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  • Review of Home by Marilynne Robinson

    HomeHome by Marilynne Robinson
    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    I loved Gilead by Marilynne Robinson so much. The review is here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/....

    But with Home, I had a different experience. I wasn't compelled through most of the book. At about the three-quarter mark, things started to happen and I felt my interest quicken. But here's a summary of my impressions, and my apologies to those who loved it so much they recommended it to me:

    1. I was disappointed to see this other, peevish, nasty side of Rev. Ames.
    2. I didn't like the Rev. Boughton very much at all.
    3. Jack is tedious and pathetic.
    4. Glory almost breaks free but then doesn't.

    Robinson really makes me wait for it, building my conflict between compassion and resentment for Jack. And just when I lose faith in him, there's a scene where the old misogynist/bigot Rev. Boughton asks to see Jack and his brother together in his room, and Jack insists Glory be included. As if he sees her as an equal to the men, rather than just the servant her father expects.

    In this, I felt Jack himself was a Rorschach test for the reader, in that while he seems almost feral, a man born without skin with which to hide himself from the world, easily wounded and always untrusting, you want to abandon him, but can you? If so, who are you? What are your values - what are your limits?

    So now Glory has decided to stop being codependent with her "fiancé", and switch her ministrations and self-sacrifice to her dying father and her feral brother. This is an arc? This is growth? What is Robinson's meaning, at the end of the story, when Glory decides to stay in a town she has said she hates, in a house she agrees to preserve as a monument/mausoleum to the family? It can only be read as failure to respect oneself in favor of service to others! This troubles me deeply.

    I apologize for the length of this next excerpt, but I have to reproduce it, because it's so telling:

    "(Glory) had tried to take care of (Jack), to help him, and from time to time he had let her believe she did. That old habit of hers, of making a kind of happiness for herself out of the thought that she could be his rescuer, when there was seldom much reason to believe that rescue would have any particular attraction for him. That old illusion that she could help her father with the grief Jack caused, the grief Jack was, when it was as far beyond her power to soothe or mitigate as the betrayal of Judas Iscariot. She had been alone with her parents when Jack left, and she had been alone with her father when he returned. There was a symmetry in that that might have seemed like design to her and beguiled her with the implication that their fates were indeed intertwined. Or returning herself to that silent house might simply have returned her to a s state of mind more appropriate to her adolescence. A lonely schoolgirl at thirty-eight. Now, there was a painful thought.

    "She recalled certain moments in which she could see that Jack had withdrawn from her and was looking through or beyond her, making some new appraisal of her trustworthiness, perhaps, or her usefulness, or simply and abruptly losing interest in her together with whatever else happened just then...She found no consistency in these moments, nothing she could interpret. He was himself. That is what their father had always said, and by it he had meant that Jack was jostled along in the stream of (the family's) vigor and purpose and their good intentions, their habits and certitudes, and was never really a part of any of it. He had eaten their food and slept beneath their roof, wearing the clothes and speaking the dialect of their slightly self-enamored and distinctly clerical family..."

    God! Who hasn't known people like this - men like this, children like this - who take and take and take from an ever-hopeful spouse or family and yet never seem quite able to be satisfied, or fulfilled, or happy! When all the sacrificial loving family member ever wants is for that feral person to be happy. Or at least safe.

    Like I said, Rorschach.

    And in this, I have to admit, Robinson delivers again, most profoundly, in pulling back the curtains and showing us, right down to the faint beat of a pulse along a pale wrist, the impact on a family of such a lone wolf. Not that the wolf doesn't suffer. Not that we don't all feel empathy as we struggle to surface from this mire, gulping and gasping air, sorry for Glory who remains below, yet intent on saving ourselves.

    View all my reviews

  • Review of The Beginner’s Goodbye by Anne Tyler

    The Beginner's GoodbyeThe Beginner's Goodbye by Anne Tyler
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    After reading some of the reviews, I felt a bit off-kilter, as if I'm seeing something that wasn't intended by the author.

