Friday, September 24, 2010

Downsizing, Organizing and Decluttering: It's All Relative

We downsized about five years ago, from a home we had lived in for over 15 years.  I considered it "home" and had lived there for longer than anywhere I had lived in my life.  It was part of me, and I actually worried at night that it was lonely without us.  I drove by it sometimes, hoping that a new family would buy it soon and was happy when they did.  I was saddened again when it went to foreclosure and there seemed to be no buyer, until it sold at auction.  It was a lovely home, I thought -- 2300 square feet of living space, three large bedrooms and three baths, an office, a large and open living and dining area, plus some very nice features including a darkroom, Jenn-Air built-in convection oven and grill tops for the range, central vacuum system, walk-in pantry, and built-in bookshelves in the living room and office.  But it was in a declining neighborhood and we were both working in a neighboring town and approaching retirement, so we decided that it would be wise to find a smaller, one-story, newer home that would require less maintenance and care. 

I love our new home and feel that downsizing was the best choice for us.  It is 1600 square feet, three bedrooms and two baths, so we have a guest room and an office.  We are now a mile away from our church, a couple of miles from our local mall and many additional stores, most restaurants, the hospital, our doctors, two universities, movies, little theater, and I-40, which puts us 40 miles to the city and 30 miles to the little town where my parents live.  Our master bedroom has room for a loveseat and television armoire, and many nights serves as our "family room" where the three of us (my hubby, our Shih Tzu and me) hang out and read or watch television.  Our master bathroom is almost as large as our bedroom and is the feature that sold us on the house.  We have a shower and tub, two lavatories with a large amount of counterspace, an enclosed toilet and it's still large enough for a chest of drawers with room to spare so we're not bumping into each other.

What was reduced in order to have the large master bath is obviously the living room.  That's not a problem most of the time, but it's a pretty small space when we have family gatherings.  In fact, the entire house is small when we have family gatherings.  We have six children in our blended family, as well as three spouses (that number fluctuates), and 12 grandchildren.  Add them all together, plus other family members who may come by, and we have the potential for a houseful.

What we do is accommodate and appreciate everyone's flexibility.  We find surfaces to eat and we visit in whatever room has room.  If family is spending the night, we have the guest room, the living room couch, and inflatable beds for the office and the living room.  We have fun and we don't get too uptight.

One thing I find myself doing anytime I'm in a hotel (if the room is large enough) is to try to imagine myself living there.  (This habit is not a reflection of the happiness of my marriage.)  I think "I could put a small kitchen there, and a living area there".  I also do that when I imagine trying to find a space for a large group of family members if they were stranded in our home.  This is when I face the possibility of people sleeping in the halls and the bathtubs.  It's not beyond possibility that fifteen or so of us could be sleeping in close quarters.  Last Christmas was a nightmare for travelers in Oklahoma; my stepson had to stay two nights that he hadn't planned because the roads were too icy to travel.  The timing gave us an almost empty house; it could (in the future) give us a house overflowing.

Our downsizing leaves me wishing (sometimes) for another guestroom, a larger living room, and a screened-in back porch.  For the most part, however, I'm happy with the decision we made and expect that the coming years will confirm the wisdom of our choice.

It follows naturally that downsizing probably makes decluttering and better organizing necessary and I have been working on that.  I have been cleaning out closets and drawers, purging, and finding that I will probably have room enough to finally unpack the boxes in the garage that have been driving my hubby up the wall.  I also think that I can continue my addiction to pretty dishes and serving pieces, holiday items and can find a home for my mother's silver tea service, which my sweet stepmother has designated to go to me.  I'm proud of my progress and have decided that hoarding, for most of us, is a relative term.  (I confess to watching the television programs about the psychological condition and have empathy for those who suffer from it, and their families.)  I invite any of my relatives or friends to tell me if they think I have a problem (but I warn them that comparisons may be made!).

