For the past two weeks my wife and I have been going through all steps to move my dad from his independent living cottage to an assisted living apartment. For various reasons the time was right to make this move as well as sell his car and end his driving days. You can imagine it has not been the easiest few weeks, but as of Tuesday he is safely in his new home.
At his age of 88 change in routine is tough. In fact, one of Betty's greatest fears is he will go back to his old home by mistake and get befuddled when the key no longer works. In taking him from a doctor appointment to his pharmacy last week, he became very confused as to the location of the drug store he had driven to for years. Because we left from a place different from his house he couldn't tell me how to find it. I finally did but a simple turn left -turn right difference was too much for him.
While we going through his belongings to figure out what would fit when moving from 1200 into 500 sq. feet I receieved another lesson in downsizing and simple living. It is so easy to allow little things to build up over time. Out-of-sight-out of mind.
This photo is a great example. Dad saved rubber bands...apparently for years. He doesn't use them, but habit says pull them off the newspaper and put them in a drawer. I got home and found...a drawer with hundreds of rubber bands! Like father, like son I guess.
In a hall closet we found at least half a dozen different back braces. I assume that when my mom lost her sight and needed a support for her lower back, dad just went to the store and bought one rather than check to see if there was already one in the house.
Home I go to discover four different knee braces, half a dozen elastic bandages, and two back supports. The excuse that they were in the back of a cabinet I never stoop down to look at isn't good enough.
As we continued to work through his cottage we found at least 3 years worth of sheet music from his church choir and 15 paperback books from the library that hadn't been returned. Since he no longer sings in that organization or goes to that library branch one full drawer became clean.
Another drawer held at least 10 years worth of expense journals. He had maintained records of every utility bill, vacation expense, magazine subscription, and credit card charge. That kind of financial awareness is one of the most important lessons I learned from him. But, at some point, the written records can go. Monday was the day.
As we continued through the downsizing process he decided his days of ironing are over. The two rather battered and well-traveled suitcases will never be used again, either. Out they went. Since he will be eating two meals a day at one of the facilitie's dining choices, the stacks of day-to-day plates, cups, and silverwear could be reduced. All of the fancy serving platters in the dining room hutch would never be needed. In fact, all the dining room furniture could be sold since the apartment had no large dining area.
After having him decide which pieces of furniture, wall hangings, paintings and knick-knacs he'd like to keep, we made arrangements for someone to sell everything else or donate the leftovers to a local charity. He will be surrounded by what is important to him; the furniture that was just taking up space in the cottage will find a new home.
As we went through all of this, I was reminded again how little most of us need to feel comfortable. It is much too easy to have stuff pile up around us, even after it's importance and usefulness to us is over. I am in the midst of reading Sonia Marsh's new book, Freeways to Flip-Flops. She relates the story of moving her family from a large home in Southern California to a hut in Belize. All of the "stuff" that filled their home and life in the U.S. was left behind. Instead she and her family filled their life with memories and experiences.
Moving my dad from a cottage to an apartment won't be quite as dramatic. But, the lesson is still there: being surrounded by unused stuff doesn't add to the the quality of one's life or happiness. After all, it is just stuff.
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