    Nevertheless, here's my impression: this story is about a man who, because of his physical limitations, resists closeness with other people, to the point that he marries a woman who seems certain to want the same, arm's length relationship. It's only after she dies that he begins to sense that he was wrong about that. During the grieving process, he comes to realize he's been living an arm's-length life.

    I love stories about people who come out of a fog and change their lives, empowered by the realization that they've been missing something important - that their reasoning was flawed, but it doesn't have to remain that way. And Anne Tyler is such a great wordsmith, anything she writes is wonderful. This book is perhaps a bit too subtle to win the raving applause it deserves.

    View all my reviews

  • Review of Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

    Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to LeadLean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    As I read Lean In, I was intrigued at being able to get inside the head of a dynamic, smart woman who is one generation younger than me, and see the corporate world through her eyes. One of the cultural questions she answered for me was this: why are younger women so averse to the terms "feminist" and "feminism"? Apparently, Sheryl Sandberg and her contemporaries believe(d) the following:

    1. Equality having arrived, there's no need for feminism anymore
    2. Feminists are man-haters who resist makeup and the shaving of one's legs

    Okay, #2 was a bit tongue-in-cheek. However, having observed conditions in the real world for a few years now, Sandberg has come to see that the playing field is not and will not be level until more women occupy positions of power in the corporate hierarchy. She doesn't suggest that this is due to any malicious intent on the part of men, but rather it's simply a matter of ignorance.

    To illustrate, she describes having to park far away from her office door when hugely and uncomfortably pregnant. When she designated preferred parking spots to accommodate pregnant workers, no one complained. It was seen as logical. But prior to her taking her place in the C-suite, the issue hadn't been raised.

    Sandberg talks about not slowing down out of consideration for what might happen in the nebulous future. The example she gives, now famous, is of a young woman confiding her fears of not wanting to accept a job with a lot of responsibility due to the impact it might have on her family. The woman was planning ahead - she didn't even have a boyfriend yet.

    With this example, Sandberg makes the point that women, having been highly trained and educated, are waving off promotional opportunities. The jury is still out as to why, but she suggests, and I agree, that part of the reason is this: in corporate America, a woman's decision to go through pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, and child-rearing is viewed as a private matter that should not impact her ability to work long hours and irregular schedules, including lengthy and frequent travel as needed. Rightly fearing this may drive her insane, a woman who wants a family may leap off the corporate ladder at a very early stage.

    Sandberg argues that if a young woman stayed on it long enough to secure a more powerful position, she would be able to exert more control over her work life (a perspective the young woman must trust will happen, since at her current low place on the corporate ladder she can only see her lack of power and control.) After a few promotions, she will be able to delegate some of her work to subordinates, afford more help at home, and influence workplace policies that unfairly impact women and families. Who can find fault with this argument?

    Sandberg is honest about her own mistakes, and I found that charming. For example, I was amazed that, for all her intelligence and education, she didn't originally intend to negotiate her starting salary with Facebook. Luckily a nice man (her husband) set her straight, and she made a counter offer to Zuckerberg. Reams of guidance have been written about how this error could have impeded her in later years, both at Facebook and with future employers, yet she didn't know. For other women who have not yet made this horrifying discovery, please read Ask for It by Babcock and Laschever (http://www.amazon.com/Ask-Women-Power...) which in addition to being enlightening and entertaining, offers tons of strategies for preparing yourself to negotiate. And not just for salaries. After reading that book I saved $150 on furniture I was going to buy anyway, by asking one question.

    But back to Lean In.

    I was also surprised that she wasn't well informed about how women can sabotage other women in the workplace, particularly women in power. This is an unfortunate truth with roots in biology, and is brilliantly explained in the amazing book, In the Company of Women by Heim and Murphy (http://www.amazon.com/Company-Women-I...) which I reviewed here:
    http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/... This also suggests the reasons Sandberg was hit with such a backlash for the well-intentioned Lean In.

    There is so much more to say about Lean In, but let me close with this: I enjoyed learning how this stellar corporate executive struggled, made mistakes, and ultimately learned some strategies that will enable her, her family, and the women (and men) in her corporation to thrive. It's not perfect, and sometimes it's not even pretty, but part of the lesson is to let go of the need for perfection.

