Baby Boomers? Downsizing? Are you kidding?

Sometimes a title gives away the story. That’s why we’ll wait to the end of this introduction to tell you what BoomerCafé’s Ranter-in-Residence, Maryland’s Carrier Slocomb, calls his story today: “Downsizing Be Damned.”

“What stuff would you say I no longer need, honey?” We’re looking over a blur of piles in our basement storage area, in our home for decades. Incidentally, the section slated for removal belongs to me. I’m the largest stakeholder of stuff down here and it’s “tackle-it time.”


Carrier Slocomb with wife Caroline.

“You make the choice,” Caroline replies.

Such ambiguity isn’t helpful. I wonder what would happen if I no longer walked the planet? Would my wife unleash our children on my precious piles?

“What’re you, kidding? It’s all important! I got an Apple IIC buried in there, an Oliver typewriter (and yes, it’s an Oliver, not an Olivetti), priceless rock albums, 60’s collectibles, and centuries’ old hand tools my Dad handed down … not to mention some cool Civil War things, family farm items, and really old china!”

“Auction them off, or better yet, share them with the kids. We’re downsizing, Carrier. Remember?”

Alright already, Caroline’s right. We’re “downsizing,” doing what so many of us do after the last kid leaves the nest. Still, my wife’s remark comes like a sucker punch to a mature belly.

Caroline gives me a quick squeeze and heads upstairs. She faces the same decisions I do. It can’t be easy for her either.


This is the part of downsizing I dread -– it’s become emotional. Truth is, I was raised by Depression-era parents, so I was built to horde. After all, you never knew when good times might go bad and you’ll need those jelly jars of bent nails, old rubber bands, or that pallet of paper bags from the grocer. How many tough moves have second-hand guys like us lifted through? Same number as our wives, I imagine, and yet Caroline seems balanced and emotionally healthy, while I circle often, veering back and forth, unequipped for downsizing and generally getting us nowhere.

[Carrier’s new book – The Great Great Blue – is available now at]

It’s impossible to concentrate, so I drop down on a bench; there to grind teeth and ruminate. Searching my manly GPS, I find no way out of this emotionaldead-end. Auction stuff off, or divide it fairly between seven grown children? I can hear my internal man-glacier squeal and crack.

Downsizing be damned! Why can’t we just never do it? Why can’t we leave everything as is until we … you know? Both our moms hung on like hearty house plants, and we grew up in neighborhoods where people stayed to the bitter end, to be found by friends or church buddies during daily check-ins.


It sure makes life a lot easier to ‘go’ at home and leave your loved ones the cleanup. Perhaps my argument with Caroline should be, ‘Let the kids fight for their legacy! Survival of the fittest, I say.” But that’s not being loving, so I reconsider: DON’T FIGHT, TRADE! Unfortunately the illusion fades when I picture all seven kids yanking one anothers’ hair out for the Apple IIC, the china, and musket.


Anxiety builds. Downsizing stinks. I seek serenity and there, barely visible in the far corner, are the curved wooden handles of an ancient garden, or pony plow. I remember the day Dad and I wrestled it out of Pop’s two-hundred-year-old barn. Other memories crop up. Three large chests of hand tools from the eighteen-hundreds, hardcover books from my grandparents’ to my parents’ library that sit in boxes. Cane chairs from the 1820s, built by an itinerant carpenter who once wandered villages along the Connecticut River. A cherry table my mother cherished, and a huge dry sink from the old homestead, built in 1746 and wrestled out of its niche in 1961.


And, the Civil War musket. What was it Dad told me? “You don’t own any of this, Carrier. You’re just curator of our family’s most interesting hand-me-downs.” A link in the old family chain, zigging across two states and ten generations. Pity, because what I really should have said was, “Seriously Dad, is this an honor or a curse?” But I wasn’t father to seven children back then.

It’s around this time that I wonder if we should exit this headache and rent a booth at our local antique shop? I’m keen to hear Caroline’s opinion; after all, shouldn’t my latest idea end this nightmare of uneven distribution, hair pulling, and future family fights?

Downsizing! I’d rather eat a whole jelly jar of bent nails.

