The Art of Aging

GlitzMy husband could live in a closet. Me? Not so much. But I’m trying to be a supportive spouse and learn to live in less space as we grow older. Especially since I have three “offices” in our home – a computer/art supply storage work space downstairs, a fiber arts/art storage work space upstairs, and a messy art/art storage work space under the stairs. That’s kind of a convicting sentence to write.

Nevertheless, I’m endeavoring to purposefully purge my precious resources so that I can merge my computer office and my sewing studio into one room downstairs – the current guest room. The guest room will migrate upstairs to my former studio where it will continue to share space with two 8′ tables that have been my huge work surface where I’ve made banners, designed quilts and cut fabric for the last twenty five years. I’m just not ready to ruthlessly get rid of those tables. Or a few other things.

End of an EraThis purposeful purging has been an interesting process. Some things I have absolutely no problem throwing out or giving to a charitable thrift store for resale.  Just a few minutes ago a truck picked a great assortment of stuff curbside. Two of the most prominent items were rolls of various colored moiré used for banner backgrounds. With their departure I’ve mostly made a final statement that my banner making career is at an end. Mostly because I can’t bring myself to jettison all the bridal satin and glitz fabrics I’ve accumulated over the years. Scraps, yes. Fat quarters or more, nope. I realize I need the wisdom of others who’ve preceded me in this process. I need to talk with my brother about how he went about thinning his music library after retirement a few years ago as a church organist and choir director. But I also realize that each time I talk with someone about not being quite ready to relinquish this or that bin of fabric, it gets easier to imagine doing so. I’m rehearsing letting go. Such is the art of purging, thinning, down-sizing…and aging.

Recently, during a conversation with a friend whose 85 year old mother has decided to remain in her home rather than relocate to a staged living environment as she had planned twenty years ago, it occurred to me her mom’s initial intent was honorable, but as she’s aged and faced health crises, it has become just too difficult to make the decisions necessary to accomplish that transition. Her “want to” has aged. I could identify with that. My “want to” has aged as far as making banners any more. I don’t want to! And there are other things I don’t want to do any more, even if the opportunity offered itself. I don’t want to do testing or premarital counseling any more. So out went all those materials from my filing cabinets. Being attentive to the changes in my “want to” list is helping me thin out my resources during this phase of downsizing in my current home. Some things I’m still waffling about. Some things I’m making decisions about now because I want to – and I might not want to in the future.

It feels responsible – so my kids won’t have to deal with all this stuff at some remote point in the future. It feels creative – I get to imagine a new way of doing old familiar things in a new space without moving from my beloved home. And it feels age appropriate – it’s all part of the art of aging.

So, what was my brother’s advice?

Keep those things you’d want on a desert island – the things you really love.
Keep useful friends – the practical things that you use regularly.
Keep those things you’ll never do again but still have a heart resonance with.
Thin the herd – get rid of multiple copies if they’re not necessary.

What would you take with you to your desert island? What are your “useful friends”? What is your heart connection to the things you can’t part with? Are there parts of your “herd” that you could thin?

Looking forward to your sage comments on the art of aging.


12 comments to The Art of Aging

  • Maureen

    It is a process of realizing that the things we thought we would do, create or have will not come to pass. A freedom and a grief.

  • Hi Lynn; Having moved 4 times in the last 4 years, I have become an unwilling expert on discarding things I do not need anymore. Living in a condo, you realize that you do not really need the “stuff” that you have been dragging along with you, and that you can live a more mindful life without Holiday Tablecloths, “thin” clothes, threadbare Christmas decorations, and books you once enjoyed. I give everything away if I have not used it in the past year, and it feels great. Aging gives me a new focus on what is necessary and pleasing to me…and also on what is cluttering my life! Thanks for the great comments..melinda

  • My surfboard….assuming the desert island has a nice point break…my favorite bible (need to think out that herd)….perhaps a Frisbee.

  • Jeannie Cavender

    I did not encounter the real issue of aging until my mother passed away last year at 99 1/2 and still exceptional cognitively and I became the older generation. Milestone birthdays never bothered me before but the approaching 70 has taken on a new dimension. As I read of older friends who pass away at 84 which use to seem elderly I realize that that is only 15 years away for me. So what I do with these years has taken me down a new path and one I still not able to identify in a clear way – am realizing patience and pondering must be a part.

