had for over twenty years.

The frog does not have a name, but he has come in handy when talking about the story of Moses and the Plagues. Wall hangings and framed prints, ceramic plaques, they just have to go; quietly out the door, to the nearest second hand shop without delay.

The books and the book cases that are in my downstairs office will not fit, nor will the four drawer file cabinet. And there is the rub. I have given myself until the middle of April to clean out and off the old oak desk downstairs in the hopes of possibly selling it. It has taken a bit of a beating in less than three years.

A picture of a wall of book cases and books. Stacks of books on a brown table and a woman sitting on a couch reading a book.
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

The books are a weightier problem. I am a pastor; I write, teach and preach. I have kept those print resources that I consider essential to the work of sermon writing and books that have the potential to be used in the writing I hope to do someday. Books that are great resources for the non-religious writing I would like to do. I have several books about prayer, Bible Study resources, theology, books about the life and thought of John Wesley, to name only a few. And did I say, or only hint broadly, that I love research?

Do you see a theme here? There are very few books in my office that would interest anyone but a pastor or prospective pastor. I also have about 100 plus books on Kindle, but they are easy to carry around.

The books I have loved, I have highlighted, underlined, and written in. In other words, they are not the sort or condition that book concerns buy back. I would be hard pressed to sell them online as anything other than what they are; none of them are dog-eared, does that count?

Retired pastors often give away their books to new pastors. It takes a while to accumulate a personal library. The problem is that our books are old. Not as old as we are, but I have been in school, college and seminary enough to know that most professors like to change up either the edition, or the books they put on the class syllabus. It is a rare professor who will resist this temptation.

I would love to “accidently” leave some books behind on the bookshelves in the parsonage office that I get to use in retirement. The problem is, I can’t say, “Oh, those books? They were already here when I got here!” When I moved my things into the parsonage the bookshelves were bare, I have an honesty clause in my invisible contract, and pretty sure all the books have my name in them. I would be quickly “outed!”

What’s a girl, okay a 70 year old woman who should know better, to do? I am going to try to trim my books to what will fit in two book cases, but that will take some time. I will keep looking for unsuspecting, er, I mean grateful newer pastors who would be glad to receive books to help supplement their own resources.

The new bathroom, if it happens at all, cannot happen until I have done the needed work of sorting, culling and hoeing out.

Does this mean I won’t buy any new books? Don’t be silly!

Not holding back the tide,

Michele

Copyright 2021 Michele Somerville, The Beach Girl Chronicles and https://msomervillesite.WordPress.com

Published by msomerville2014

About: Michele Somerville is a wife, mother, stepmother, grandmother, sister, aunt, cousin and friend. She lives with her husband and their dog Sheba. Sheba is their fourth rescue dog in 30 years. She is a retired ordained United Methodist Elder and serves two churches part-time in North Central Pennsylvania. She obtained her Bachelors’ Degree in 1999 from Mansfield University and her Master of Divinity in 2004 and Doctor of Ministry in 2016, both from Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, New York. My Doctor of Ministry Thesis was:” Prophetic Words of Grace: Biblical Storytelling in the Local Church.” Michele began writing and performing character monologues for worship in 2008. She began by asking the question about nameless characters in the Bible, “What would they say if they could speak for themselves?” and then using her theological education and experience of the human condition to attempt an answer that is both academic and creative. Much of what you will read here are memories from growing up in a tourist town, in a bar, in the 1960’s, shaggy dog stories about our rescue dogs, life in a small town, and stories of faith and hope. Throughout her life she has lived in many states, including small towns, large towns and cities. She lived in Rota, Spain, for nine challenging months. Despite all the places she have lived since moving away from home in 1970,Michele is at the heart of all things Jack and Maggie’s daughter, and a beach girl from Onset, Massachusetts.

