Senior downsizing and getting rid of stuff

On Life and Love after 50 eNewsletter May 21 2021

by Columnist Tom Blake

Senior downsizing, relocating and getting rid of stuff

As we age, we start to realize that we may need to make some changes in our lives such as possibly relocating, downsizing, and clearing out clutter and “stuff.”

Last week, the above message was delivered to me loud and clear.
My nephew Derek made a special trip from Dallas to California to meet with me for three hours and then he met with my sister for three hours in heart-to-heart discussions.

Derek’s dad, our brother Bill, passed away on January 19. Derek is the executor of Bill’s estate. And while there was a will and estate plan, Derek said there was so much stuff that executing the estate had been a nightmare.

Looking me directly in the eye, he emphatically stressed the need for older people (as in yours truly) to clear out “stuff” while they still can, and not leave the task for their kids or someone else to try to figure out who gets what, and what to keep and what to toss out.

In some cases, growing older necessitates starting over in one’s life. Today, we share situations that three of our women Champs are dealing with. It’s called “starting over.”

Joanne, Albuquerque, New Mexico On April 24, Joanne wrote, “No one needs extra stress right now. I’m waiting for an apartment on the west side of Albuquerque to become available. It’s HUD so it could take a while. 

“In the meantime, I will be staying with friends in Reno. I’ve rented for 40 years and have never been treated like this. We’ve had three property managers in 10 months. When they don’t want to be bothered by you, they block your phone number, etc…

“So, I’m putting my ‘stuff’ in a storage place on May 17 and plan to leave for Reno on the 18th. It’s a two-day drive from Albuquerque. I’ll stay in Reno to help my friend for a couple of months and when the next apartment is available, I’ll come back to ABQ and live on the west side of town. I swore I wasn’t ever moving again.”

 Jackie, Illinois “I’m selling my house, the home in Illinois that Randy provided for me in his will, to move back to Georgia to be near my children. I’m starting over.

“Once I get settled or after I do some traveling, I’ll see if God has someone once again for me as I had with Randy, and like the Italian love story from last week’s eNewsletter.

“I’ve been told it’s a good real estate seller’s market now and I have no reason to be here anymore. I’ll take the leap to put it on the market on May 24. I hope once everything is over I can visit my sister and we came come to another one of your Meet and Greets at your former deli, Tutor and Spunky’s in Dana Point, as we did in May 2019.

“I’m sure you will be giving us an update from last week’s eNewsletter on Annalisa and Carmen. The ‘Where Do I Begin?’ song by Andy Williams took me back to the 1970s.”

Susan, Virginia, 

“I hope the meeting between Annalisa and Carmen will lead to something. I am lonely too, been alone for a very long time, was okay with it for a while, but now feeling it much more. I’m getting ready to move and that in its self is very stressful. Downsizing. ‘Where do I begin?’

“I keep shredding paper and there is a lot of it. I got rid of 11 pounds of paper today and about eight pounds last week.

“I don’t have much big furniture, so that is a plus. I once had a big house and moving from that place where my kids grew up was hard. I moved in with my daughter for a while and that was fun. I then moved in with my son, before he was married, and then I moved to an apartment, and now, moving again!

“When my ex-husband passed away eight years ago, he left nothing in order! My daughter handled the estate. It was very hard on her to sort everything out! 

“I have to move again because the rent where I am now living keeps going up, so I’m moving to a less expensive place–an over 62 community. 

“It has been a long journey for me divorcing in my 60’s and the things I went through. I could write a book on divorcing later in a woman’s life. There was nothing out there at that time to help women and I still don’t think there is now! 

“A good divorce lawyer is worth his or her weight in gold. I didn’t have one to protect me, and I didn’t have the money to continue fighting the ex. I also was just getting out of treatment for breast cancer, but, I did walk away with something: my health. 

“I am 79 and wishing that I was younger. Having to make a change again at his late date is not fun.”