I have found the "tiny house" movement fascinating and have enjoyed looking at photographs and floor plans of the homes.  Of course, it follows that I have tried to imagine myself living in one of these abodes, and I have decided that my 1600 square feet is quite spacious indeed.  I also read an article about downsizing in the September issue of Traditional Home.  The homeowners (a family of two) had felt the need to "scale back and simplify" and I thought that I could probably find some good ideas for our home.  Reading the article, I discovered that the "downscaled" home is 4,805 square feet, "not tiny, but certainly more manageable" than the 8,000 square feet of their previous home.

I guess it's all relative.

What are your "downsizing" experiences?


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Going to a Party! Autumn Cloches

Marty at A Stroll thru Life is hosting a party on her blog and has invited us to post photographs of fall decorating using cloches.  I have chosen to use a glass pumpkin instead of a cloche this time, and my arrangement is called "My Favorite Little Pumpkins".  Look closely and you'll see them; they live far away from me, but I love to look at their photos -- these were taken last autumn so I thought they would be perfect for this vignette.  Please visit Marty's blog and look at the beautiful photographs of autumn decorating ideas there and at the participating blogs.  Have fun!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Remembering the Original Amateur Hour and the Minstrels from Southeast Missouri

Before American Idol and America's Got Talent, even before Star Search, the Original Amateur Hour was introducing Americans to singers, dancers, comedians, and other performers through television and radio broadcasts for 70 years, from 1935 until 1970 -- with a total of 3 1/2 million auditioning and 25,000 acts performing on the program.  Such notables as Ann-Margret, Frank Sinatra, Pat Boone, Maria Callas, Joey Dee and the Starlighters, The Gentrys, Penny Marshall, Beverly Sills, Jim Stafford, and Gladys Knight appeared on the Original Amateur Hour and countless others competed for the public's votes each week.  The "Wheel of Fortune" was spun at the beginning of each show to determine the order of the acts' appearance ("Round and round and round she goes andwhere she stops, nobody knows").  From there, audiences enjoyed jugglers, baton twirlers, tap dancers, ventriloquists, and a variety of other acts -- all applauded and supported by friends and family back home.

In 1964, residents of Kennett, Missouri and the surrounding area supported a group of young men called The Minstrels.  The Minstrels were folksingers and first performed together in a Teens Against Polio assembly in January of 1963.  David Freeman, David Kerr, Ken Stuart, Terry Hunter, Richard Cleek, and Steve Reagan went on to compete in several area talent shows in Senath, Deering, Portageville, Hayti, Rector (Arkansas), East Prairie, Cardwell, Charleston and Jackson.  They also performed at numerous local and regional events, on Memphis television and Missouri and Arkansas radio stations. They were also among the finalists at the Mid-South Fair talent competition in Memphis in 1963.

The Minstrels won their audition for the Original Amateur Hour at the 1963 Delta Fair Talent Show .  They tried out for the Ted Mack show in June and were scheduled for an appearance in August.  The group sang "Frogg #1" (also known as "Frog Went a Courtin'") and won that evening, entitling them to a second appearance, where they performed "Waterfall."

I was a Minstrels fan throughout the existence of the group, attending most of their talent shows, and I was proud of my brother for being a member of the Minstrels. They brought pride to their community and continued to do so as they grew into respectful and respected young men.  I believe that this is because they were a product of their community, which expected and rewarded great things from them.

I was visiting with a group of friends recently and the conversation went to Sheryl Crow and up-and-coming country star David Nail, both of whom grew up in the small community of Kennett.  Credit was given to the outstanding music education opportunities and support that the community offers to its young people.  I agree with that assessment and appreciate the benefits of a strong school music program to everybody -- whether it be through a noted local performer or an individual's  lifelong enjoyment of music.  The contributions of music teachers, band directors, music club organizers, and all of those who support music for young people can't be overestimated.  Groups like the Minstrels and performers like Sheryl Crow and David Nail are products of their work -- and make us all proud.


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