Category Archives: Downsizing

Finale: The Books

It has been a good while since we talked about our book dilemma. The Wine and Cheese/Book Takeaway was a great success. Prior to this we had donated boxes/bags of books to the local library for its Friends sale. Still, we were left with the remains of a near lifetime of buying/reading/ absorbing/harboring  texts that have been important to us. Add to these volumes a good number of books that had been passed down from the previous generation.

As luck would have it (I can’t believe that I am using this phrase, but it’s true), our hairdresser Maureen, who has been with us for the long term, told me that she knew of a book dealer – a son-in-law of a client – who deals in books. After placing a call to said person, we were introduced to a most charming young man who has a passion for books in a way far greater than ours, I concede. Tom thoughtfully looked over the remaining books, gave us a quick take on the overall situation, and agreed to work through them.

Tom came by to report on his assessment this week. It turns out that we had a good number of books that were in limited supply on-line and some that were of particular interest. He is glad to take our entire collection, the least and the most of it, and make it part of his inventory. Based on this assessment, he gave us a check which we feel represents the potential value of the books, his risk for any that are not of real value, the cost of retaining them, and, most important, the value of his time and expertise.

It has been a long process of detachment and release, but we are experiencing a sense of relief and also satisfaction. The books have gone to people who will read them or pass them on to others who seek them. We realized some monetary gain, but that was not the point. After all, we left the “sale” to the end. No, it’s just knowing that we have completed this phase of our transition.

Friend Bonnie, who took some of our offerings for herself and her son, asked me recently what we kept. Looking over the shelves and reflecting on what we have boxed up, I find that we have saved many classics (Greek, Roman and others), my medieval history books and related novels, background books for Ray’s historical novel Benediction, and many children’s books that I can not relinquish because of their association with our daughters’ youth and my time volunteering at a local elementary school after retiring. Ray kept his collection of books on FDR and the North African campaign of 1942-1943, thinking he still might write something — possibly a novel — on that era. Add in a good number of favorite novels and writers, and that about sums it up.

Regarding children’s literature, I would say that there is a great deal of pleasure in it for adults, particularly if you can share the books with young ones – your own or others. As for all the Shakespeare that we let go, we concluded that we can easily get his works from the local library. Besides, so many of them were yellowing paperbacks.

That pretty much wraps it up for the books. Now we need only resist the compulsion to hold on to the next reads.


It’s Getting Real

Wonder where we’ve been? We’ve been getting our house in the Finger Lakes ready to go on the market in just a few days.

The cupboard is bare. Now how am I going to clean underneath the darn thing?

You’ve been reading about our downsizing and our efforts to get rid of “the stuff.”  We’ve appreciated your interest, your encouragement and your concern. These last few weeks it has been getting real. While we thought that we were going at it in a concerted effort, we have heard that our realtor thinks that we need to accelerate the pace.

We are on-board. This despite the early arrival of our grandson and the need to divert our time to be with him and his parents. We are smitten and will be adjusting all our plans to make the most of the opportunities to be with the family and the new guy.

Our attentions back home have turned to making the house ready to show. More stuff has gone out the door. We have connected with a local book dealer who is looking over the remains of our wine and cheese and book takeaway. He has loaded them into his van and will get back to us with an estimate. No more boxes of books to contend with. (As an aside, we were amazed and gratified to receive a note from the local history center that two of our neighbors have sent a contribution in

Ladies — he does windows!

appreciation for our giveaway. What could be more satisfying? Thanks, friends.)

We are doing “triage” on the remaining items. There are things designated for the local antiques dealer’s perusal; others for the church’s yard sale this year; more for our cherished Once Again Shoppe; practical items for the Living Well which offers services to local families in need: and, our castoff clothing and costuming to the local theater company which encountered an incredible loss with the floods two years ago.

We’ve had the place spruced up a bit with a few cracks addressed, paint freshened where needed and small matters seen to. It remains for us to address the other

Wide open spaces in the basement. Room for a pony.

stuff and to decide how we present our home.

