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Keep, keep or ditch?
Keep, keep or ditch?


It's time to empty our empty nest and move on Add to ...

The Lego has left the house - about time, really, since no one has even looked at it for more than a decade.

We are, however, keeping my husband's Wolf Cubs uniform (circa 1967) and we are looking for someone interested in an entire collection of Hockey News from 1970 to 1974. My husband simply can't bear to pitch them and wants to find an appreciative owner, although I compromised and turfed the skinny jeans I bought in Paris in 1982.

We are baby boomers whose two children have left the nest. We are moving and, like so many other couples of our generation, we are downsizing. Three weeks after our youngest left for his first year of university last fall, we put our house up for sale. And so we are now in the process of stuffing a four-bedroom house into a two-bedroom townhouse.

It has not been easy, and that's why we have Robin Bailey. (More about her later.)

She charges $60 an hour and is much like a personal trainer. Instead of encouraging or cajoling you into doing another rep or lifting a heavier weight, she (ruthlessly) challenges you into giving stuff up - the collection of our son's orthodontic moulds, our daughter's Grade 8 graduation dress...

We are moving from a 2,400-square-foot traditional family home to a brand-new modern three-storey townhouse, just down the street from where we live now. It has basically no basement or nooks and crannies for storage. It has no grass or yard. (Instead, it has a very chic rooftop terrace.) The open concept means there are not a lot of walls to lean furniture against.

The two bedrooms mean there is not a lot of room for adult children.

And I have tons of stuff - too much stuff - all crammed away in boxes and closets in our old house.

There are so many books, including my first-year university textbooks. There are piles of pictures. There is my memorabilia, including my collection of political buttons from the 1976 Progressive Conservative leadership convention that saw Joe Clark (who?) win.

I have too many clothes and shoes (really, really great shoes) and I have my tax returns, my husband's and some of my late father's.

I have my children's report cards, notebooks, essays, journals and the Christmas, Easter, Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations they made from toilet paper rolls, pipe cleaners, construction paper and papier-mâché in elementary school.

We love our children but they are not gifted in the fine arts.

We have the little blue urns containing the ashes of our two little dogs; they both died in 2004.

We have my husband's first pair of eyeglasses from when he was three years old (they are pink). I have my old Barbies and my Ken doll, who is losing a bit more of his fuzzy blond hair every year.

There is my husband's collection of 45s, including the original Canadian pressing of Wild Weekend by the Rockin' Rebels on Reo Records.

We have a collection of hockey sticks in all sorts of sizes; we have skates, shoulder pads, big hockey pants, little hockey pants and too many pairs of hockey socks and warm-up jerseys. You get the idea.

I just didn't know where to start or what to do; inertia set in.

This is where Robin comes in. A professional organizer, she owns Emerging Order, a business she started in 2006 to help "busy, overwhelmed professionals."

Robin, who is a boomer too, comes from a family of "procrastinators and pilers."

She charges $60 an hour and is much like a personal trainer. Instead of encouraging or cajoling you into doing another rep or lifting a heavier weight, she (ruthlessly) challenges you into giving stuff up - the collection of our son's orthodontic moulds, our daughter's Grade 8 graduation dress, foot massager, ugly wedding present vases, broken barometer and drill set.

"The sentimental value in that is …?" she will ask.

"Most of us, especially us 'boomers,' have accumulated way too much stuff," she says. "Ironically, the acronym for this [TMS]sounds a lot like another … phenomenon [PMS]and, similarly, its symptoms can and often do include feelings of being overwhelmed, irritability, confusion, mood swings, bloating, loss of sleep, shortness of breath … "Downsizing is a great opportunity to lighten up and simplify your life."

And that's what Robin helped me to do. We made piles: stuff we wanted to keep, give away, sell and donate. I ended up saving things that reminded me of treasured times with my parents, my friends and my children. Pictures, letters home from camp, some baby clothes and favourite books and a little blue suede skirt that my Mom gave me in high school is packed away because it evoked good memories of her; she had impeccable taste.

In my husband's case, there was no way his collection of 45s could go as they brought back memories of summers in Halifax he spent as the Million Dollar Money Man and later as newsreader at a Halifax radio station.

Our kids, it turns out, are ruthless. They could have thrown it all out and started again. That surprised me.

My husband's stubbornness over his Hockey News collection was something I hadn't expected. He will get rid of them only if they go to an appreciative owner, believing there is someone out there who will get enjoyment from the yellowed newsprint pages full of stats and fuzzy pictures of 1970s hockey players with bad hair and missing teeth.

The really difficult, and most emotional, decisions, however, involved what to do with all the stuff we had inherited from our late parents - stuff we had grown up with. My parents were big travellers, and throwing out the albums full of pictures of the trips they had taken together and enjoyed so much was difficult. But I rarely looked at the albums and my father was such a shockingly bad photographer my mother is out-of-focus in most shots. It felt like it was finally time to get rid of them; in the end, they aren't our memories.

I kept the political buttons, one Barbie and my Ken doll, the dead dogs' urns, my husband's glasses and some of his records. Some neighbourhood kids got some great hockey sticks and someone, somewhere in Ottawa, has my framed poster of Bette Davis that I bought in Greenwich Village almost 30 years ago.

We gave one neighbour our wheelbarrow.

We are downsized.

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