A Very Moving Experience: Sorting, Giving, Tossing, Selling, Keeping
We are counting down the days now — seven left!
One week before we drive north, our car packed with paintings and blankets.
Our lives as Virginia residents behind us.
Our new lives as Pennsylvania residents ahead.
Fortunately, we have had three months to prepare for this transition.
A journey of 225 miles begins with a single step, and then another.
Soon every room in the house looked like this:
And eventually, it looked like this:
Our new house will have less than half the size of our present house.
So how to reduce?
In the past, we used these questions to help us decide:
“Is it useful? Is it beautiful?”
But this time we had to let go of some beautiful things we just didn’t have room for.
And some useful things in the past have outlived their utility.
Marie Kondo asks, “Does it spark joy?”
Even that question did not go far enough.
So we decided to host giveaways and to hold a garage sale!
Our daughter and her family came the weekend of the sale,
and granddaughter Lydia hosted her first lemonade stand.
At the sale, we got to talk to neighbors and friends from church that we had not seen in person since Covid struck.
We took what was left to our local wonderful thrift store “where every purchase is a gift to the world.”
We donated the proceeds from the sale to Faith in Action, a local charity.
Each of these events and interactions brought us joy.
Yet, as this final week begins, I feel a tightness around the heart.
I recognize that pressure. It has nothing to do with giving up things.
And everything to do with leaving behind people we love.
The only thing to do is keep walking.
Singing might help too.
What song do you suggest? What has helped you to move or to downsize?
When we moved from Ontario to Manitoba 13 years ago we got rid of so much stuff. Now we have almost the same amount again it seems! How did this happen?? We want to stay in this home as long as possible, but should begin downsizing already! Moving is so hard! Then comes the adjustment and the longing for the stability we had before. It took us a while, as it will you. Adjustments are more difficult in the senior years it seems. But you will soon be happy in your new home. I remember singing “God be with you ’til we meet again” when we left our village in Paraguay. That song has always stayed with me!
I remember singing “God Be With You” when my parents came to visit us in Goshen, IN, my father already sick with the schleroderma that would kill him within a few months. We stood in a circle in our kitchen before they went home and sang this song. I always remember that circle and that song. It is unbroken, to use the words of another song of assurance.
I will take your words about accumulation as a cautionary tale. It’s easy to think that we won’t add more things after we have worked so hard to get rid of them, but that is probably a delusion.
I hope you will be able to stay in your home a long time, Elfrieda.
Oh dear, Shirley, my intergenerational family (Dave, daughter Chenoa and grandson Hokala and I) are also preparing for a move. We’ve been preparing, ever since our offer to buy the house we rent was rejected last July. Our house went through a long process to finally be sold in March. We discovered we have renters’ rights, and now our rental rights lawyer is working towards a deal with the new owner to buy us out. We still don’t know when we are moving or to where, but we are working on it. So, it’s nice to see how your house really became bare. Assurance that it can happen.
Here’s a song I’m chanting: https://soundcloud.com/ary-solomon/put-your-roots-down
I have a very vivid memory of our visit in your home and of the walk we took to the beautiful park, the chickens in the back yard, and the summer sunset. I’m sorry to hear you have been forced out, Dolores, but I am glad that your rights are being recognized. I hope that you will find a wonderful place for all of your family.
Thank you for introducing me to this singer and this song! I will share the words for others here:
Put Your Roots Down
. . . .
Cuz the sound of the river
As it moves across the stones
Is the same sound as the
Blood in your body as it
Moves across your bones
“I’m Moving’ On”
(Johnny Cash is my favorite version)
Seven days, six days, five days…
Wishing you many blessings as you release the old and embrace the new!
I went to Youtube and found Johnny himself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95mTRq8-S2Y
Loved this song. Just right.
Thank you and wishing you the same.
