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Downsizing in Retirement

The high cost of moving, both in money and angst

Less important were our books. We had hundreds of them, so we donated most of them to the local library. An exception: books written by friends who had autographed them for me. Among these was State of the Union, a book of cartoons by longtime Washington Post cartoonist Herbert Block — known to the world as Herblock. On the flyleaf, he wrote: "For Stan, friend and colleague with all best regards from Herb Block."


Moving can be quite costly unless you have grandkids to help you out. — Ursula Klawitter/Corbis

Then there was my collection of political memorabilia. During 15 years covering politics, I amassed buttons, badges, posters, books, convention programs and more. I prized my Jack Kennedy press badge from the 1960 campaign.

Fortunately, my son Larry and his wife, Denice, saw my pain and volunteered to store the collection at their house.

A similar question arose with Sara's dollhouse, which measures 6 feet long, 3 feet high and almost 2 feet wide. The house is fully furnished with craftsman-quality miniatures carefully collected during the past 10 years.

Happily, family saved us on this one, too: My son Alan and his wife, Gina, volunteered to move the dollhouse and its contents to their house, where they are caring for it as a family heirloom.

The little downsizing decisions were too many to count. For instance, if we were going to a place where most meals are provided, did we really need 37 pots, frying pans and cake pans? A lot of them went to charity.

And what about framed paintings and photos? Several of our paintings were done by my mother. Who wants to give away his mother's paintings? Not me, for sure. We kept Mom's paintings and gave away the others.

But even now, as I sit at the desk in my new apartment, I wonder if I could have been more vigorous in my downsizing efforts. I am looking at my 1994 Barbra Streisand concert souvenir coffee mug. On my former desk it held dozens of pencils and pens that I never used. When we moved, I dumped the pencils and pens but kept the mug.

I guess I thought it might be valuable someday.

Stan Hinden, a longtime reporter and columnist for the Washington Post, writes Social Security Mailbox for the AARP Bulletin.

You may also like: What does retirement mean to you? >>

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