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  1. I’m on Caroline’s side! I hate a clutttered life.. and unless you want to display the items, I’d take the money and run!

  2. Why now include your kids in the process. Get them together if possible and see which one(s) have an interest in being the keeper of family artifacts. And what is left, sell, donor or toss. It sounds like you have antiques that should be kept in the family.

  3. I agree with Sandy. That said, I am reaching that stage where my wife and I will want to down size, and that means we will not have enough room to keep what we have collected for almost forty-five years of marriage. There are so many things I do not want to part with, but alas I know that I must. So we will have to sort what we just cannot do without, we will pester the children to take what we think needs to be kept in the family, and the rest we will sell, donate or just give away. So much easier said than done. Thanks for a great post Carrier.

  4. We moved a few months after Sandy struck our NJ shore area. Fortunately for us, we had no damage, but many of the people in our area were still living in motels and hoping to collect from their insurance companies. I thought getting rid of stuff like my rug shampooer, building tools, and bread machine would be easy. It wasn’t. I suspect no one was reading the ads in the paper. Eventually I donated most of it to the Old and New shop that supports the hospital. The new owner decided he wanted the tools. I gave my art supplies to the local art center for the kids and yarn to a group that made things for the homeless. My antique ice cream set and hats worn by my grandmother found a new life on stage–with the local theater group who was happy to have them. We tossed plenty of stuff that no one would take. It was painful, but not as much as I thought, and we arrived in our new locale encumbered only by our clothing, artwork, my collection of china, and three pieces of furniture that hold it.

    Sure, we get a pang once in a while. we meet an artist who would have loved to have those odd ship-part molds to turn into his incredible sculptures. But the lightness I feel is beautiful. It’s STUFF. My life in the past several years has been about experience, which is much more fun to treasure.

  5. Me too, Carrier, let’s eat that jar of bent nails together! I will NEVER downsize, I swear. Love your post, you hit it on the nail (nails?) How can one get rid of family heirlooms? We’re a horde of hoarders (yip!) – I too came out of World War II, with a need for stability. And stability means keeping everything you’ve got. Kids will get it all in due course, but not right now. They can wait. I waited too. Everybody’s turn will come. Yeah!

    On a side note: I’ve had plenty of friends downsize and even my uncle did. Within 2 years of that, he was dead: he’d left behind a nice villa, comfortable (3 bedrooms) not grand, with a fab garden. And he’d moved in an elegant “senior citizen” home that had a communal dining room and plenty of medical support, they even let him keep his most precious things, a couple of family paintings, a beloved piece of furniture, a rug that reminded him of the home he’d left behind. Well, it wasn’t enough. If anything, those reminders of his past made him acutely realize everything he’d lost. He couldn’t stand it and simply let himself die…No, I’m totally convinced that the very worst thing for one’s mental health that anyone can do is “downsize”. As they say in Italy (where I live), Evviva life’s mess! At least, it’s life, it’s living!

  6. I’m all for downsizing. My husband? Not so much. He’s even talking about eventually getting one of those elevators that creep up the stairs rather than move! In the meantime, I’m getting rid of “stuff” — little by little. Except, of course, for our library full of books, and my fabric collection, and ….

  7. I have to thank all of you from the basement of my heart (intended) for your contributions to this rather emotional sidebar in our lives. Clearly you all feel something about your stuff too; a relief, considering. You’re also good sports (yes, it’s fine that you side with Caroline), and your opinions matter because, being on the fence post about stuff shouldn’t be something that I do best right now. After all, we can’t drag everything we now own behind us our whole lives. It’s impractical, right? I am right, right?

  8. I completely understand where you are coming from. The last thing I want to do right now is go through any of my personally valuable “things.” However, I will add this: when my parents passed, one a week after the other, I was grateful (in hindsight) for their efforts to pare their belongings down to what they considered to be the bare minimum. Going through their stuff was a long and laborious process, despite all their efforts to reduce that task for my brother and me. I still have boxes of genealogy research my Dad was working on, untouched in my garage. So the long winded point is, I think at some point I will try to reduce the clutter so my kids don’t have to. They’ll have enough of their own.

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