A good bit of our furnishings have gone south to our new home in Virginia. Nonetheless, we still have a very habitable home here. The challenge is to decide what we keep for the new home and how we transition down there. It is not insurmountable, but it does keep our minds occupied.

And, by the way, the basement – that great repository of generations of family stuff – is looking pretty spiffy.

We are convinced that this was the right time to make the change. It has been a huge effort, one that we’re not sure we would want to undertake — or be able to undertake — a few years from now.


Book Giveaway with Libations

We held our Great Book Giveaway with Libations party over the weekend. Friends came and took away many bags of books. Mystery, history, music, travel — you name it — all went out the door.

We spent several days culling our collection before the big event. and we pulled a few old favorites back the night before. But we have no regrets. Books that served us well are now being read and enjoyed by others. Some of them will likely wind up at the Penn Yan Public Library annual book sale in a couple of months. That’s where the leftovers are going too. We’re packing them up tomorrow and storing them in the garage of a Friend of the Library.

We had a great time at the Giveaway and thank everyone who came.

And so, the downsizing continues. We’ve made a lot of progress, but the place doesn’t exactly echo yet.






















The Books – Getting There

img_2120It’s no secret that we are hoarders of books, as we have come clean about this in our posts over the last two years. It is also known that we are fast approaching countdown, the time when we have to decide what to let go of and what to take with us to the down-sized townhouse.  To this end, we have been going over the books cached away around the house: the study, the basement, the “bonus room,” even the piles on the bedside tables.

In recent weeks, we have taken books that were subjects of our church study group to the church library. Ray has found a home for history books at the local history center, and I have given a number of children’s books (along with art supplies) to the local ARC, which supports children and adults with developmental disabilities. These placements seem right.  But, what about the remainder?

We are in debt to wonderful friend Becky who years ago shared with us her approach to leaving a home.  Friends were invited to visit and take away an item. No bringing of hostess gifts; the requirement was that guests help with the process of saying good-bye.

Thanks to Becky’s sharing, we have invited friends for wine and cheese and a “books takeaway.”  Doing this will allow us to see many friends whom we have not had a chance to enjoy properly, what with our goings and returns these past many months. A second boon is the pleasure we will have in passing along books that we have treasured enough to carry them with us for many years. Knowing that they will go to good homes, I am inclined to take a more critical look at the books that I think I must keep and those that I can let go of, knowing that they may be chosen in the same way that I did originally.

Speaking with friend Libby today, we talked about passing along/divesting ourselves of the stuff of our lives. We touched on real linens and family silver, among other things. For the most part, the next generations do not want them. We agreed that the rummage sale was the place for them, especially as the proceeds would benefit a worthy cause. Still, I find that books are another matter.

Another friend, Jeanie, shared in an exchange which I cannot locate easily but the substance of which I can render. Speaking of books and letting go of them, she replied, “Some of my best friends are characters I have met in books.” That about sums it up. I guess I’ll keep the best friends.

We’ll let you know how we do with the “takeaway.”


What We Call Progress

We are plugging away at the stuff.  Having undertaken the family archives and sent some documents on their way to historical institutions, universities and libraries, we are more and more confronting the books. What to do with these companions that we have read, savored and held onto over the years?

Well, for my part, much of the problem was hoarding. I’ve read about it and experienced it first hand in others. I just can’t seem to let go of something that gave pleasure.  Another part of the problem is that I fool myself that I will return to read them once again. Well,  I am at that point of life when there is not sufficient time to re-read all of them and still read the other books on my life list. I think I’m finally growing up here.

We are becoming more  critical, more discerning regarding those tomes that we want to retain and will actually read or reference again. We have agreed that the paperback Shakespeare plays can go. We can borrow them from the library should need arise or Google particular questions that we might have. We will keep our hardback copies of the ancient classics. They speak to us still.