    The other message, younger women, is to get as far and as fast as you can before starting your families. Don't opt out just because it looks too hard from where you're sitting now. The view improves with each rung on the ladder.

    View all my reviews

Are You Downsizing?

At our age, some of us are beginning to feel material possessions are a burden. Maybe we’re returning to our sixties roots, or maybe we’re tired of the family-sized house, the multiple sets of dishes, the appliances. We’ve had it with closets full of clothes, linens, and seasonal decorations that now feel like a job to take out, set up, pack up and put away. With our kids grown and careers not so much of a consideration, it’s easier to lighten your footprint.

When the local storage unit raised our rates, Bill and I shipped the footlocker full of baseball cards back to our 30-something son, donated the extra set of golf clubs, recycled what we could and merged the rest into our garage.

My personal challenge was the fake Christmas tree. It looked good for many years and we enjoyed it. Now it’s getting raggedy and I’d been playing around with the idea of replacing it with a table-top model. I’d still have the wreath to hang on the fireplace, and the seasonal tablecloths and candle holders. I told Bill about it, and we realized that day was recycling day. So we broke it down and stuck it in the bin with giving ourselves any more time to think about it. If in a couple years we start feeling deprived, we’ll buy a new one.

But that’s just me. My friend down the street has twenty boxes of Christmas decorations in her garage. It would kill her to get rid of one bulb.

I have a cousin who dreams of renting a quiet two-bedroom apartment in a community with a pool, clubhouse, ready-made friends and no yard. Some of us are tired of  home maintenance. Much easier to call the landlord with your problems. Some Boomers sold their homes and went to live fulltime in RVs or even on boats. I Googled “tiny houses” and you wouldn’t believe how many websites came up.

I’ve often thought it would be cool to live in a city apartment where I could take the elevator downstairs and walk everywhere; to get coffee, groceries, whatever.

And if it were just me, I wouldn’t mind living in this. I’d want patios and porches all around, a few trees, and a community to keep me from turning into a hermit.

Z-glass house

Tumbleweed Z-Glass House

What about you? Are you downsizing and if so, how and why?

Leave a comment


  1. I know the feeling and I’ve done it. It was painful…excruciating really, at the moment, but after it’s all gone, it doesn’t hurt at all! And yes, I live in a small city apartment where I can walk everywhere. No elevator however! The hardest thing is to try not to begin accumulating again. The habit of wanting to own stuff is hard to break. So every 2 or 3 months, I go through the house, which now only takes any hour, and get rid of at least a garbage bag of something. And nothing can come in without something going out. It’s altogether a new kind of freedom!

    • Delana, it sounds wonderful. I’ve started using your strategy of add one: delete one when I buy a new item of clothing. My next goal is to weed through my 9 (!) old black shirts and cut it back to 2. Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. We’ve just started to talk about this. My husband has a land baron mentality, while I’m ready to hit the open road in an RV. We have a lot to discuss.

    • Well said! Somebody I know had that mentality, but then lost everything in the crash of ’08 and now, although sadder, also feels lighter on her feet.

  3. Snoring Dog Studio

     /  May 24, 2013

    I thought about this the other day as I was listening to the news about the Oklahoma tornado. Many people lost everything. Everything. I couldn’t stand the thought of losing everything. But I contemplated the notion of getting by with so much less. It’s appealing for sure. Now that my mom lives with me, given her love of thrift shops, things keep appearing in the house. There will be time for a purging later on.

    • See, that’s the thing I don’t understand about shopping, Dog, particularly shopping at thrift shops and yard sales. It’s like you’re deliberately looking to accumulate stuff / junk as an activity. Like when a resort’s website touts “shopping!” as a thing you can come and DO. Really, I don’t get that.

      But as for the OK tornado victims, how horrible to lose your photo albums and family heirlooms. Not to mention everything else. Poor things.

      • Snoring Dog Studio

         /  May 24, 2013

        Yes, some of the stuff is junk at thrift shops – a lot of it just gathers dust on shelves. But I have to say that I’ve saved money on clothing and some household items. My mom likes the little pretty things. They can tend to accumulate fast.