Tom’s comment: Relocating, downsizing, and/or getting rid of “stuff” can be a pain in the rear, I understand that. But, it also can be a positive new beginning. It’s something that nearly all Champs need to get busy on, especially getting rid of “stuff.” Greta and I know we need to get that done.

And the result of relocating can be rewarding. A new environment will mean new challenges of learning the local area. One will meet new people, make new friends, and encounter new adventures. It’s a chance to start over, to stimulate one’s brain and muscles. It could lengthen and enrich a person’s life.

Good luck to the above three Champs. Please let us know how it’s working out for you.

Declutter and downsize. Better now than later

On Life and Love after 50 e-Newsletter – January 25, 2019

by Tom P Blake

Downsize and Declutter. Better now than later

Toward the end of last week’s newsletter, I included this paragraph:

“Greta and I are in a major downsizing and decluttering this New Year’s; I moved my unsold cases of books to a self-storage space. While grunting and groaning doing that, I said to myself, “I need to move out some of these books. I’m going to offer Champs a major price incentive on books.”

From that paragraph, this comment came from a woman Champ, who requested to remain anonymous: “Tom, please write about decluttering. A lot has been written about this already. For example, a short but sweet article in the NYTimes science section, on Tuesday, January 9, 2019.

“Suddenly I can’t get enough reading on this topic. I’m convinced I would feel better if I got a handle on my surroundings, instead of them being in charge. Like you, I have too many books. Due to recent travels, I also have more souvenirs with no way to display them all. And the incoming mail has piled up; with two people in the house and the other person not agreeing with me on where to put this ….. well, you have the picture.”

I got to thinking about what Anonymous said. In the last two weeks, a good part of my days have been spent helping Greta not only declutter her house, but empty it out entirely. Why? She has decided to put it up for rent and her realtor said almost all potential renters want to rent a place unfurnished. And that is what has happened.

Greta and I live together in my home, which is already adequately furnished, and less than 1/2 the size of her home. Translation: not much room to move stuff from her home to my home.

The realtor found a great tenant who required an unfurnished house. Initially, the tenant was going to move in February 1. That deadline made us crazy, less than a month to make it happen.

Greta had that home built 35 years ago and it’s in excess of 3,500 square feet. You can imagine the accumulation of furniture and things in drawers. And books, books, books. The task is overwhelming. And really heavy furniture, is on the second floor, so steep steps are involved.

And then, the new tenants, who are being transferred by the wife’s employer from New York State, said they needed to revise the move-in date to February 22. Halleluiah! That gave us three extra weeks.

                                Getting rid of clutter is a blessing in disguise

But, turns out, this downsizing, decluttering, call it what you like, has been a blessing in disguise. Yup, we grunt and groan and have weightlifter’s belts on, and it’s physical and mental work. But, our mantra is “Better now than later,” meaning, of course, we should do this now, so that her offspring won’t have to deal with it later.

A wonderful thing has happened. Her family has jumped in to help. Last weekend, three of her children, along with grandchildren, and great grandchildren arrived in three pickup trucks towing trailers and two SUVs. Greta was thrilled that her offspring wanted some of her furniture and belongings in their homes.

Soon, one dining room set was moved down a flight of steps and taken away. And then a couch. And then a bedroom set. And on and on. By the end of the week-end, we had cleaned out a lot of stuff.

Decluttering is a blessing in disguise
Declutter items in garage ready to be hauled away

We aren’t out of the woods yet. Everyday this week, we’ve spent hours packing boxes of books and going through cabinets. A dry wall guy came. Greta’s son Tony started painting in his spare time. A plumber installed a new toilet. A carpet repair man did his work. Charities have been scheduled to pick up stuff. And some documents, bearing social security and credit card numbers need to shredded.

Of course, my Dana Point home has taken on a new look. It looks like a cross between a furniture store and an art gallery. More pictures on the walls, kitchen cabinets filled and furniture that is squeezed in a bit. Greta keeps saying, “I like the way my stuff looks here.”

We did need to rent a couple of short-term (hopefully) self-storage units. We will tackle those in due time. Lots of people say that’s a waste of money. But, in our case, it was essential. We will be down to one unit by June.

