More Downsizing, Too Many Photos, More Lessons Learned

My renovated kitchen nook and library – My happy place.

Empty Nester Downsizing:  Are you doing this?

The downsizing continues… More sifting, sorting, tossing and saving. Are you doing this? Lately, I seem to read a lot about how people are downsizing, buying smaller homes and some of them have adapted to a nomadic lifestyle. They just travel and don’t even have a permanent home any longer. 

Our children now are grown, we looked around and noticed… we have lots of stuff. I’ve written in the past about how we had a much bigger home and downsized to a smaller home which we completely renovated. The entire experience was a gratifying and exciting adventure. However, what we came to understand was that we collected too many personal possessions! Sound familiar?

My husband always says that “the worst day of our lives” was when the moving van pulled up to the smaller house stuffed to the roof with our belongings from the old house. “We don’t have room for this!” 

Moving day

We proceeded to pile it all in the garage and systematically brought it out, box by box, bag by bag for the past three years. Truthfully, my husband has done most of the work. He organizes, shuffles and throws out. I painstakingly go through each box and he disposes of what we don’t need. 

Through this process, we have narrowed down our children’s things into just a couple of plastic bins labeled with their names. I also have an entire bin full of children’s books for that future day when I might be able to read my kids’ books to my grandchildren. Is that a thing? It certainly has been a dream of mine!

empty nester downsizing

Will our children be grossed out by these “old books” and not want their new little ones to touch them? I often wondered. I have whittled down the enormous mountain of our collected belongings into one closet which consists mostly of lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of photos. Do you have as many photos as I do? 

Remember how we got doubles of everything? Why did we need doubles? Is this an American thing like super-sizing at 7 Eleven? Not only did we get doubles, but then we also had a Costco CD full of them! In most of the photo envelopes, I have 20 shots of the same swing of the bat, or of the presentation of the award where the children are standing in line with five other students. But you could never get an awesome photo because you could never get close enough and they were always at the wrong angle.

 A number of these photos I am perusing are taken from the side or from the back and the lighting was always pretty poor which makes them all not very good. To be more specific, I have found plenty of subpar photos, but thousands of delightful ones as well. But I still have them all, the doubles and a CD ROM and 20 versions of the same photo. What to do with them?

Just about 25 years ago in the flower fields in Carlsbad, CA – Later this year that little baby boy will be getting married not too far from here. Amazing.

These sweet memories crack me up. I do love to visit that old me. That young mom that hung on every word and every song and every book and every game that my children participated in. I loved that time in my life, and I still love those memories, but I guess now I must evolve with a new way of loving, from a little farther away.

Earlier I was mentioning how I was in the very last closet with all the photos; I discovered that the other item I liked to collect was recipes. I found recipes from magazines and newspapers, lots of them too. “Oh, of course, I’ll make this!” Never happened. 

The good news is I stumbled upon a stack of recipes I had clipped that I actually did make. They were all of our family’s favorites and they brought back wonderful memories. I also came across my grandmother’s recipes written in her characteristic handwriting, but best of all I found my moms. 

downsizing recipes
This is a fraction of the notecards she wrote for me.

My mom’s handwriting is pretty and distinctive and I have now realized that every time I asked for a recipe she would write it on a 3×5 card. Poor woman, she ended up writing the same recipes over and over (because I obviously wasn’t keeping track)so I could have them. Did she complain? No, never. So now I have duplicates of the same recipes in my mother’s hand. I’m keeping them all.

This leads me to the next thought. I found that there are not many cards with recipes that are written by me. Will our children care whether they have a recipe of mine written in my handwriting? I hear they aren’t even teaching handwriting in elementary school any longer. Is this true? In this day of digital and online information, times are different, so do our grown-up kids have the same feelings as we do? I don’t know.

Several years ago I wrote a cookbook called Recipes From Your Childhood. I carefully and methodically made every single dish, delicious casserole, buttery coffee cake, and weekday meals that were my children’s favorites or ones that we made over and over and I thought they could use the recipe. I took all of the color photos and published the book myself. 