        • If you’re buying something you’ll really use, and saving money, that’s something I’d do. My mom and 2 sisters go yard-saling for fun all the time. They never spend much but they enjoy it.

  4. We are slowly but extremely downsizing. We hope to be full-timing in the RV in October. We’ve gone from a 4 bedroom house in Minneapolis to a smaller house in Florida to a 2 bedroom apartment in Colorado. We rented our Minneapolis house for a year but it is now on the market, the RV has been purchased. The Christmas tree went to our son’s house last Christmas.
    My current big project is photos/albums/videos. I’m scanning, sorting and getting ready to pass on most of them to the kids for safekeeping.
    The one thing that I’m looking forward to is moving without packing and unpacking.

    • Barbara, how exciting! In my book, Dakota Blues, I delve into RVing, because I’ve always had a hunger for it. Good thing now you can store all your important papers and photos digitally. Hope you’ll drop by from time to time and let us know how it’s going. You might even want to do a guest post sometime.

  5. These are the conversations hubby and I are having a lot these days as we prepare to retire and move back to Canada at the end of the year. We live in a 2500 sq foot four bedroom home that is way too big for two people. Do we want another (smaller) house with a garden? Some land where we can have a few chickens? A town home that is maintenance free? The discussions continue.

    • It’s cool, though, that we can at this age, Linda. You can live anywhere, in whatever size/type home you choose.

      I love that my yard is only 15 feet wide at its widest point. I think I could live in an apartment with a balcony at this point. All my plants are drip fed. LOW maintenance. My last houseplant died a couple months ago. Now everything is fake or dried. Leaves me more time to write, but if I need to do yardwork there’s always stuff to trim, or driplines to reconfigure or repair.

  6. Debra

     /  May 24, 2013

    We had to sell our big ole ranch house four years ago, and the trauma of that whole thing pretty much cured me of the “accumulation” disease. Shopping is an addiction that I still struggle with, but I am so much better. If I really, really want/need it, I get it. Otherwise I just think back on the storing and packingittomoveagain process and the desire slowly fades. We are renters now, and I am not sure about being a homeowner again. There is alot to be said about not having the worry about maintenance and upkeep. As long as I have the feeling of space around me or even just a view I won’t feel trapped or punished. Our current location is what I call urban/suburban. I can walk to work, coffee, bank, post office, vet. I still drive for groceries. My daughter will walk a couple of blocks to college next fall. It’s not ideal, but for now it’s working.

    • Debra, it sounds pretty nice. I would love the walking aspect, and renting frees you up in a sense. There’s risk with renting, but also with buying. Pre-recession, we bought a modest home on a golf course, which sounds nice but the course owners are letting things die and cutting back on maintenance. If it totally goes to tumbleweeds, and I were renting, I could move. Ditto if the county puts in the four-lane highway they’ve been talking about.

  7. We have moved several times in the past few years and now we are back home building a new house. I had to downsize quite abit for the moves but I find myself now wanting to keep what I have and regret the loss of so much. Building a normal house with lots of closet space though to be organized.

    • Terri, I confess my house is 3 br, 2 bath and 2K square feet, but I could go smaller. We use the rooms like crazy. Esp. the main part of the house which is open space and bare floor. All my furniture has those silicone sliders on the feet, so I can push it around easily. I can have big or little dinners, or even book signings. But it’s efficient and functional, and we built it using inexpensive materials. I got a lot of my decorations from Ross when they used to have a better selection. PS we’re training our adult kids to do the family dinners. If we moved to a 2 bdrm apt., they’d be ready!

  8. At first reading (here I go again) I thought you said you wanted a community to turn you into a hermit. Freudian slip. Living in the wilds of NH my community has turned me into a hermit. I am free to venture out for lunches with one or two others and then return to my lair. I must add my lair does include a mate, but I know of one geezer who is doing well as one after having lost his mate. Not sure I would fare so well. Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the fairest in my mall?

    • Bob, I’ve always thought it would be the greatest freedom to be okay with being alone. I like it for short periods, but then I need more interaction. I envy your geezer friend for his independence. My shrink used to say the word “alone” can be seen in a good way, as “all one.”