But it’s all good. We keep repeating, “Better now than later. Don’t wait.”

So, Champs, decluttering and downsizing is something almost all of us will have to face. It’s never too early to start planning.

Champ Toni recently emailed, “Can’t wait for this next year. I’m planning on selling the home my late husband and I had planned to retire in. But I’m still working and don’t have time to keep up the acre and 1/2 property and pool. For me, moving into a newer home, closer to town and my office just makes sense.”

Last August, Champ Laurie Jo wrote, “Tell Champs to clear out clutter, even if some is important. Hire students to sort. Put in boxes.

“My Mother, 88, died more than a year ago. My brother and I are STILL dealing with her stuff. She never filed things, she did not cash checks (to the tune of $20,000). Vast hours of my life are sucked away as I plod through the morass of papers that she left in boxes, bowls and baskets with no rhyme or reason.


Today’s Message: Declutter: “Better now than later. Don’t wait.”

Time to declutter and downsize. Better now than later
Donation items waiting for the truck to pick them up.


Senior dating advice from senior singles

On Life and Love after 50 eNewsletter – July 13, 2018 Tom’s readers offer senior dating advice

Each week, I receive emails from Champs. Most of your emails land in my inbox on Fridays, after the eNewsletter is published earlier that day. A few more arrive on Saturdays and Sundays. The rest of the week, a few still trickle in.

Most emails contain comments that pertain to that week’s newsletter topic. But not always. There are times when a Champ just wants to vent. It could be about a relationship issue, or how hard it is at our age to meet someone compatible, or any number of topics that pertain to senior dating and relationships. Often, Champs seek advice or want opinions from other Champs. And sometimes senior dating advice from senior singles is given as well.

I try to respond to every email, but occasionally one falls through the cracks, which is why on occasion I review older emails, to see what I overlooked. This week I reviewed comments that have come in over the last three months. There were some interesting ones that I decided to share with you today.

So, in effect, it’s the Champs who are writing today’s newsletter; I’m just the editor (and I do add a comment or two). As I’ve often said, I am impressed with our Champs’ intelligence, experience, sensitivity and caring for other people.

 3 responses to the “Home alone with only dogs for company” newsletter

Helen wrote, “I was home alone with two cats before Phil came into my life. Now, there is an old dog and a bratty cat in our small family. The dog’s name is Rowdy! He’s a rescue from 2007, black and white, long-hair Chihuahua. but looks like a Papillion other than he has the short legs. And he lives up to his name!

“Thank goodness Phil is an animal lover. Otherwise he would not have been my ‘match.’”

Christine Baumgartner: “I think I started reading your column from the beginning. And I only sent you nice letters.”

Tom’s comment: Christine was referring to the women who asked, after reading my first column, “Who is this sniveling puke?” and “Get the boy a crying towel.”

Christine is right, she only sent nice letters; that’s the type of person she is and why she is such an accomplished relationship counselor. She has great empathy for people and has always contributed helpful, positive advice in a nice manner.

Gordon, an avid flyfisherman: “Enjoyed your newsletter this morning (“Home alone with only dogs for company”) and thought I would send you one impression of another writer; although I am not a writer for publication.

During the last two years of life with my wife, I too turned to writing as a therapy and escape from the burdens and emotions of care taking a loved one during her end of life. As I progress through the later years of life and evolve to being single, seeking a life-long partner, retired, and living alone, I have found some comfort at times to again write.

I continue to write letters, stories and journal entries of what life is and to later read them to see my emotions and feelings at that time. Not for publication, but for release from ill feeling, voicing joy of good times, and lessons to be learned.

For me, this is and has become therapy and lessons to learn by. As I look back and read what I was feeling at another time I can see how I was wrong, right, happy, or what made me not so happy.

“Yes, writing is therapy and continues today.”

Comment to Gordon: As a writer, I could not have said it better. By writing things down, you can look back and see—and understand—what and why you were feeling the way you were feeling at that time, and how your thinking has changed since then. Yes, writing is therapy.

