Saturday, September 26, 2020

Oh, the trauma!

Moving a household, especially one that has been in place for twenty years can be a daunting task. Some hire a moving company and stand back and watch as others pack all of your belongings into boxes and move it all to a new location. Others wish to save the big money and buy boxes, pack their own stuff, and entice family members to come over and help load (and unload) the rental truck. Either way, most of your belongings find a new place to hide at your new location. While stressful, most of the emotions evoked when moving are overshadowed by the anticipation of a new job, new house and/or new location.

Downsizing is another story all together. A completely different set of emotions are dredged up and the stress is amplified because of the many decisions that must be made. When downsizing, you have to take every object that you own and decide... move, donate, or trash. It is a laborious process aggravated by our tendency to keep everything. In our case, we are suffering from a case of "extreme downsizing". We are leaving a four bedroom house something over 3,000 square feet and moving into a motor home of about 250 square feet. For us there is a fourth decision which is ... storage. Once we come off the road, we plan to locate in a condo near our family. So some of the major furniture and most prized keepsakes have already been moved to a rented storage unit.

I tried to rationalize the downsizing process by explaining that once we pass, the kids are going to have to do this anyway. It just saves them the trouble. While that might have a ring of truth to it, it ignores that the emotional value of each item is very different. For them, some object that has been sitting in a hitch for 40 years, can easily be tossed. While we remember that the object was a wedding present from a very dear friend. And that is the trauma of downsizing for us. As we pick up each item, our mind conjures up visions of long ago. Visions of our young child playing on the floor with a (now broken) toy. Or memories of a beach outing with a childhood friend. As we wrestle with each decision to throw something in the dumpster, we inflict a bit of trauma on our psyche.

The entire process of selling your home and downsizing is very stressful. And even more so when there are deadlines being imposed. We have tried to push things off to the kids. Things that will eventually go to them anyway. But how long will we be affected by the trauma of throwing things away? I do not waiver from the decision to roam the country as a nomad and experience spectacular events or scenery. But how long will I regret throwing out that bowl or vase that represents an important part of my being?

Special Note: Writing this has really surprised me. Since I was seven years old, I knew that I would be an engineer. Being data-driven and pragmatic is just a part of who I am. I once explained that "it is all about the data and emotion is just one more piece of data". So it is almost anathema for me to even think this way, let alone write it. Maybe there is some hope for me yet. Peace!

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