My Life Flows On
Norah, you sent me on a quest. This is one of my favorite songs also. We sang it at Goshen College to honor Professor Mary Oyer’s 70th birthday. It was an amazing evening of transcendence and immanence combined. Here are Mennonites singing to celebrate the new hymnal that came out in the pandemic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1LCrELzeA0
I only knew the Enya version until my aunt , Dorothy McCammon introduced it to me in, the then, new hymnal. It was the week end of practice before the alumni choir, including me, departed on their three week European tour. I eventually taught it to my congregation.
On a personal note, I’m so glad your daughter is well again.
Thank you, Norah.
Well, Shirley, even what you describe as a “mess” looks orderly to me. As I reminisce on our move in August 5 years ago, I too recall the inspiration of Marie Kondo’s book, And I remember the delight others took in my cast off books, pictures, and other ephemera, a word which points to the transience of all things.
The photo of Kate and Lydia is sweet. I remember your posting it a few weeks ago on your Facebook page.
Music to move by? I give you a song my mother sang fixing meals in the kitchen, I’m Pressing on the Upward Way. Here it is sung by a Mennonite group, the Smuckers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2emsPPCH4c
I remember this hymn too, Marian. And I can picture your mother singing as she worked in the kitchen. Thank you for the gift of this song. You have inspired me to try to make a play list. I love the eclectic mix of the songs being suggested here. And I love the association of the writer with the song. As we move from one home to another, we are then carried by the people (and memories they share) who are not living in either place but who are nevertheless woven into our lives. Thank you!
By the way, you are kind to take the time to comment on my blog during these busy weeks. A huge thank you, Shirley!
🙂 You’re welcome!
The very best of luck with your move and then settling in in your new home. I don’t have any advice. You seem extremely organized! I dread the thought of downsizing–we have not moved since we bought this house thirty something years ago. It was quite a chore though to move ,my mom into increasingly smaller spaces. It’s lovely that your daughter and granddaughter came to help–and set up that lemonade stand.
Merril, thanks for offering this perspective for those of us in the sandwich generation between parents, children, and sometimes grandchildren. I have seen adult children working very hard to clean out an entire house because no downsizing had occurred in life. My siblings in PA did the first hard move for my mother. From there she downsized one more time. The second move was much less dramatic, and she still has a few of her most cherished things. I feel confident that you will know the right time and the right way for any transitions in your own future.
The South African song, “Siyahamba” can be translatedfrom the isiZulu “I am walking in the light of God” (it often is “marching”) In the beginning stages of downsizing myself it could more easily be “slogging.” I am a little envious of your stage but I am learning so much after 30 year here. May god tenderly hold your sadness.
I chuckled to think of a new variation of “Siyahamba” — “we are slogging in the light of God.” I like it!
Thank you for the image of our sadness being held. Your comment has been part of that tender embrace.
Found this delightful version by the Angel City Chorale: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGOiANtGmhE Hope it blesses your day, as it has blessed mine.
Shirley — I love how you down-sized and what you did with the proceeds. Brilliant!
Thank you, Laurie. I haven’t gone completely minimalist, but I am getting closer!
I have downsized and moved twice. My song was “God will take care of you.”
Good for you, Marilyn. And I found this lovely, inspiring, version of your song. Enjoy! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4Ez8m2ozf4
Shirley, This is such a thoughtful post. Downsizing is one thing but leaving loved ones behind is a challenge. Holding you & Stuart up in my thoughts!
Thank you, Phyllis! One thing that keeps us from being too sad about leaving friends is that we have managed to stay in touch with dear, dear friends of our past. Thank you for not forgetting us.
“How Can We Keep From Singing”
I suggest you sing, “My life flows on” It’s one of my go-to songs when life’s challenges rise up to meet me.
Thanks for sharing your moving story!
Yes, “My life flows on” !
Les, I love this song. We sang it at Goshen College to honor Professor Mary Oyer’s 70th birthday. It was an amazing evening of transcendence and immanence combined. Here are Mennonites singing to celebrate the new hymnal that came out in the pandemic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1LCrELzeA0
Your own courage in the midst of challenging change is an inspiration to Stuart and me. May your life flow on and on.