  9. Although I have begun what I dub, “The great photo purge” (only child was most photographed child in the universe), I remain flummoxed as to how to downsize from our life in a 1500 square foot house on an acre.
    I have my stuff, mom’s stuff, and husband still works and has a shop full of tools. Next week we begin a three and a half week sailing trip. I am praying the trip inspires both of us to find a way to live with less.

  10. Sarah

     /  May 24, 2013

    I dream of being in the country, and try to get into nature on vacations when I can, but but I’ve lived in the urban core for most of my adult life. For the last 22 years, for family and economic reasons, I’ve raised a son and a daughter in a 900 square ft house in a very crowded neighborhood- (yes, one bathroom for two teenagers and two adults) so I’ve never had the luxury of collecting a lot of stuff. My husband and I talk about what we will do after retirement in four years- hoping for a mix of RVing and finding a home somewhere at the edge of a small town. My ideal would be a small house, a small guesthouse for family visits, and a landscape that is mostly wild so all I have to do is roam through the trees and listen to the wind, instead of sirens and boomboxes and noisy neighbors!

    • Sarah, you deserve to upsize after what you’re describing. Esp. the noise. I am so hungry for silence. I’m thinking of spending some $$ to go to a hotel for 4 nights, 5 days, just to be alone, not have to talk to anyone, be on my own schedule. But I feel guilty. Now I’m back to thinking I’ll do it. Thanks for the shot in the arm.

  11. Great post! I hate having too many things and make it a habit to purge every so often. Yep, if it was just me, I’d love one of those tiny houses too.

    • Valerie, my husband says if he were alone he’d have a fifth wheel and travel between the families of our 3 grown kids, who live in LA, Atlanta, and Bend, Oregon. But lucky for him, he’s stuck with me and a house 😉

  12. Moving tends to encourage (or require) a fair amount of downsizing. The Engineer and I moved from the west coast to the east coast (where he had an interim position) and back in the last three years.

    In the two pack/unpack cycles, we managed to get rid of lots of stuff.
    One way was by donating items to Goodwill (and getting a tax write-off). Another, already mentioned, was scanning all sorts of documents.

    We’re both bibliophiles, and we’ve cut down the number of books by getting some on Kindle and donating hard copies. A dose of reality helps. I admit that at this stage of my life, I’m probably never going to re-read that trilogy about Winston Churchill, so why not donate it.

    One other thing I’m thinking about is to sell some items on Ebay. I can’t believe how valuable some dishes I bought in London decades ago is worth these days.

    • Good for you, Madeleine, in mining your items for cash. That just makes so much sense. And so does going digital. Everything is preserved in the cloud. After seeing the OK tornado, I’m glad my files are all backed up every 24 hours by Mozy.

  13. Hello. My husband recently left me ( I am 59) and I have inherited the family home of four bedrooms, a study, two living areas, large balcony. Much too large for just me. I am thinking of down-sizing when the business sells and move away from the area to be closer to 2 of my children and grand-children. I feel I need three bedrooms though as I have two other children who live interstate and lots of extended family who will visit regularly. So I feel I will do it in stages; firstly down to a 3 bedroom one living room house for the next ten to fifteen years and then a two bedroom unit when I am ‘old’.

    • Hi Elizabeth, I’m sorry about your marital situation but it sounds as if you will have the good fortune of downsizing gradually, with time and thoughtfulness on your side. I’ve downsized incrementally – that’s a reasonable way to do it. Best wishes.

    • Sara

       /  May 25, 2013

      Great Post! Elizabeth- just a word of encouragement. I went through the same thing 3 years ago. I went through a wretched divorce after 25 years of marriage. I was “left” the huge family home (along with the huge family mortgage) and with my sons in college, the house was cold and lonely. So, last year, I sold the house and found a much smaller cottage type home. The yard is small but charming. Getting there was hard- going through a life time of photos; boxes of macaroni Mother’s Day gifts from sons; even the yellowing wedding dress- I cried a lot. It was so worth it! I faced it and moved on, both literally and figuratively.
      Hang it there. It does get better!