32 thoughts on “I am Downsizing, Again

  1. Oh Michele my husband and I “discuss” his books regularly. He has two huge bookshelves that are completely full – he has all his counselling books, a wide assortment of theology (he preaches occasionally and is just interested in that sort of reading) then there’s all the other books he’s bought over the years. The thing is that nobody really wants books handed on to them – everything seems to be on the internet and the next generation prefers to search there rather than look through a book. It’s going to be a weighty problem for us when we downsize one day – but in the meantime he loves them and they do look good in his office! You’ll have to post a pic or two of your new office once you’re settled in.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It probably definitely shows my age that I am not a fan of online resources. Even though I have a Kindle, I like books, I especially like books with footnotes and bibliography, and use two bookmarks for them. Thanks for sharing your story. I think it is always more of a challenge when it is somebody else’s stuff. part of the reason that I am being proactive. I want the bathroom and don’t want to be nagged to clean out my stuff, so I am just having at it. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read and comment, blessings, Michele

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  2. What a big job you have! Downsizing isn’t fun. I am not a book owner, but John is. He has religious books in his office, music in the living room, ship history in what is now our son’s room, and trains in David’s room. If he dies first, I don’t know what I’ll do about getting rid of them. His job will be easy — dump the cookbooks in the trash. Neither daughter cooks, and son doesn’t look at recipes.

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  3. Hi Anne and thank you! The thing we have joked about in terms of who dies first is my journals. I started journaling prayer in 1998. Not lists, but letters to God. Pretty sure there are over 40 composition note books and a few fancier journals that were gifts. The joke is if I die first he will have to have a bon fire, although he has threatened to sell them, lol. But I admit those thoughts have also been in the back of my mind. You have moved a few times at least and we have moved several times in our 35 years together. But I know people, perhaps you do too, who have lived in the same house and never gotten rid of anything. It is a lot to ask of the family you leave behind. I have a lot of cookbooks, although now most of the new things I cook come from internet recipes. I also have more categories of books than the ones I mentioned in the post. I like the fact that John has separated his stash of books in different areas of the house, lol. Blessings for the day, Michele

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  4. Michele, thank you for the primer on downsizing. Hubby and I seriously considered it when he retired in 2019. We diligently went through closets, cleaned out our basement, threw away, gave away, donated. then e decided to temporarily stay where we are. The problem is “where we are” is a 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom house on a fairly large lot. It’s where we raised our kids. Way too big for us to rattle around in and a LOT (yes, I am yelling) to care for. I am looking forward to paring down.

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    1. When you do it, it will feel good. I get overwhelmed with paper, I want to get rid of the files in the file cabinet, which means looking at every folder. I did this before retirement and managed to trim down from 10 file drawers to six, sort of, okay maybe only 8, lol. I know people who have never done the work you and your hubby have already done. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Blessings, Michele

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  5. Hi Michelle, I’ve moved so many times over the years that I’ve lost count of the number of houses that have housed me! The biggest downsizing I’d done before last year was in 2006/2007 when I left Australia to live in Russia. I left Russia with a suitcase and a laptop. However, although I gave most of my precious books to a second hand book store, a lot of my ‘stuff’ was stored with my sister for the day I would come ‘home’ and need it. Well, I haven’t ‘come home’ and on each visit back there I throw away or give away more and more of my ‘stuff’. I now have only 2 small suitcases left at my sister’s place (I’m sure she’s pleased about that!). And then, last year when we were forced to leave Moscow within 4 days, after living there for more than 10 years, we just didn’t have time to give away or sell everything. After selling what we could and giving away some other things, we left more things in the flat, and some things like clothes and household items beside the bins outside hoping that someone would have a use for them (the working microwave was gone in a flash!). I left Moscow with 17kg in my suitcase! Downsizing is my thing!

    I can also relate to looking for something that I’ve given away, on more than one occasion – many hours have been lost on this activity! All the best for your new bathroom and office, a change is as good as a holiday! Wishing you a great Friday and weekend.

