Guest Post by Chris Oldenburg
Right-Sizing and Our Grandparents
At first I honestly thought it was morbid and creepy - doling out personal belongings as if a loved one has passed while he or she is still alive. But now I’ve realized the benefits are about more than an organized home before dying – they’re about living a calmer, more fulfilled life. I guess Tammy would call this “right-sizing”!
Grandpa had been gone already 20 years, and Grandma at 92 made the necessary decision to move to assisted living. And Grandma – as intelligent and practical as ever – utilized a plan to share those things she no longer needed – and those memories.
She selected what she would need at assisted living, but what to do with a house filled with life, memories, and the things of time? All of the things Grandma didn’t need and that held some kind of family connection filled a large room, each item labeled with a note denoting things such as where it originated. Over the span of about a week grandchildren were able to come in to the room and for lack of a better word “sign-up” for which items we might like to have in descending order of importance. The aunts and uncles then got together and equitably divided the items. In the case of a tie – numbers were drawn.
Random items such as extra Tupperware or household supplies were sent to the garage, available to any of us who wanted to take the time to sort through before those items headed to the thrift store.
Grandma’s wooden sewing box now sits in my living room, both as a sentimental decoration and as a practical place for my sewing notions. Grandpa’s childhood Bible rests on the bookshelf – timeless in the words. I received the most precious gift of talking with Grandma and telling her what items would be now cherished in my own home. Some of my memories surprised her – and I think all of them pleased her.
I did salvage one item from the garage – a faded yellow dish drying rack I now use every day in my kitchen. The color is worn, but the memories are alive. Grandma always singing in the kitchen, joyfully cooking, washing, or “putzing” as she liked to call it. (She also had a fabulous rule at family gatherings that if the women cooked, the men got to do the dishes!)
We weren’t burdened by grief as we sorted through Grandma’s and Grandpa’s things, for Grandma was still with us and we were able to hear her cherished memories of these items and share with her our own. This kind of “right-sizing” was just right for our family.
About Chris: I'm a freelance writer & editor, wife to a motorcycle-riding-computer-programmer (quite the image, right?), mom of four kids who inspire me, and sentimental sap. I'm also thankful that for almost half my life I've known Tammy - and been able to call her my friend.
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