      • Sara, thanks for writing. How heart-wrenching! Esp. the macaroni productions. But I hope the cottage is a good place for you now. It sounds like you have managed to pull yourself up by your boot straps and do what had to be done for your future well-being. Best wishes.

  14. Yep – we sold a 4000 sq foot home, moved into a 400 sq foot rv a year ago, have travelled in it, visited long term (a couple months) where a new granddaughter celebrated a 1st birthday, a new grandson was born, stored the rv for a month and traveled to europe to visit a son and DIL there, and have loved every minute of it. it’s an adjustment in many ways, but we were so tired of working to keep up the house, the yard, maintain the mounds and mounds of stuff, visiting kids out of state for a few days, and paying someone to clean our home. Downsizing to the extreme, I suppose, but the biggest delight has been the people we’ve met “on the road.” Like minded. Interesting stories. Sometimes we listen for the other shoe to drop – but for now – we’re glad to have made the decision and seeing this beautiful country while we are able.

  15. Lynne, your post sure generated a lot of interest–and I’m not surprised. Seems like most baby boomers are at least considering downsizing. I’d love to move someplace smaller but my husband doesn’t want the hassle of moving anywhere, regardless of the home’s size. I must admit that with our collection of books and my quilting hobby, we take up a lot of room. And it’s nice to have extra space when out-of-state friends and relatives visit, but I do not enjoy maintaining it. I imagine we’ll be forced into a change sooner or later as we age. Walking up and down stairs isn’t going to be an option forever!

    • Sandra, this is a theme I see repeating: the woman is looking ahead, ready to make changes, but her sweetie-pie is digging in, clinging to The Way We Were. Best wishes and enjoy it while you can!

  16. Lynn,

    You are right on target. A few months ago my wife and I sold our house and everything in it. We’re in a condo now. I can’t tell you what a weight was lifted from our lives the day we sold that house. An estate auction firm cleared the place and turned 39 years of accumulation into money. Simpler is better, but I must now fight those reflexive urges to buy stuff. It’s much easier than it used to be. There’s no longer that infinite storage space in which to pile stuff — otherwise known as a basement.

  17. Arlee Bird

     /  May 25, 2013

    I started downsizing a while back, but lately I just think about it. I really need to. I’m so sick of stuff, but I just have to figure out what I’m sickest of and start moving it out. Someday.

    Wrote By Rote
    An A to Z Co-host blog

    • Hi Lee, if I’m feeling unmotivated I try to think of the happy outcome, the goal, the result that I want to enjoy. Then the “getting there” doesn’t seem so – sickening. Like I don’t want to put on a certain workshop that I promised, in a wine-infused moment, to do. So instead of thinking of the actual workshop, I think about the fact that my friend will look good and be happy, and I will make new friends and contacts, and heck, I might even sell some books. So look past the work and think about the goal (yay, I can see the garage floor again!) Good luck.

  18. So thought provoking. Five years ago when Favorite Spouse retired we downsized, moving back to the town we had lived in 15 years earlier. Kids and grands are here. But downsizing the house was a big mistake. NOW we have time for dinner parties, holiday brunches, sleepovers with the grands, family pizza/game nights, out-of-town guests and on and on. Much more time to play now that we’re retired–we needed more room not less! Or we needed the right room.

    So three years ago, we upsized. Still fairly small–1800 sq ft–but designed for play. And we have much less stuff–one set of dishes and glassware for example, not three(!), half the Christmas decorations, one box (TOTAL) for other seasons. I don’t want the stuff, just the room. If it doesn’t fit gracefully, it’s history.

    And bonus for us in this churn, we finally got the modern/contemporary style house we’ve wanted for 46 years.

    • What a great story, Susan. I read your comment to my hubby, and he said, “Wow, sounds like they really have it together. They are smart.” Sounds like you have the perfect deal going. I can’t wait til my babies are old enough for sleepovers.

      • Thanks for the reply, Lynne. Tell your hubby we’re probably way more lucky than smart. BTW, heading to a family gathering tomorrow with 25 family members–my two sisters, spouses, and progeny. In two houses, five bedrooms, and four bathrooms. It’s the four bathrooms that have me the most worried.