Shirley, It sounds like you are a master mover. And bless you for donating the proceeds of your sale. I hope you will love your new home as much or more than you loved the one you’re leaving. Yes life moves on, flowing like a river.
Joan, I’m not sure we deserve so much credit. We are grateful that we had three months. Small progress every day adds up. Hoping you and Bill are flowing too. Maybe we’ll see you at a Va. Festival of the Book.
Moving from a large house to 700 sq. Foot place in Brooklyn helped me let go! Now I don’t buy things because I don’t have room for it. Moving into a nursing home some day won’t be hard for me when it comes to stuff. I’m Just A Poor Wayfaring Stranger by Jonny Cash pretty much nails it for me. Best Wishes for the journey, the miles and the adjustments!
Thank you for this, Shirley. I’m passing this along to my parents, who will be moving out of their home of 20 years next spring, and into an apartment, probably in a Mennonite community. They will have plenty of time to process this move, as will I, but still get overwhelmed and sad when I think of them no longer in that house, where my mom babysat my kids when they were very young, and where she hosted holiday meals for so many years. We moved around a lot when I was a child (being a Menno pastor will do that), so this really feels like a rooted place. I appreciate your wisdom here, and know my parents will, too.
Please give my greetings and encouragement to your parents. If anything here is helpful, I am glad. Sounds like YOU are feeling sadness too. You might want to watch this video and sing along: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1LCrELzeA0 God bless.
Goodness Shirley this is a huge something. You look very organised. What wonderful ways of passing on things once held dear, which the beneficiaries will get to hold dear. Leaving is never easy and all my good wishes for happy landings in Pennsylvania. Your post of the children selling lemonade at the cost of what the buyer feels happy with is so lovely ❤️ The only song that comes to mind right now is John Denver- leaving on a jet plane; not so sure how appropriate it is though –
Susan, the song is very appropriate! I am glad you sent me to listen to this song from my college years. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SneCkM0bJq0
Evidently more than 23 million other people like to listen to this song. And it does fit our situation quite well even though we will be leaving in a Subaru Forrester. We even took off on a jet plane last weekend so that we could take advantage of our lovely little airport with a nonstop flight to Chicago. We got away from the boxes for awhile and had fun with Midwestern friends.
Glad you liked the price of the lemonade. People are nearly always generous when given the chance.
This (packing) was my world this past week May 2-9 in Goshen, with mother’s things. We put most of it in Goshen Storage on Eisenhower Drive if you remember where that was. I brought home way too much. Her sewing machine–which these recent years always welcomed us to her guest bedroom at Juniper–now sits in my office/guestbedroom/sewing room. Mom is here. But she’s in the newish “Household” near Evergreen. I’m afraid she won’t get to Evergreen, they tell us. Sad, yes, but we will keep supporting her the best we can. Sorry this reflection took a different turn. The only song that came to mind was “She’s got a ticket to ride” but doesn’t work for this!!! Oh and P.S. saw you and your Stuart walking up from the Credit Union today … you two make a good team, or at least seem to all these years! Blessings for your new move.
Oh Melodie, what a difficult way to be helping to move. Sounds like your mother is making more than one transition. I am sure you are a rock of strength for her.
It was fun to watch the Beatles sing “She’s Got a Ticket to Ride” even if it isn’t exactly the same as the way we will be riding. Wow, those Beatles in their youth! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SyNt5zm3U_M
Thanks for the comment about teamwork. I think I appreciate my partner at times like these more than ever. We have always enjoyed planning and then implementing together. Fortunately, we have complementary gifts and stay out of each other’s way when necessary and then come back together. It’s a rhythm that is both familiar and exciting when we branch out into the new.
An exciting time Shirley and as others have said, you are well organized. Kudos. What has helped me through my various moves and downsizings over the years? With each one, I realize now, I was eagerly anticipating my next chapter, my next adventure. I’ve found too that I have not lost the friends that really matter to me. Yes, visits are different, but the connections don’t really shred. Not the ones that really matter. My song for moving on? Willy Nelson’s On the Road Again. My very best wishes to you both on this new journey.