Then there are the books that have been formative in our thinking. Those we will keep for sure. What are some of them, you might ask? Well, here’s a sample.

The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt

1491 by Charles C. Mann

Machiavelli, A Portrait by Christopher S. Celenza

Ornament of the World by Maria Rosa Menocal

Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick

Lincoln at Gettysburg by Garry Wills

Growing Up by Russell Baker

Dante by Barbara Reynolds

Someone quotable once opined that you can tell much about a man [person] by the books he/she keeps. Draw your own conclusions.

So, (a word that linguists and folks of their ilk voted to retire a year ago) what are we left with (oops, a dangling preposition?) Right, and now where does the question mark go? Yikes!

We’ll tell you more shortly.




More Things Under Heaven and on Earth…

Ray has been sharing his trip down memory lane as he goes through his family memorabilia. See his post.  While he has taken laudable action to preserve his father’s papers and other items related to Pop’s career at TVA, the matter of the snippet of his grandmother’s wedding gown is now looming large.

I hesitate to tell him that he doesn’t know yet what trouble with wedding gowns is. I am going through other Copson family items. Lo and behold, we have his mother’s wedding gown in its entirety. Mame, while average for her time, would be called diminutive today. Not many brides could wear it, even for nostalgic reasons. Well, our daughters could because, while they are much taller, they are also as slim as they come. But, we have married them off.

If that isn’t enough, I have my mother’s ball gown from a weekend at West Point in the 1930’s. It’s somewhat the worse for wear – not her wearing, but my sister’s and mine. Mom let us dress up in her old gowns when we were young. I’m afraid that we were not as respectful of them as we should have been.  Along with the current white cotton sheath with a flounced skirt below the knees, I vividly remember the white satin slinky  gown with the faux diamond clip at the shoulder strap and the slim green crinkly gown with an aura of mystery about it.

Some thoughts come to mind. We could donate them to the local theater company which has taken some of our funkier items for their wardrobe. On the other hand, perhaps the local history center would like them for its collection of period clothing. The wedding gown was worn in 1932, and is a classic. And I don’t know anyone among my acquaintances who went to a West Point weekend with a cadet.

I’ll pursue these avenues, with Ray’s permission of course. Who knows, maybe we’ll drag these pieces with us to our next stop. Let the girls agonize when the time comes. Serve them right for all the stuff they have left behind in their time.






Family Memorabilia: To Keep or Not To Keep?

A bittersweet aspect of downsizing is sorting through family memorabilia. The task summons fond memories, and forces reflections on the lives of loved ones, now gone. That leads to reflections on the purpose and meaning of life in general. Then comes the practical decision on what to keep and what to throw away.

The other day I came across a group photo including my father at age 39, just over a year before I was born.

Raymond L. Copson

Raymond L. Copson

I’ve cropped him here from the photo, taken in March 1943 at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Nitrate Plant No. 2 in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The plant was being honored at that point for its contributions to the war effort, and he was playing a key role in transforming civilian fertilizer manufacturing operations for the production of weapons. In the box with the photo was a letter from a friend, jokingly calling him the “handsomest chemical engineer in America.” You can see why.

After the war, he moved back to private industry and loved his 1950s job as director of research at a chemical plant in Baltimore. But then that plant was bought by the Allied Chemical behemoth, and he became a cog in a vast machine, which he didn’t much care for. Allied sent him to Syracuse, which he didn’t care for either — but that’s where I met Donna. Every cloud has a silver lining.

I think the last years of Pop’s career were a bit of a downer for him, but he picked himself up after retiring by volunteering for the International Executive Service Corps, which sent him to South Korea to teach chemical engineering, and then to Mexico to consult for a chromium chemical company. He and my mother treasured those experiences, just as they savored their retirement in Florida. (IESC still exists, incidentally, and is looking for both mid-career and retired volunteers.)