                   3 Champs comment on downsizing

Jack of All Trades, “Pat’s letter (Pat Buttress column from two weeks ago) and her mother’s letter were very touching. Thanks for sharing them. An even bigger thanks to you for broaching the subject of senior downsizing. I can’t tell you how much distress this topic has caused me, and I am NOT downsizing.

The mere mention of the word (‘Have you thought of downsizing?’) implies that I am not living right and strikes me as critical. (Usually the people commenting have not downsized either).

My reasons for not wanting to downsize include that I can’t think of anything more depressing. I live in my house, struggle with arranging all the maintenance tasks that come up. I have no kids. And you know what? This house is my HOME and contains many reminders of good times. I have a close guy-friend, since being widowed— and he’s NOT trying to get me to ‘downsize.’

“Good to get this off my chest.”

Comment from Tom: I agree, senior downsizing may not be for everyone. But, I hope people who don’t want to downsize at least clean out the clutter. In Dana Point, there was a famous local writer named Doris Walker. In her later years, she acquired so much writing clutter, that the firemen were unable to save her and her husband from their burning home because of all the clutter in the way.

Bill, Dallas, Texas, “Regarding senior downsizing: I have found that if I take one section of the house at a time, I am better off than trying to do a lot at one time. For instance, it took me a week to clean out the garage and throw away boxes full of memories I had saved. I try to break up the process to give myself an emotional re-charge before starting on another section of the house. This is a time-consuming effort, besides being an emotional effort.”

Comment from Tom: Bill is a senior swimmer for the Masters of South Texas swim club, located in San Antonio. Bill went to a swim meet at Texas A&M last weekend. He said, “Had a pretty good meet. Won 4 individual events (50, 100, 200 and 400-meter freestyle) plus was on three winning relays. About the only good thing about being 81 is the lack of competition. The meet was in a 50-meter pool in College Station, Texas.”

 Members of the Masters of South Texas swim club. Tom’s brother Bill is in back row, right of center, next to tall guy, yellow t-shirt, just below Texas state flag. This is one of most accomplished seniors swim clubs in the world. Photo courtesy of Masters of South Texas

Bill and his relay teammates hold many world records for their age bracket. How do I know all this? Bill is my brother.

Terry and Daeng, “After 10 years together traveling back and forth twice a year between Thailand and the USA, we are downsizing and moving totally to Thailand. It is a very emotional time as we are going from a house I have lived in for over 20 years down to four suitcases. Well, maybe five suitcases and a 4″ shipping tube for some oil paintings that we are taking off the wood frames. I think what is helping is the old Amish teaching of “Less is better.”

                                      Where to look for love?

Where can I go to meet someone is the most difficult question I have no answer for (especially in Iowa)

Marcey emailed, “I just read a column you wrote in an Iowa magazine for over 50. I’m in Iowa for the summer, live in Florida, a widow for five years, 70, and thinking about enjoying a companion! Where do I start?”

Tom’s comment: I’m puzzled. I’m wondering how my column appeared in an Iowa magazine? I don’t write for any Iowa magazines. And then, there’s the Iowa part of Marcey’s question. I mean no disrespect for Iowa but have two recollections about the state of Iowa I wanted to share.

I remember when Andy Rooney did a CBS TV special, on April 20, 1976, called, “Andy Rooney Goes to Dinner,” which featured the finest restaurants across America. He added humor to his comments. In the special, Rooney said he included Iowa in his search for great restaurants, but, it ended up being a non-stop trip across the state. So, seeking a mate in fine-dining restaurants in Iowa isn’t recommended.

In the mid-1980s, I was selling specialized computer hardware and tendency-analysis software to athletic departments of major universities. I was fortunate to get appointments at both Iowa State University, located at Ames, and the University of Iowa, located in Iowa City. I got these appointments because of contacts I had within the Athletic Department at the University of Michigan, my alma mater.

