Volume 3, Number 181
'There's a Jewish story everywhere'

Wednesday-Saturday, September 9-12, 2009


Getting up on downsizing

By Cantor Sheldon F. Merel

SAN DIEGO—Many years ago, after my mother’s funeral, my brother and our wives met at Mom’s one bedroom apartment in New York to decide what to do with her personal and household goods.  As the four of us wandered through her rooms looking at furniture, dishes, clothing, photographs, and jewelry, we sensed her presence with fond memories.

Unfortunately, however, there were few of her possessions any of us wished to take, and finally donated her worldly possessions to a local charity-.
I’m sure that many of us in our, so called, “golden years," face the future possibility of downsizing, moving to smaller quarters and with trepidation, deciding what to take along and what to discard.  While we love our home and hope to maintain it as long as we are physically able, we are very aware of the possibility that we may eventually have to make changes in our present living arrangements.

Throughout our marriage, my wife and I enjoyed using our beautiful sterling silver trays and  flatware, crystal bowls, vases, Noritake dishes ( setting for twelve), and displaying  family paintings, photos, personal sculpting.  They are filled with nostalgia of the times we held Passover Seders and entertained friends and relatives in our home, but as our life style has changed, we don’t entertain at home as in the past and now meet friends for lunch or dinner at a restaurant.  Most of our prized special possessions are carefully stored away in closets and cabinets, and rarely used.   

The thought of having to move and divest ourselves of many possessions is like a ‘sword of Damocles” hanging over our heads.  Should we wait until we actually plan to move, or slowly start the process of getting rid of some of our possessions now in anticipation of future changes?   If we do nothing, it could be an onerous burden left to our children, just as we faced years ago when my mother died.  Our children’s life  

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styles are different than ours had been, their dwellings are smaller, and they have little interest in receiving any of our prized possessions now, or inheriting them later.

So, where and when should we begin: hold a garage sale, sell on E-bay, or perhaps bring our more valuable possessions to a Consignment Store? Since we previously had some experience buying and selling a few pieces of furniture at one of the local Consignment Stores, we felt this would be an easier route to chose. In this way, although me may receive less, we will avoid the intricacies of selling on line, or the bother of holding a garage sale.  

We then explored a few of the local consignment stores to see which of them might be the best venue for our first rate items.  We learned that two stores: one in Point Loma and the other near Old Town, charge  40 percent for each item sold, while a store in North County charges 60 percent-- quite a difference.

We made an appointment at the Country Friends Consignment store in Rancho Santa Fe, and were impressed with its lovely location, displays, and set up. It is a volunteer- run, non-profit organization and contributes portions of its profits to local charitable organizations, which is a plus in our choice.  We brought a few things with us at our first visit, and photographs of other items to ascertain the volunteers’ interest.  We later made a second visit with the items previously shown in photographs, plus several others from our closets. At present a few have sold, and we patiently await further news.

Skipping back in time, following my mother’s funeral, as the four of us were wandering though the apartment,  I opened the door of her bedroom clothes closet, and staring me right in the eye was a black three ring binder sitting on the shelf.   It was a hand- typed manuscript of many pages filled with fascinating details of mom’s and her families’ migration to the United States from Latvia, and Lithuania.    

Unbeknownst to any one of us,  Mom had literally “banged out” on an old non-electric typewriter which she used for years with arthritic fingers,  her autobiography.   She wrote the history of who begot who, with dates and relationships, which  must have been a labor of several months.  Although we donated most of her furniture, clothing, and dishes, she left us the most valuable and precious item of all, her carefully and lovingly typed  autobiography, our Family Tree !

Merel is cantor emeritus of Congregation Beth Israel of San Diego. His email: merels@sandiegojewishworld.com

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