For the past several weeks my wife and I have been walking alongside her mother as she goes through the process of downsizing her living quarters. As one might expect this has been a journey of multiple dimensions and emotions. I would offer the following observations and thanksgivings as we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow:
1. I am thankful that my mother-in-law is an early adopter. I told her this one day as we drove home from an errand that was necessary in the process of downsizing. Like many things she has done in life, when she made the decision to sell her home and move into a retirement community, she jumped in with both feet. We need such early adopters around us to lead the way. They inspire faith and trust in the face of change.
2. Stuff! 89 years of life, six children, eighteen grandchildren, a growing number of great grandchildren . . . all amounts to a lot of pictures, gifts, mementos . . . STUFF! Helping her sort through what to keep, what to give away, what to throw away has motivated some sorting and throwing in our own home. It’s amazing what accumulates over time . . . much of it meaningful, some of it not. One day I was pretty sure I was working in a Hallmark warehouse, another day a family museum. It’s been interesting to take these trips down memory lane and see what memory an artifact will illicit. More interesting yet, when that memory far exceeds the time I’ve known the family (over 30 years), and surfaces a story decades old. Makes me ask: Are you telling the significant stories of your heritage?
3. Process. How do you eat an elephant? The same way you tackle downsizing from a 2000 square foot home into a one bedroom apartment – one bite at a time. Isn’t it great that God has given us the capacity to organize, prioritize and compartmentalize complex and overwhelming tasks? One of my favorite quotes in ministry comes from Eugene Peterson who says our Christian faith is “a long obedience in the same direction”. The same could be said of downsizing your living quarters.
4. Community. We are grateful for the support of family members and friends who have stepped in to help and offer words of encouragement. Our community of faith has been a key part of this, helping us lift the loads (physical and otherwise) such a move requires.
I realize our experience is no different in many respects than that of many others who have or will go through a similar process. But I’m struck by the difference one’s attitude makes as you engage in the work. If you can look for the upside of a downsizing you will find multiple things to celebrate and give thanks for along the way.