Janet, yes, you have an eagerness for change, the new, and the future that I recognized the first time we met. And you also have a gift for friendship that helps you accumulate rather than trade friends from one place to another. I know the relationships which need to continue will continue.
And we love Willie and this tune: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBN86y30Ufc
Perfect road song. We’ll think of you when it comes up on the playlist!
the pathways of those purges are cathartic, in the freedom of transition moving forward.
I have been on that road.
Blessings on your journey forward, Consider the Lillie’s”.
Linda, you struck out for the desert and showed that a later life move was not only possible but life giving. Here is a version of your verse that might apply as much to your family as mine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSDTJRLpV28. Blessings to you also.
Somehow John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane” for me captures the bittersweetness of this kind of moment. It simply names the particular sadness of the departing, the saying good-bye, and not knowing when you will be back. You have so beautifully captured the mix of feelings in your description here – as you always do! Wishing you quiet moments – and no injuries or incidents! – in the days ahead.
Here is John Denver https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SneCkM0bJq0. Thanks for these kind words and good wishes, Hannah. And for these two wonderful wishes. I try to find quiet moments every day, and fingers are crossed on safety as we make the final push. Glad we connected again recently, and I hope we will stay in touch.
Happy to know you’ll be so close to Landis Homes! Moving is not fun, no matter how you look at it – it surely doesn’t get easier as we get older! This came to my mind when you asked about singing –
Thank you, Judith, for sharing this lovely version of the song mentioned most often in this comment thread. “My Life Flows On.” I remember when this came to Facebook a year ago, when Covid was still in the first wave. It was such a comfort to many. Have you seen this version? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1LCrELzeA0 It’s simpler, but also beautiful.
I take it that you live at Landis Homes?? If so, I just may see you in person one of these days!
We met when you spoke to our book group here, more years ago than I like to acknowledge. Your mother and her friend, as well as Stuart, were with you.
Ah, yes. Thanks for helping me to remember. Little secret: I have another book in the works. Maybe we’ll meet again the same way nine years later! My next post will probably be about the book, so stay tuned.
That’s wonderful news!
I wish you much joy in the discoveries of your new life. It’s sad to see you go, so I guess it’s appropriate that most of these songs are sung at funerals. Here’s another that we sang in the 1950’s in Lancaster County.
“Blessed be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above…
When we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again.”
Oh yes, Anne. This is a classic. And this version reminded me that this song is sung in the play Our Town. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6lzTJfWdmk
Thank you for sharing.
“But we shall still be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again.”
Blessings to you and Stuart as you make the move. I know it’s not easy! It’s hard to leave what we know and what we’ve settled into. When I’ve moved in the past, I’ve felt sad and out-of-sorts at first even when the move was something I wanted. Thinking of songs, I love Enya’s song “How Can I Keep from Singing,” which I’ve learned here today is based on a hymn, “My Life Goes On.” I listened to the Mennonites sing it from the link you shared, and it was gorgeous! When I listen to it next, I will think of you.
Thanks for expressing how it feels to move, Tina. I love the Enya version of “My Life Flows On” also. And now I have a new one from Judith, above. I’m sure you will enjoy it too. https://youtu.be/VLPP3XmYxXg
Shirley, God Speed to you and Stuart as you begin your ‘new’ life. Isn’t it interesting how’ bittersweet’ seems to describe so many of our experiences in life.
This is so true, Debby. Thank you for broadening our gaze from this particular move to the condition of life itself.
The song that came immediately to mind was Guide My Feet while I run this race. –Of course you can make it plural.
Good one, Ruth. Thanks for adding it. It made it to the Play List!
Here is the link to the Play List in Amazon Music. And below is a list of all the music mentioned. I’ve been listening to these most of the morning and feeling all the feels.