Am I keeping my father’s papers or throwing them away? A bit of both — and I’ve found a third way: donation. The University of North Alabama collects TVA-related materials and has been delighted to receive my fathers papers, photos, and professional articles from that part of his career. They are even calling it the Raymond L. Copson Collection. The Onondaga County Historical Society has taken a few things from the Syracuse period. Before sending these items off, I’ve scanned anything that might be of interest to the family in later years to a thumb drive. As for the rest, I’ve thrown out duplicates and some files that dealt with personnel matters, but most has gone back into the box.

We’ll still need some storage space for family history in our new place — especially since items related to my father’s career are just a part of what we have.

And now, back to work. What am I going to do with this snippet from grandmother’s wedding dress?

Some Good News for Home Caregivers

We have several friends who at some point in their lives have become at-home caregivers for a parent, spouse, or other loved one. NPR has just broadcast a story on the dilemmas such caregivers face. One item of good news — thirty-three states now have legislation requiring hospitals to give caregivers training and instructions before a loved one is sent home from the hospital.

Hospitals have an incentive to do this anyway because of the Hospital Readmission Reduction Program created by the Affordable Care Act. They can be dinged by Medicare if too many patients have to be re-admitted after being sent home. Whether this program survives the Republican drive to repeal the Affordable Care Act remains to be seen.

Another bit of good news is that under Medicare, physicians can prescribe skilled nursing care at home. The visiting nurses provide care and treatment, as well as additional training for the home caregiver. This brochure lays out the terms and conditions Medicare’s home health care program. (Like Obamacare, Medicare may soon be on the chopping block.)

The NPR story made me recall some of the thinking that went into our decision to downsize and move to a more urban area. In our new home in Reston, Virginia, we’ll have access to several agencies providing home health care, should that become necessary one day. By downsizing to a single home, rather than the Finger Lakes house and the Reston condo we used to have, we’ll also be in a better position to afford an assisted living facility should we we come to the point at which home health care is no longer possible. There are several such facilities in and around Reston, and more are on the way.

Downsizing Progresses

We’re making some progress on our downsizing and relocation, though it’s a long, complicated process. We settled on our new townhouse in Reston, Virginia, last week.

img_2094Here’s a photo of our new home. It includes that one-car garage, which is a nice feature. Will we be able to cut back to one car? Only time will tell, but there is a bus stop on the corner.  You can just see a bit of the deck out back, which has a view into some woods — even a glimpse of a lake.

So many arrangements had to be made before this could happen. Here we are looking a little dazed after the settlement, which itself required weeks of preparation. That’s our friend and indefatigable real estate agent, Evelyn Flynn, with us.



We kept wondering whether we had forgotten something, but when we checked the place out we found that the electricity, gas, and water were on.

The next day, the furniture arrived. Our hardworking movers brought the piano through safely. img_2096


Then the cable guys came, putting us back in touch with the world.

All we have to do now is get our house back north ready for the market. We’ve made a lot of progress on that too, but there is still much to be done. We’ll keep you posted.

ps. There are lots of kids in our new neighborhood, We’ll have trick or treaters for sure next Halloween — something we missed at our house in the country.

A Complicated Business

This business of downsizing and relocating is complicated. There are so many stages involving everything from finances to utilities being turned on or off, and so many decisions to be made. I’m glad we didn’t wait until we were older.

Yesterday, we had some furniture removed from our house in the Finger Lakes. We need to clear things out a bit, while leaving enough to make the house look like a home when we put it on the market in the spring.

img_2086A van almost as big as our house showed up.





img_2088The hardworking crew did the job in no time, despite the wintry weather.





img_2089There goes our piano.







We shall have music!

We shall have music!

So exciting to see it in mid-air.






The stuff is headed to our new home in Virginia, which we don’t quite own yet. The settlement date is November 30. The movers wanted our things now so they could be part of a large shipment headed south in early December. We hope our settlement goes smoothly — or our furniture will be homeless.