It was a labor of love, I was proud of the outcome and my daughter uses it all the time! She told me recently that my pasta sauce was her new husband’s favorite meal. If that doesn’t make your heart sing I don’t know what would.

Have you been downsizing, reviewing and reminiscing? Or are you the child of parents discovering and disseminating as we are? 

Do you give this any thought? Are your parents’ things precious to you or is it just more stuff? I guess we all have to make our own decisions and do what makes us happy, right? Every family has special memories and every person feels differently about their personal belongings and collections. 

If you have any ideas for how to handle my 50,000 photos and CDs, I would love to know!

Thanks for listening.


For more on our downsizing, check out this post:

The Newly Renovated Kitchen and Dining Room Are My Happy Place

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13 thoughts on “More Downsizing, Too Many Photos, More Lessons Learned”

  1. Suzanne,

    I am extremely sentimental and like to keep everything that has a memory attached to it! My mom moved from our childhood home a few years ago and she entrusted me with the family photos, negatives, you name it! So I purchased a photo copier for $150 at Best Buy and it downloaded all the photos & negatives into my computer so I could put them on a CD for my family. It took some time but totally worth it and fun to go through the photos. I have been getting rid of stuff lately, the older I get the less I want. I have been trying to Marie Kondo our house, if it does not bring me joy, get rid of it!

    Loved your article!

  2. Another great article, Suzanne!
    After my parents’ deaths, I spent months cleaning out the home they had shared for 45 years. While neither of them were pack rats, I was amazed at all the ‘stuff’ they had accumulated over the years. That experience inspired me to clean out my own home. My new middle name is ‘minimalist’. I don’t want anyone to have to spend months going through mountains of ‘stuff’ when my time comes. I do have to admit that I saved the recipe cards that I found in my mom’s handwriting and others I found in my grandmother’s handwriting. Some things I just couldn’t throw away!

  3. Suzanne…there is an Etsy shop that will make a small canvas or tea towel with a photocopy of a family recipe…might be a fun shower gift if your DIL to be is sentimental…great article!

  4. Suzanne-I’ve been slowly scanning all my photos and then uploading them to Google and Amazon photos. I have even started scanning my teenage daughters school work and art so I can look at it and don’t have to store it all. I keep only the rally sentimental ones. I love your posts and actually know your better half and family. I grew up in Arcadia also.

    • Hi there: Thanks for offering your suggestions! I never thought about scanning the artwork, I have a ton of that too! Thanks your kind words and for reading the blog!

  5. Oh Suzanne! I am right there with you. I have ALL of my parents keepsakes (my mother kept EVERYTHING) and my own as well. So overwhelming. But I too have goals to not leave all of this For my kids to deal with. PLEASE keep me posted on all your tricks, hacks, and ideas to lovingly make sense of it all 😩

    • Wow! Where do you keep all of that? Between FB, this post and Instagram, I have received quite a few suggestions. I just need to decide to get going!

  6. OMG Suzanne, this piece so resonated with me – thanks you for sharing. Because of you, I feel a little less alone in the endless endeavor to become more of a minimalist. The feeling of levity and accomplishment you feel at the end of each “session” makes the effort so worth it. Another thing I’ll add: the fewer things I have, the more I genuinely enjoy and appreciate what remains. Not to mention: who knew you published a cookbook?! I’m absolutely certain your kids will want to keep those old-school children’s books for you to read to your grandchildren 🙂

    • Kevin, thank you so much for reading and for taking the time to share your thoughts! I think we may have all gotten caught up in “more is better” when in reality “more is more”! I think my kids will want to keep their “old” books too. Happy sifting!

  7. I also have tons of photos. I pick out a few select photos of individuals in younger years, especially cousins/my kids/etc to set aside in labeled envelopes. I use the photos to make birthday cards just for them with their cute little toddler faces on them. I feel I’ve made use of some and the person feels special.


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