    In sorting all of my mother’s things I have accepted that the collections of things I have gathered through the years, numerous crèches for Christmas, Noah’s arks, green Wedgewood,etc have been my enjoyment and I cannot expect my family or even friends to feel the same way as I have about them. I have told my family – pick perhaps one as a memento for yourself and then let others go. I still have my mother’s strawberry dishes and just memories of meals eaten off of other dishes. I enjoy just one of her birds and hope the others have found a nest in someone else’s home. Thus an ark or baby Jesus may not be a necessity on the island in terms of physical survival but they would do much to keep my soul alive.


    I need to do some purging. John has cleaned out most of his old car stuff, but I am into genealogy and have accumulated a lot of books and binders. The kids will take some of it, but our family tree is now on Ancestry. I have two sugar Easter eggs my mother and I made about 47 years ago at Eastminster Presbyterian Church. They still look pretty good, but they will go. We have a few antiques handed down from family that the kids will have. I just put over 2,000 pictures from my computer on a flash drive. I was afraid my old computer would quit. Some were from slides from Navy days, and when our kids were little. I scanned them with a special scanner and put in the computer a few years ago. There are still many things to purge as we are sure not getting any younger!

  • Lynne, I am so glad you are there for me,us, to be a role model. You are just a few years ahead of me, but now I see that your thoughtful and thought-provoking blogs will become more and more valuable and pertinent to me as I move through these Fall to Winter stages of life. I am not ready to purge yet, but it will happen and I can see now that I can control whether it is to be an horrible task or a mindful experience. I really thank you for your insights,experience, and wisdom that you share so readily with us all. Most of all, your zest for living…none of these stages is an onerous task to you, and indeed you will slide into Homebase shouting “wooeee!”. Love you lots, art-partner.

  • Judy Siudara

    The title of this blog topic says it all- there is an art to aging. And there is an art to purging. i am just a little ahead of you , and last year got to the point of not liking my “clutter”. so that was the first part of my cleansing process- seeing what was formerly precious as now an annoyance or an inconvenience or a non- asset. I went systematically from room to room, purging and piling- sell it, donate it, recycle it, throw it away( very small pile!) I am going to do that process every year , in every room , and re-evaluate the items. Less is more now for me. My island would have to have a few re-readable books, some chocolate for
    EVERY day, and writing materials for my memories. I leave my husband’s collections to him; half the house is enough to purge! Love this blog and think it is so interesting how many responses you’ve had to this one. J.

  • Karen Mikuls

    Jerry & I traded our “stuff” for a new lifestyle as part of our art of aging. We now live in a 2 bedroom condo in an active adult 55+ community and are loving it! It’s not about what things you would take to a desrt island. For us it is about the new spirit, new experiences, new friends, & new attitude that freedom from “stuff” can bring. We have a whole new life to celebrate LIFE! YAY! In fact, I am writing this from a dude ranch in Montana where 15 of our new friends, youngest 65, oldest 83, are playing with river rafting, horse back riding, hiking, fly-fishing, boating, & relaxing! But most of all, having fun and enjoying the life that God gave us…… in God’s country- so beautiful! Enjoy it while you can, life is short!

  • Lynn Knuth

    Hard to start on, but once you make that first “purge” the pain is short and then it goes to cathartic. Clearing out the old is so is like opening a window on a beautiful day of breezes to freshen up the stale air! I find at this “70”s stage of life, I want the freedom to respond to invites, whims, new adventures and not be tied down taking care of all my “stuff”. And you soon find out that all those precious collections you’ve cluttered your life with don’t appeal to your kids one iota! So let someone else enjoy them….you’ve got a date to enjoying each day God blesses you with and whatever adventures & new friends await!

  • Such a good post, Lynne. 2 moves in the past 5 years have forced me into this mode a bit earlier than normal, but I think it’s all good. Boomers raised by depression-era parents have a difficult time parting without guilt with “good and usable” items. It’s good to remember that someone else will benefit from our generosity and it is very freeing. My daughter actually wanted my 12 place settings of white ironstone. 6 piece place settings are all I need or it’s paper or plastic for me. The books have made their way to new homes as well. Our home is one story now and much easier to clean. It’s comforting to know all this is normal and age appropriate.

  • am truly appreciative of all the positive comments about this post

    have been feeling a need to purge, but lacked the incentive

    can this be my call to arms?

    can someone out there motivate me?
    i seem to be unable to get it going……………..

  • Deanna J Bowling

    Having come to a time in life when my roommate needs me while she is recovering from a stroke, I have decided to and have started to get rid of anything that requires me to take on an “additional career” to take care of.

    It is very freeing, when I can “handle” doing it.

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