Keep the car?

Part of our original downsizing plan was to let go of the car once we got settled in Boston. We haven’t done that yet.

We love the easy access we have to great public transportation. For the most part, we delight in using that. And, for the times when a car could be really helpful, zipcar is readily available. Still, we’re not ready to let the car go yet.

In the heart of Boston a car is not always an advantage. One either finds parking on the street or pays serious money for a dedicated parking place. Sometimes really serious money. We’ve opted for street parking. It can be complicated. The other morning, for instance, Bill got up to move the car by eight AM for the street sweepers. He could only find parking at a meter, which meant I had to move it two hours later. Luckily the street sweepers had finished with our street and I could get a place right in front of our house. Whew! Safe – until we use it for something or the streets get swept again in two weeks.IMG_2420

Is this how I want to spend time? Doesn’t downsizing and simplifying suggest we should give up this car we don’t really need. What about our commitment to a sharing economy? And what about lessening our carbon footprint? Continue reading

The changing roles of a downsized life

As we downsize, I realize that giving up certain things also involves giving up certain roles. At Christmas time we packed up my mother’s dishes (which had been her mother’s) and Bill’s mother’s dishes and took them to Maleita, our oldest daughter. Handing over the dishes as well as moving out of the big house made it clear to me that I wouldn’t be hosting the holiday meals. It’s a role I’ve loved – gathering whatever family and friends were available and enjoying good food and good companionship.

And it’s not just the holiday meals – we loved providing hospitality to people from all over. We were blessed with a house big enough to have people stay. Maybe because my work has often involved intangibles I love the concreteness and sensuality of cooking for people – the colors and scents and tastes, even the feel of stirring a risotto or kneading bread. I love figuring out what people enjoy eating and serving them that. I have to admit to a certain sadness at giving that up. Continue reading

Cherishing Things

IMG_2282Our room is comforting to me. It feels like home even though we’ve only been in it a little while. There are two large windows overlooking the street with a large tree shading them. Birds sing in the morning. The place is new to us, but there is a comfort in what we kept and brought with us. On the bed is the brightly embroidered bedspread we never intended to buy on our trip to visit our daughter and son-in-law when they were working in India. IMG_2279On the window sill sits a ceramic man who used to stand on a swing until it rotted years ago. It was a present from our friend Judy, who lived near us in three very different places – Detroit, California and Florida. It reminds me that friendships last despite distance.

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Letting Go of Things

We have a long history of trying to get rid of things. While we’ve made some progress over the years, we never seemed to get on top of it.

Deciding to move into one 16 by 18 foot room in a community forced us to grapple with our relationship with things in a much more radical way. Both of us are a little sentimental and have pack rat tendencies. We never bought things just to decorate the house. Rather, our house was decorated with things that had meaning for us – mementos from trips and times together with family and friends, gifts from people we love, things we inherited from the households of our parents. And then there were the books! And the art on the walls!  Sorting what to give away, what would go into the room with us and what would go to storage invited us to struggle with how much we need, what we value most and what role stuff plays in our lives.

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Shared bathroom down the hall

Telling friends about our move to Beacon Hill Friends House, we described our interest in community living and our enthusiasm for the lifestyle change awaiting us in Boston. But a few of those conversations snagged on issues that some of our friends and family regarded as show-stoppers:

  • Moving into a single room
  • Sharing a bathroom with others

Especially that second one.

Most of us have endured those circumstances at one or more points in our lives: Growing up at home, surviving dorm life, crowding into co-op housing as twenty-somethings.

But would it really work for a couple of sixty-somethings?

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