1. Moving On, Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings
2. How Can I Keep from Singing?, Enya
3. I’m Pressing On, The Mississippi Mass Choir
4. Siyahamba, American Spiritual Ensemble
5. How Can I Keep from Singing? The Mormon Tabernacle Choir
6. God Will Take Care of You, Heritage Singers
7. Blest Be the Tie That Binds, The Scottish Festival Singers
8. It Is Well with My Soul, Chris Rice
9. Leaving on a Jet Plane, Marc Roberts (tribute to John Denver)
10. Blessed Be the Tie that Binds, Music of Angels
11. Guide My Feet, Dock Reece
12. Consider the Lilies, Mormon Tabernacle Choir
13. His Eye Is on the Sparrow, Mahalia Jackson
14. On the Road Again, Willie Nelson
15. 500 Miles, Peter, Paul, and Mary
16. The Lord Bless You and Keep You
17. God Be With You Till We Meet Again, Mormon Tabernacle Choir
So sorry to bother you. I can’t get the playlist link to work.
Joyce. I am sorry this link does not work for you. Are you an Amazon Prime member? Have you used Amazon Music? If not, the link won’t work, but perhaps you could take the written list and make a playlist of your own using your preferred music streaming service?
Best of Luck, Shirley. What a job! We’ve put off this decision because we love our house and haven’t found anything nearby, where all our friends are, that would be suitable for downsizing. So now we’re renovating the 30 year old master bath and probably pulling the thread on multiple do-overs. Kinda late in life to be doing this, but we figure we can either a) have caretakers move to the 3rd floor, if it comes to that (and someday it will) or go right from here to Sr. living. The plan is to get rid of as much as possible, as if we were moving, so when the time comes, we’ve slimmed down. I wish you all the best in your new life and home.
Thank you, Linda. Sounds like you have made a similar decision but will use the “aging in place” model. That’s what most people are doing, and it works out well for most, as I hope it will for you. Your renovation projects will keep change in your life, something that keeps us young — I hope. 🙂
I am so glad to see you here again. I thought of you when I heard Linda Villarosa interviewed on NPR. Do you know her? Her NYTimes essay is getting widespread attention. https://www.npr.org/2021/05/06/994173342/how-systemic-racism-continues-to-determine-black-health-and-wealth-in-chicago
The two of you would make great contributions to the history of systemic racism in Chicago.
Marilyn McEntyre, the co-author of the grandparenting book we are expecting to be published a year from now, is a great list maker. Here’s one for moving”
A MANIFESTO FOR MOVING DAY
If it’s been in a box since the last move you can let it go.
Puzzles without pieces are pointless.
The velveteen rabbit will not become real.
Bits of unidentifiable hardware are not potentially useful.
Now is the time to relinquish the single socks.
You don’t have to clean it before you pack it.
Other people’s stuff is easier to sort.
What might be useful someday probably won’t.
Sentimental values are inflated.
Walden is worth rereading.
You don’t have to keep the tasteless ties.
The moving guys are stronger than you are.
Sometimes it’s better not to supervise.
Imagine the joy of open space.
Enter it with Beginner’s Mind.
Dearest Shirley. As today is the 24th of May I am thinking that you have maybe arrived in Lititz by now? i happen to be here for the week and only now have had time to read your past posts in greater detail. It certainly has been a difficult year for you and your family. I am so sorry for you and your daughters’ health issues. My daughter also suffers from a chronic and fairly rare sleeping disorder. She does a brilliant job of managing it, but, it has been a 14 year quest for answers & a cure for me.
I read with great interest your process for downsizing. In my town we have a fb group called “Buy Nothing” West Windsor. Items to be given away are posted & members indicate their interest in receiving the item. Money exchanges nor trading is allowed. I have found it very helpful to know my “beloved” items are going to someone who really wants them. I finally can let them go with a joyful heart!!
I hope your move has been a smooth one & look forward to seeing you & reading new posts. Happy Trails!
Martha, there is a Buy Nothing Lititz group also. My daughter, who loves the one in Pittsburgh, put me on to it. What a brilliant idea. I will have leftovers from the move to share there.
Thank you for your kind thoughts about the roller coaster of emotions our family has been through this year. The goal now is to foster post traumatic growth. Luckily, there is emerging knowledge in this field to help us. And caring friends are a major resource. Thanks again.