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    1. I did indeed buy a new book yesterday, almost large enough to be a coffee table book, an inch think and quite heavy. It is for research, so I can rationalize it, and it was on sale, lol. But even I can’t believe I published that post and went and bought another book so soon! Blessings, Michele

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  6. Downsizing is a challenge. It’s the memorabilia I have trouble with. I have inherited it from my parents and sister and I have my sons’ memorabilia as well. We’ll have to cull it one day but it’s in the too hard basket now. Too emotionally draining to go through it. Good luck with the move, regards Christina

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  7. Michele, Books are hard to part and resist. Be proud of all your downsizing efforts to date. I hope you keep the books you absolutely love. Thanks for linking with #WeekendCoffeeShare.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I have done that……gotten rid of something, only later to look for it or wish I had kept it. Lol. I have gotten much better at minimizing, HOWEVER, I do wish i had held on to more things from my childhood and my kids childhood. My hubby is not one to save things, so we end up getting rid of quite a bit. 😦

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    1. My husband is definitely not a packrat, but he has a lot of stuff. It took him years to start getting rid of things. At a certain point, you have to give up the kids drawings and shot records, etc.. However, I am serious about his not being a packrat. On more than one occasion he has proven that that some day he might need or use a particular thing has happened over and over. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment:) Michele

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  9. My Hubby and I have moved 15 times in 25 years of marriage…sometimes multiple times in the same year. We’ve gone from living in a home to our car and back again. I’ve got moving and downsizing down pat, you could say. Our base possessions (those that just cannot be gotten rid of) equate to two 50qt plastic bins that can fit in the trunk. That includes important documents, family pics, a toy each from childhood, and whatever fits between. We’ve learned that it’s all just “stuff” anyway. We’ve survived two tornadoes, and a house fire, as well as unemployment and homeless as a result. At the moment, I’m packing again as we plan to move to what we hope will be our “forever” home back in our home state. Hubby is looking for work there, I’ve found several housing options. We’re looking at something single level after this past year where both of us have fallen down the stairs, or had issue where we couldn’t get down/up them. It’s not easy. I do understand the looking for things only to realize you don’t have them anymore, and then sometimes grieving their loss. sigh…

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    1. Bear, you are so right about grieving, too. I have had some tough times in my youth, but nothing as severe as what you have mentioned. Coming through all of that trauma together on the other side of it is huge. I wish you and your hubby great success in a forever home and a good and satisfying job for him. The lure of home can be quite strong, I know. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment and for sharing part of your story too! Best and blessings, Michele

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi Michell.
    I laughed through your essay. Too many “been there – struggled with that too” kind of moments to repeat.
    I found that youth pastors are a good source of empty shelf space with anxious owners. They are out of school, busy at trying to get their ministry together, broke and willing to help relocate many of the titles they will want from your collection. A lot of what I gave away to one lucky YP were classics that I simply would never use again. I did keep my favorites or the ones hardest to afford or find in the first place (way back when Amazon was still just a big river).
    I don’t envy you the problem though. Each of the point you made are sound, but so is the need.

    BTW: our church has contacts with a large collection of churches in Uganda and our whole local area did a Bible and Christian book drive for him. When the dust settled, there were thousands (yes thousands) of Bibles that were boxed up and sent over for use by their needy pastors and leaders. They had so many Christian books left over that they started a free-use library. The whole effort proved to be wildly successful. I managed to fill a big box from my shelves as well and should have filled more but time ran out.

    The local salvation army was doing a similar project, but I don’t know their details.

    But about that frog. hmmm, Sorry. You may be on your own with that challenge.

    Blessings my friend. Thanks for the fun read and visit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Gary. that does give me some ideas though, we have a mission warehouse in Mechanicsburg (Mission Central) that does some pretty amazing things. Of course there are over 750 active pastors in our conference, but maybe I will check with them to see if they re accepting books. I don’t have too many youth ministry resources, except the things i use currently for Messy Church. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Blessings back, Michele

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  11. Proudly I say it’s my husband who needs to downsize more but we really don’t have anywhere we are moving to and hope to stay renting here. He is more of a ‘hoarder’ than I knew!! I have been far better at giving away, passing on and sometimes, selling.

