Downsizing is a euphemism for, “The place is too big, the stairs are too long, I have too much shit and I don’t want to deal with it anymore.” It’s also a euphemism for aging, the acceptance your life is like a set of Russian dolls, each living quarter smaller than the one before.
This is not to be confused with cleaning out the closet or convincing your 40-year-old son it’s time he climbed out of the basement and found his own fridge to plunder.
The years behind and the amount of stuff accumulated far out-number the years ahead and the shit you really need. And finally, by choice or necessity, it’s time to jettison the excess crap.
This means shovelling through decades of stuff you couldn’t live without – skis you bought in 1965, your kids’ first year report cards and every year after, wheel rims from a car you owned in ’73, maybe the entire car sitting on blocks waiting for the restoration you’ve been plotting/ There are bookcase after bookcase of books you mostly ignore but display proudly because you never knew when you might need kindling. Old rubber boots, fishing rods, tennis and squash rackets from the days your hips worked. Letters and cards from lovers and friends you couldn’t bear living without so you buried them in the back of a closet for the last 35 years.
And, those boxes of bubble gum cards – “they’re going to be worth a fortune one day” – scented with pink slabs of barely chewable “forever chemicals,” manufactured to survive the end of the world or at least until your teeth fall out.
In garages and basements and spare rooms everywhere are boxes of dishes and heirloom glasses and envelopes of pictures from the day when they were printed on paper and called snap shots, not to be confused with TikTok or Snap Chat. And, a few cat boxes and cages from four-footed friends long departed. For a few spouses, it also means dumping their two-legged partners along with the cat cage.
It also means finding a home for sagging armchairs and tired sofas and lumpy mattresses saved for guests. And, well, if you’ve been around for 60 or 70 or 80 years, you probably have a coat or jacket for every decade, maybe for every five years, along with shoes and boots that have proliferated only to be buried in forgotten corners of dusty closets. The same closets you’ll find pieces of rusty barbecues and grey, sagging cross trainers that haven’t trained, cross or otherwise, in a decade or more.
And there are those special treats like rusted spades and steel shovels and rakes of various sizes and somehow, boxes of heirloom dishes and pots and pans you replaced several decades ago and a few times since but couldn’t bear to part with. Never know when you’ll decide to open a restaurant.
This process of managing life’s accumulation of unnecessary necessities is akin to putting your life into one of those car compactors – machines that compress your rusted set of wheels into a block of tin and plastic you can use as a rustic coffee table or large door stop.
Or, say the hell with it and let the kids sort it out. They’ll pick up the phone, call 1-800 Got Junk, and have the detritus of your former life hauled away. If you have kids, they’re well on their way to collecting their own invaluable shit and don’t need yours. But, by then, you won’t care.
Residences for seniors are springing up in the hills north of Montreal as I imagine they’re springing up everywhere. Boomers are no longer GUPPIES – grey, urban professionals. We’re BARFs – balding, arthritic, retired and forgetful.
What was I saying? … Oh yeah. There is a multitude of choices for those who need to shrink their lives – autonomous residences, which means, “look after yourself, don’t bother us.” Here, down long, narrow corridors like a cheap hotel – the better to roll stretchers – are door after door opening up to studio or one-bedroom homes the size of what your kitchen used to be. Or a prison cell for four. There are no stairs to climb or walks to shovel. And the new nest might be big enough for a bed and a flat screen TV. Sofas? Love seats? Nah. Be happy there’s room for two kitchen chairs.
Here, in the hills north of Montreal, senior’s residences or cells with carpets on the floor and no bars on the windows, are sprouting like poison mushrooms. Property values climbing by the hour, residences were dropped where land was cheap, usually within walking distance of only more seniors’ residences.
Having delivered meals on wheels to these deadly quiet cells off endless corridors with hand rails should the trek from front door to studio cell give you the vapours, I have seen the future. – isolation in a box with a window, the closest store or café a car or cab ride away.
As a friend who has studied Alzheimer’s all his life says, “We all live long enough now so we can all get Alzheimer’s.” He’s kind’ve cynical.
Downsizing is not just old clothes and furniture and a lifetime of collecting indispensable crap. It's downsizing your life, where administrators in little ground floor offices make rules for you, where few visit, dinner parties with friends and family are never again and, not only is there little room for you or your underwear, there is also no room for what you might have left – your memories as immortalized in photos or prints and paintings, little knick knacks from foreign lands and long ago. In our culture, aging means your past ends up in a dumpster or thrift shop while a cozy, silk-lined coffin awaits. Least you’ll never worry if the wifi’s working.
Downsizing is a one-way street – the emperor of diet waits for us all.
And these rooms in a long, silent corridor waiting for you are society’s gold watch for the 50 years of five or six-days weeks put in for one corporation or another. But, put your name on a list now. It may take a few years before the present tenant is rolled out.