Part 6: Downsizing–A Trip Down Memory Lane

If this post of Joan’s Journey was a third-grade essay on how I spent my birthday, no one would believe me. Why? Because I spent my birthday filling garbage bags with discarded stuff.

Welcome Joan’s Journey travelers. Join me on my downsizing journey toward senior housing.

I’m a Gemini. I like to be social, hang with family and friends, and to celebrate my birthday with panache. However, this year the need to downsize my condo in preparation for senior housing overrode my inner call to party.

Reminiscing About Days Past

To be precise, my daughter’s high school and college belongings were the items of closet downsizing on June 5, my birthday. My fabulous daughter flew to Baltimore from San Francisco for my birthday weekend. From Friday to Tuesday we saved or eliminated clothes, shoes, high school and college books and notebooks, stuffed toys and mementos, a sleeping bag, and most importantly, boxes of photos.

My adult daughter has lived in San Francisco for 13 years. Yet, as we worked, at least five coats and 12 pairs of shoes with countless pairs of socks emerged from the bowels of her closet. As we sifted through the various items, we felt like we were on a journey down memory lane. “Remember when I bought this blue mini-skirt for a high school party?” my daughter asked. “I do remember,” I answered, as we looked at each other teary-eyed with fond shared memories.

Her visit, especially on my birthday, was bittersweet. Downsizing remnants of 20 years of my daughter’s life was not easy. By the end of her trip, we were physically exhausted and emotionally drained.

Discovering Lost Treasures

What did we accomplish? We downsized from a large closet filled beyond capacity to a one-third-filled closet with boxes of “keepers” ready to be properly packed and shipped. I gave my daughter a very large suitcase for her return trip that she filled with photos and treasures she didn’t trust to ship.

An unexpected bonus was the discovery of a set of beautiful, decorative china plates my father collected as a hobby and gave to her before he died. These plates have been lost since 1996. I cannot express the joy we felt when the plates re-appeared on June 5. My daughter said their discovery was a birthday gift from my parents.

Did we finish? Not at all. When one starts early in the move process and organizes the downsizing into logical stages, the time involved is longer than randomly throwing items away or into storage. I have a ‘feel-good’ sense of accomplishment from our rather organized Stage 1 downsizing start.

Getting the Kids Involved

A few days after my daughter returned to San Francisco, my son Mark, who lives in Los Angeles, visited. With Mark, as I had with my daughter, we selected cherished serving pieces and artwork from my parents, grandparents and myself that I would no longer need and they would enjoy. Mark placed his selections in boxes and they sit in a closet ready to be packed and shipped.

My other son, Brian, lives in Seattle. I will take photographs of items I think he will appreciate and wrap and ship these to him. Once all of the items are shipped, Stage 1 of my downsizing— “Items to Children”—will be complete.

In my next installment, my journey into downsizing to comfortably fit into senior housing space continues. I’ll share my Stage 2 experiences in selling and donating my large pieces of furniture and no-longer-needed belongings.

Moving to senior housing is exciting. However, the process of downsizing is intimidating and complex. Joan’s Journeyers, whether you have downsized for senior housing or have general moving tips, your advice, comments and suggestions are welcome. Join the discussion at the blog or email your questions to


Joan London, a freelance writer living in Baltimore, just celebrated her third anniversary of being an official senior. London is looking forward to selling her condo and moving with her cat Mia from the Atlantic to Pacific Coast, to be closer to her children and grandchildren.

Read part seven of Joan’s Journey: Lightning Strikes, Journey Jolted!

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