I drove between Ames and Iowa City, 137 miles; it took a little over two hours. Driving those two hours, I was able to hear Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard sing “Poncho and Lefty” on the car radio 18 times by flipping around all the country stations on the dial. I didn’t listen to any talk show hosts discussing how to meet men on that trip because nearly all the stations were country.

So, I don’t know what to tell Marcey regarding where to meet a senior companion in Iowa. Maybe she should resume her search when she returns to Florida in the autumn, where there are a lot more, older single men than in Iowa. But, the problem is: there are also many, many more, older single women in Florida, so the ratio of single women to single men is very large there. What a dilemma: finding love in Iowa or finding love in Florida?

If Marcey is willing to get out and meet new people in Iowa, she just might meet a companion. Her chances may be better there than meeting a man in Florida. We never know where or when we’re going to find love. Be yourself, smile, have fun and Go Hawkeyes and Go Cyclones.

And to tie today’s eNewsletter together, we finish with Champ Doug, who ends today’s eNewsletter with comments and advice:

“I can’t thank you enough for your unstinting efforts to bring life and love after 50 to the 50-and-over set. I look forward to your message every week.

I’m closing in on my 80th birthday without a Serious Romance in the last twenty years or so, but I’m still enjoying the hunt and whatever other joys life may bring.

“For anyone out there who thinks they’re missing out on love, I have one bit of advice: Get a dog!”

Tom’s comment: In an amazing moment of timing, at the end of editing the newsletter, as I was reading Doug’s last sentence yesterday morning, a text arrived on my phone at that exact moment. It was from a friend of mine and his wife, both of whom I’ve known for 25 years. Tomorrow, they pick up their new dog in Arizona, a chocolate Lab. He sent me a photo of the litter; their dog, “Reggie the chocolate Lab,” is on the left. This picture will melt your heart. It did mine.

            Reggie is on the left. My friends Hawk and Tracy pick him up tomorrow

Downsizing can be difficult

On Life and Love after 50 eNewsletter – June 29, 2018

Downsizing can be difficult – A touching discovery

As people age, many try to downsize, rid their homes of clutter, and simplify their lives. Many do this task so their children, heirs, or beneficiaries won’t have to tackle it later. Some downsize for other reasons. For example, our Champ Pat, from Orange, California, wrote this week: “I am sorting, packing and staging my home to sell.”

Often, it’s not an easy task. Cleaning out one’s living spaces inevitably uncovers lots of memories. People say, “I can’t throw this or that away.” They stop and reflect on the past. Could be an old photo or letter or memories of camp or childhood friends.

That happened to Pat, who added: “In doing this, I found a handwritten note from my Mom as she went through the grieving process over my Dad’s death in 1994. I have typed it and saved it to my computer in case the handwritten pages get lost.”

Our Champ, Pat Buttress Orange, California

Pat shared her mom’s letter with me because years ago, when Pat hosted a city of Orange/Time-Warner cable TV program titled, “Orange View,” (which she did for 16 years), she interviewed me and had told me the story of her mom, RoseMary, who had been widowed, and how she subsequently found love again, with an old friend named Harry.

This week, when I read RoseMary’s 1994 letter, it choked me up. It made me reflect on my life. I decided to share portions of the letter with you today, as so many of our Champs will relate to RoseMary’s words.

At the end of the letter, Pat adds four short paragraphs of comments, which are significant for widowed people who find love again.

WARNING: This letter, written in 1994, is heart-wrenching. Have a tissue nearby.

Memories of a Cherished Loss
By RoseMary A. Buttress

January 31, 1994

“I’ve just returned from Sierra Vista Hospital where George died. At this moment, I’m in a daze, I followed the doctor into emergency and went in to say my final good-bye. I tried to kiss you one final time and tell you how much you’ve meant to me. You were a wonderful and devoted husband and father…always there with your happy, positive thoughts and your beautiful smile.

I can’t believe I’ll never hear your voice again. You looked so happy and peaceful I wanted to lay down beside you and go with you. Unfortunately, I cannot, but just as you always told me, I know you will always be with both Pat and me and sometime in the future we’ll all be together.