    Best wishes!!

    Denyse #weekendcoffeeshare

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  12. More than once I have gone looking for things that I tossed or gave away and it drives me nuts each time! LOL. I have a real love of reading but made a promise to myself a few years ago not to buy any books that I could borrow from my local library for free. It has helped a bit with my book clutter… just a bit.

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  13. Hi Michelle, I feel your pain. I have no problem getting rid of old clothes, furniture, and household items, but books fall into a different category. Especially the ones that have been loved with yellow highlighter, marks in the margins and yes, even dogeared pages. Good luck.

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  14. Downsizing is a big deal, Michele. I like your word “intentional” and I will remember this when I continue to purge things. A good point about the notebook. A priceless photo of June, 1968. Possibly yelling in print is sometimes fitting.🙂 You remind me how I still have many Dental and Dental Hygiene books. A niche reader. A fun, interesting and relatable story, Michele.💕

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    1. Thanks Erica/Erika. This is a little like those puzzle games we used to have with the interlocking plastic pieces and one space open. I think I have found a space up here in the hall that will allow me to keep the night stand, with maybe 2 plastic totes on top of it. But I will have to make decisions bout family pictures, and a few sentimental things my mom had made, that need to go. Ouch, but… I still had graduation cards, mostly from parishioners, from my last 3 degrees. I sat here and re-read every card, and then grit my teeth and threw them out. Okay, no actual teeth were harmed in this process. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Blessings, Michele

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  15. Oh Michele… how I understand the dilemma of downsizing, especially my precious books! Two years ago, we thought we were going to move and I decided to do some major decluttering. In the end, I donated 17 bags of books. While I felt “lighter” I must admit that over the next 24 months, I did feel the repurchase a few of the books I prematurely released.

    This past month we thought we were going to move again. So I set out to declutter the bookshelves, again. In the end, I managed to donate another six bags of books. We’ll see how many I repurchase this time 🙂

    I am a researcher too… and I love personal growth books as well as fiction. I am most comfortable in my Nook surrounded by books. I have a feeling you are too. I will pray that the sorting process goes well and you are able to keep many of your beloved “friends” and find joy in releasing others to new homes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Molly. Wow 17 bags of books. I am combing through my possessions, and books are the most difficult to be sure. I love that you admit to repurchasing. I have had to do that too! What is the status of your move, the one you thought was going to happen? Whatever it is, I hope it works out they way you had hoped. My husband thinks I shouldn’t be in a hurry, because we don’t even know if a bathroom will be doable in that space, but even though I don’t feel ill and certainly am loving life, there is something to be said for making the decisions about where our stuff goes for ourselves, instead of leaving it behind for someone else to deal with. Pretty sure for the most part, unless they are really mutual possessions, no one else feels quite the same about our special books or memories. One of the actions I did not include in the post was going through each of the graduation cards I received from parishioners through 3 graduations. I re-read every card, every note, looked at signatures and remembered and then they went into the trash. But throw books away? Never! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Best and blessings, Michele

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  16. Having just moved I can truly relate to the book situation. My husband and I had/have a lot of books. He has more because he has taken up the hobby of collecting leather bound books. It is great if you can get rid of as many as possible. I could not get my husband to part with many. We now have a set of bookcases in our garage holding books. I would only have so many in the house. Did not want to decorate every room with bookcases. I have turned one small room into a library for the leather bound books.

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    1. Thanks Deborah! I sympathize. Moving is so difficult. In our case I am the book culprit. My husband has books and book cases in his work room but t hey are paperbacks, some of my books are for the writing I hope to do, for research, but many are just what comes from being a pastor. there is always another book! Thanks for reading this post and others and following my blog. Blessings, Michele

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