  19. This is part of our conversation too. Susan. We are moving to be closer to the kids and grands and definitely want to have enough space for the grands for sleepovers and just hanging out. These are all good comments and help with the thought process.

  20. Heather

     /  May 27, 2013

    Love the tiny house – great architecture – great idea!

  21. Lynne, what a great and timely post. And I definitely sit on the fence with this one. I’m a wannabe downsizer, yeah one of those but I still have my size 10s in the closet (like they’ll ever fit again) I can’t throw away my Christmas wreath I just replaced after 30 years and that table top tree, yeah I replace my full size one several years ago, guess what now they both get put up. If I didn’t have a basement I’d be sunk.
    One of these days I’ll get rid of my midi-skirt and those cullotes too while I’m at it.

    • Oh, I just gave my black suede midi-skirt to the Goodwill. It was beautiful but I never wore it. It hurts, but in a good way.

  22. We have a good-sized house bought 20+ years ago as a brand-new handyman special. We’ve done a lot of work on it and now it needs to be done all over again, even before we’ve been able to finish some of the original stuff. I’ve never been a shopper, but I hate my shabby sofa and tattered linens. I still have the dinnerware and stainless from college graduation 40 years ago. Use them every day. However, $$$ is now going toward repairs that were neglected during the Recession. The yard needs work and our knees suck. We’ll never retire. But I would like to have a live-in studly to help maintain things. And someone to excavate while I point.

  23. Oh Lynne,
    I have to start the process, but I am dragging my heels and can’t get started with the sorting out. I am waiting for my super organized sister to retire next year, then I’ll fly her over for a free holiday if she will help me get rid of my Patty Piles.

  24. Hi Lynne,
    We’ve lived in our family home for 30 years, from young twenty somethings, through babies and teen-aged drivers, to weddings and the empty nest. Our kids live out of state so there’s really nothing keeping us here except for my husband’s job which is kind of a big thing. 🙂

    We started working our way through our renovation about 5 years ago and are almost finished. We’ve filled two dumpsters with construction materials, yes, but an amazing amount of “who knows what” from the garage rafters, attic and basement. I’ve taken car loads to Good Will and usually tugs my heart strings to see things go. Last night my husband reminded me that we have to get this done so that we can move on while our remodel is fresh and current. Now that it’s become reality rather than a dream, I’m finding it hard to let go.

    We’re still exploring thoughts and dreams about our next step. We, too, looked into becoming downtown urban dwellers, or suburban condo owners. Seems like we’ve settled on the idea of having a simple little house with big windows, a tiny bit of acreage with a patch of trees, a patch of pasture and a patch of yard. A retreat.


    • “A retreat.” What a great image that brings to mind. It must be hard to think about leaving a home you’ve upgraded so diligently. Best wishes.

  25. Paula

     /  June 1, 2013

    It seems I’ve spent about 15 years downsizing–first our office moved (20,000 square feet), then my parents died (1,000 miles away–and I inherited all their stuff), then my husband and I moved to other states twice for various jobs, then his latest office moved (requiring a 50% downsizing, done by me) and …. whew.

    Two words of advice: Peter Walsh. His advice helped me a ton, and he has lots of videos on YouTube. Basically, his procedure is:
    1) Don’t “organize” by imagining how you can cram more stuff in the space you have.
    2) Instead, imagine the things you want to do in the space, plus everything you treasure, and make the useful and respectful deployment of ONLY those things your main priorities.
    3) Get rid of everything else by selling, trashing or donating it.

    Totally works, and believe me, I would know.

    My favorite addendums would be:

    1) Just say “no” to rented storage space for more than a temporary stopgap. Deal with the stuff, one way or another.

    2) Imagine your kids cleaning out your closets someday.

    • Paula, what a lot of practice you’ve had. I’ll check out Peter Walsh on YouTube. And re your second #2? That drives me. I had to clean out my dad’s files when he died. Moved in with my Mom for a few days each week. Brought my small printer/fax/copier and a mobile wireless for my laptop, and got to work. Holy crap. Or just crap. In a way it was cathartic, because by going thru all the stuff with Mom, we were able to grieve together. However, as you say, I will never do that to my kids. Thanks for your wise words.