I hope you know how much I will always miss you and cherish all the time we had together. You gave me identity and worth, self-worth from my 18th birthday until now. However, I think I’m strong enough to go alone until we meet again. Vaya con Dios, My Love!

It is now after midnight and Audrey & Beth have left and Pat will come home tomorrow.  But, what shall I do now…it is difficult to lay down in the bed and reach over for you and you are gone. I leave the lights on and hope I can go to sleep, I’m so tired.  Finally, I call Unity 24-hour call-in line. They are so kind, warm and understanding. The call is helpful and finally about three o’clock I fall asleep.

February 1, 1994

Pat returned home to Morro Bay, and we talked and waited for Gloria to arrive. It was nice to remember the good times we all shared and yes, the tears were there as well as the laughter.

Together we went to the Mortuary to make the arrangements you and I had agreed upon. It’s so final, and I’m drained of all feeling.  We are to pick up your ashes on Thursday.  I still can’t believe you are gone, but I can’t wish you back with your illness.

Thank goodness you were able to retain your dignity and intelligence until you died. You and I had such communication together and knew from the beginning we were in love and belonged with each other. We could read each other’s minds even across the room.

We were two halves that made a whole.  I was so proud to be your wife.  You were and are the light of my life. We are soul mates and I know you are somewhere watching and waiting for me.

As I write this, I’m reminded of how often you and I tried to make the world a more colorful and happy place. We’ve had our share of problems, but we never tried to unload them on our friends. We’ve always felt that laughter and joy was the way to go. Thank you, Dear.

About a week later

It’s Friday and Pat and I are driving to her house for a while. It hasn’t been a week since you died, and I miss you so. I wake up with tears and try and remember your courage and love of life even with your pain of the last years.

I still see you every morning with your wonderful smile and laughing eyes. You were always so positive and cheerful, and everyone felt better just knowing you.

I don’t think you had an enemy in the world and the tributes and notes I’ve received are heartwarming. Of course, I knew you best and had the time of my life with you. You were my rock of Gibraltar and made the world a wonderful and loving place.

Several days and months later

It’s almost your birthday. Your 88th! You and I were so hoping you could live through 2000 so we could be together for the turn of this century. It doesn’t seem fair to date anyone, I just want you with me, I’m so missing everything we shared, and we were lucky to have had it all. No one can replace you.

I have a clear picture of you and Pat chatting together on a bench in Solvang on my 70th birthday. I wish I had taken a picture of you both. It was less than 3 weeks later when you died, and my tears are with me every day.

I am sure you are with Pat and me daily and I hope wherever you are, it is beautiful and wonderful. There must be golf to share and many of your friends with you. I still hear your laughter and your joy of golf…both are happy memories.”

Pat’s Comments:

“This was the last of what my Mom wrote. She did as she and Dad talked about before he died, she reached out to Harry Wagner, her Roller Skating Dance Competition partner from when she was in her teens.

She and Harry finally met at Pacific Grove in northern CA and in October 1994 they married with my blessings at the Elderberry Inn, outside of Yosemite.  They were married for almost 11 years until Mom’s death May 2, 2005.

I knew Mom would never forget my Dad, I know she is with him now…but I was also very happy for her and Harry…to have each other as companions and to watch over each other in case of health issues.

I will never understand the resistance of adult children to have their parents remarry…the other parent is not coming back so I believe letting the living parent make a new life is what God expects of the remaining parent, and, of the children.”

Tom’s comment: Thanks to Pat for sharing her mom’s lovely letter. This story reminds us that remarriage can be wonderful for widowed people. Pat is a seasoned Public Affairs professional, who was most recently the north and north-central Orange County Public Affairs Region Manager for Southern California Edison (SCE).  Her career includes 20 years as Governmental/Public Affairs Manager.

Pat is the Chair of the Orange Chamber of Commerce (membership 500+ businesses). To read more about this fascinating woman, her website is: