Joan’s Journey: Sentimental Value Does Matter When Downsizing

joan_and_boxesWelcome Joan’s Journeyers. I have a confession to make. I miss my cookie jar. Sound trite? In the big picture of life, missing one’s downsized and discarded cookie jar is a very insignificant matter. Yet on my Possessions I Miss From Downsizing list, my cookie jar ranks a 10 on a scale of 1-10.

Prior to moving to senior housing in January 2014, I thoughtfully, carefully and meticulously downsized my Baltimore condo of its non-essential belongings and furniture. For the two years my condo was for sale, I slowly donated or discarded stuff. I dropped off items at second-hand stores, resale shops, used-book markets, the Salvation Army and GoodWill Industries.

Yet about midpoint in downsizing, I discovered I still had far too many belongings to move across country. The process became daunting. I invested in an Organizer, a certified professional trained to efficiently establish a coherent, functional structure from a disjointed assortment of items.

A cheerful, lovely lady and her assistant visited my condo about six times in blocks of four hours. Prepared for the organizer’s visits, I had the living room, dining room and bedroom filled with boxes, bags and piles of Maybe and Maybe Not items. On the first visit, the organizer explored the near-ceiling high piles, and we planned the rest of her visits.

First we categorized items into Move, Not Move and Undecided. Criteria for each category depended upon the necessity, ease of replacement, movability and sentimentality of the item. We then shuffled through decades of loose photos in envelopes, framed pictures, artwork, collectibles like coffee mugs, knickknacks, mementos, linens, office supplies and cookware, like baking pans for cookies.

joan_and_downsizerThe organizer considered inexpensive dishware and entertainment pieces, such as ice buckets, candy dishes, cake plates and glassware, as breakable and easily, inexpensively replaced. For items with sentimental value, she suggested taking photographs with my mobile phone. I was kindly and gently encouraged NOT to be a hoarder.

Herein lies my problem—the discarding of my cooking jar as a non-essential, easily replaceable item was practical, appropriate and met the discard criteria. What was not acknowledged were the deep-rooted memories symbolically held inside the ceramic piece.

Bring Some HOME to Senior Living

Journeyers, months passed. I moved into my senior residence and invited a few friends to my unit for snacks and television viewing. Then, it hit me—almost like a panic attack—MY cookie jar is not here. It’s gone forever.

The rather nondescript, slightly chipped, off-white ceramic jar, trimmed and imprinted in blue with the word Cookies, was a wedding shower gift. Flashback 53 years. How much could a ceramic cookie jar cost then or to replace now? But dollar replacement value is not the point.

My cookie jar was famous throughout every neighborhood and city where I lived. Always filled with M&M cookies, chocolate chip cookies and other favorites, the jar was a beacon of welcome to young and old, family and friends. In days gone by, when school-age children played on sidewalks in front of their homes, dozens of little hands routinely reached into my humble cookie jar.

I served my new senior residence neighbors cookies on colorful paper plates which made cleanup simple. We had a lovely evening and no one but I knew MY signature cookie jar was missing. In time I may buy a new cookie jar, fill it with yummy cookies and make new memories. For now, the downsizing lesson I want to share is that not all non-essential, easily replaceable items, belong in the photograph and discard pile. HOME is where the heart is—it’s okay to bring some HOME with you.

Top 10 Non-Essential Items I Regret Downsizing

  1. Favorite, comfortable quilt
  2. Two favorite extra-large soft bath towels
  3. Two sets of dreamy high-quality sheet sets
  4. Favorite popcorn and chip bowls
  5. Favorite set of six wine glasses
  6. Assorted tools and office supplies
  7. Favorite cake plate and candy dish
  8. Set of six coffee mugs and plates
  9. Glass candlesticks, one slightly chipped

Have you or someone you know downsized and then regretted parting with an item? and I invite your comments on our Facebook page, Twitter and in the Comments section of Joan’s Journey. In November, Joan’s Journey will explore what my granddaughter Stella and her Girl Scout Troop in suburban Seattle learned about seniors and computer skills. Until the next post, enjoy your journey day by day.

Joan London is a freelance medical and social service writer who specializes in topics on aging. London moved from Maryland to California to enjoy life in a senior living community and enhance her quality of life by living closer to her children and grandchildren.

5 Responses to “Joan’s Journey: Sentimental Value Does Matter When Downsizing”

  1. Cathy L. says:

    My Dad had so many things that were sentimental that he didn’t want to part with when he moved to assisted living. Now that he is gone, Imwish that I had some of them.

  2. Joan London says:

    Hi Cathy L. I totally understand how you feel. The good news is, our best memories are in our hearts and heads.

  3. Leigh says:

    When it came time to downsize to assisted living, my Mother had great difficulty parting with cherished items she would no longer have room for. Since she has numerous children, grandchildren and a great grandchild, we encouraged Mom to set aside (stored in my attic) these items and designate them as holiday/birthday gifts for family members. While on a limited budget, she is still able to participate in gift giving occassions and is delighted when the recipient is so pleased to recieve one of her treasures!

  4. kathleen says:

    My Dad and his wife had to move from their current home to an assisted living. It was a fast move because they would not let us help them start cleaning up the house and editing. Because of that, the children had to make the decision on what to take and leave, donate etc. Please do your self a favor and work with your adult children. One of them was in the hospital and never got to go back to that house. Please help your children. Starting editing now. Thanks … It will be easier on all concerned.

  5. Edie T. says:

    Joan, I want to give you a beautiful new cookie jar to help you entertain future lucky guests. I know that’s not the point; we miss those items because of the happy memories they evoke. But please let me get you a new one! I’m sorry I never knew your mother. I still think of mine every day–I read someplace that death ends a life, not a relationship……
    Love to you.

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