Downsizing Hurts the Heart

When I look out in our carport I am still shocked….”Honey, who shrunk the car!” Our new vehicle looks a fourth of the size of our old van, as if somebody waved a magic wand and turned it into a shiny compact model. Now my ride is so sporty and spotless, I am afraid to even turning the key in the ignition.

As empty nesters in a first painful step toward downsizing, we bid a fond farewell the 7-seater packed with memories of mountain drives, trips across France and basketball tournaments throughout Switzerland. But better to shrink the car than the house.

Even though in the absence of children, our home, small by American standards is too big. Our four floors, stacked like building blocks, house only two inhabitants, yet every closet is crammed and every shelf overflowing. I need the space to store all the memories.

My house begs for a major make over, a purge, a clean sweep, but I remain immobilized, as if parting with anything is like pitching a priceless heirloom. Shelves overflow with books marking each stage of childhood from Goodnight Moon to Bernstein Bears to Harry Potter to Lord of the Rings. I find it no easier to toss old board games like Candy Land to Life to Scrabble. Old sweatshirts and t-shirts representing every team my son and daughter ever played for – or even supported – line closets. Random basketballs, footballs, and soccer balls still bounce off shelves.

And the toys! How can I part with Nic’s pirate ship and electric train set or Nathalie’s Little Ponies and Beanies Babies, all 300, that she once so lovingly recorded by name and birth date, replacing the pets we never owned.

Alas even harder to part with are the papers, like my own Taj Mahal of colored binders filled with decades of anecdotes, stories and journals capturing first smiles to first spills from first races to braces, first cars to colleges, stacked from the floor to the ceiling recounting each age, every stage of our lives.

Even though I understand intellectually that my daughter, soon a medial resident, anywhere USA and my son, filled with American college coursework and commitments, have embarked on their own career paths thousands miles away. In my mind, I know they return home as temporary guests before embarking on their next adventure, yet in my heart, I am unable to part with the past.

In every room of the house fleeting reminders of ball games, art projects, research papers, road trips, and special occasions bombard me. As if by discarding anything, I would shatter that perfect illusion in the collective kaleidoscope of memorabilia that made our family unique and beautiful.

Posted in inspiration, social view.


  1. Ah, so I'm not the only one with that problem. only I live in a tiny appartment, even for Dutch standards…

  2. Hi Pat,

    Tried hard to comment on this wondeful & nostalgic post on Sunday, but, couldn't get through! It brings up a valid point…Do we really want to rid our hoarding in this midlife transition of wonderful keepsakes -haha
    My children are long gone, but, I refuse to get rid of their "stuff" book reports/cards. paintings, letters, and my great memories as well from my own life. So what to do ?

    I love your site & will become a frequent US visitor AND not all of us here would consider your home small:)


  3. Clara,
    I wonder if it is the writer in us that makes it impossible to part with anything and that is why we try to preserve our memories in words. Looking forward to following your musings. Pat

  4. Thank you, Pat, for adding a voice to my thoughts. Somehow my husband just doesn't get this. So, the stacks of play bills and choir programs and progress reports and whatnot keep growing. Some day I'll cherish having those, I know.

    Again, thanks!

  5. Lori – Absolutely!!! Save everything. Just saw your blog…soon as my husband gets home to help me I will sign on. Keep stacking! Pat

  6. Pat, my blog is boring! Meant for school work more than fun or interesting things! I'm on Facebook. How about you? That's where my life is located (pics, etc.) Lori

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