      • Paula

         /  June 1, 2013

        Lynne, it truly seems to me that many of us boomers are living at the end of a long tail of a certain kind of acquisitional, stuff-heavy life that’s very unlikely to continue with the upcoming generations.

        Everyone’s prospects for settled prosperity seem dimmer after this five-year recession, for one thing. That makes it much tougher (and much more expensive) to store mass quantities of memorabilia, just-in-case supplies, and the detritus of old hobbies and careers. That’s all too easy in a 2,000 square foot home of 30 years, but very tough in an 800-square-foot apartment that you could leave at any time. That’s why we’re stuck cleaning out so many spaces at work, home, our parents’ home all at once.

        My shorthand for this, as everyone in my life has heard me say (too) many times, is: “Too much office at the end of the money.”


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  • Lynne Spreen

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    Lynne Spreen's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)
  • Review of Private Life by Jane Smiley

    Private LifePrivate Life by Jane Smiley
    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    Maybe this book is better than my capacity to appreciate. I don't tend toward writing that is obscure, or dense (or makes me feel dense). However, sometimes it's better to roll along with the storytelling and let the deeper meaning work its way up from subconscious to conscious.

    The ending of this book is extremely powerful. Margaret, due to the traumatic incident that happened when she was five, lived in a fog her entire life, married to a wacko genius, and not waking up until she was in her sixties and everything/everyone is sad and tired. Yet she seems to catch fire, fueled by bitterness, in the very last 3 sentences of the epilogue. It was a long time to wait for the enlightenment.

    I gave the book 3 stars because there's too much backstory too soon, making it hard for me to develop an interest. Once there, I felt frustrated at the repetitious nature of Margaret's obtuseness, even though she's a bright woman, and her deferring to Andrew, even though this is what people - women especially - do.

    It went on for her whole life! That she was living in a cloud due to, I believe, the trauma of the childhood incident, and that she was ill served by those around her, didn't make it any easier to like this story. I know Smiley is a master writer, and I feel like a goof not giving her a better rating, but this is my honest reaction.

    View all my reviews

  • Review of Up At The Villa by Somerset Maugham

    Up at the VillaUp at the Villa by W. Somerset Maugham
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    Very much enjoyed this short book, which I read in one night. The settings are lush, dialogue snappy, and the characters realistic and strong. The plot and writing are compelling. I enjoyed it because a theme might be, "people are not what they appear to be." A character acts one way and you think, okay, he's good and upstanding. And maybe he IS, but the "why" of it is enlightening. Maugham is a respected author for a reason. What talent! A very good story.

    View all my reviews

  • Review of Benediction by Kent Haruf

    BenedictionBenediction by Kent Haruf
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    Ever in search of stories about midlife and beyond, I set up a page on facebook (www.Facebook.com/midlife.fiction) and asked for suggestions. I got 38 great recommendations, and I hope to read and review every one of them. Herewith, then: Benediction by Kent Haruf. What a masterpiece.

    Benediction centers around an elderly man who is dying, but the story encompasses many rich characters, and their small stories touched me. In fact, I think this is what made the book so special for me: I saw a little bit of myself in each of them. Each one resonated. I felt again what it was like to be a lost little girl, a lonely divorcee, a misunderstood introspective, a grieving wife, a person who is coping with serious illness. I longed for the small-town atmosphere described here (the Fourth of July fireworks over the high school football field is a stellar short story all by itself.)

    Although the central character is dying, the book is not negative. Far from it - Benediction reflects on the everyday goodness (and tawdriness) of people. His characters are beset by the normal difficulties of life yet buoyed by simple beauties and kindnesses.

    Yet, nothing in Haruf's writing is overly dramatic or in the least saccharine. In fact, that's one of the aspects of Benediction I enjoyed the most: being surprised by tears on the completion of a plainly-written paragraph, phrase or description.

    I couldn't stop reading excerpts to my husband, since he also loves beautifully crafted writing. This book put me in mind of Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. If I could describe it in one word, it would be "elegiac."

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