One day a couple of months ago when it was not too hot to work outside in the yard during the day time, a real estate agent came up to me as I pulled weeds on my front bank. She asked how long we had lived in the neighborhood, and I told her we'd been in our house for twenty years. This floored her. She said that the average length of time people stay in one house is under ten years and so had we considered moving? I laughed, actually; I told her our kids have all come up through the neighborhood schools, we still have one to finish out, that we love our neighborhood and our neighbors, and that until we're ready to downsize, we don't have any plans to move.

Of course, I then immediately started noticing lofts and interesting condominiums in interesting locations around town and wondered, when will we decide to move? When can we downsize - and can it be sooner rather than later?

Then I went into our house, looked at all our stuff, and remembered that when we moved in twenty years ago I said I'd never move house again. Just the thought of dealing with all this stuff - which I try to deal with (read: cull) regularly and yet I still feel overwhelmed - makes me tired. Only if someone else came in and did all the work would I move, I thought. It's too hard. Twenty years ago when we moved in we didn't have our boys yet, so there's even more stuff now! Yes, I want to be downsized, just don't want to do the work to size it down yet.

My mother is moving soon out of the house in which she has lived for fifty-one years. She has been siphoning things off for more than a year - last fall I drove up in the minivan and brought back various things she wanted me to have and she has sent several boxes to my brother and my niece (her oldest grandchild who is in her late twenties). She has taken many of the old family photos out of their frames to put in a book; she gave me the life-sized silhouette my teacher made of me in the second grade. The car is long gone and the guest room bed. The neighbors are buying her piano and there are some pieces of furniture that have been in the family for a couple of generations which will go to my brother's house. Now that I have gotten confirmation that she has a place to move into and know how large it is, she is deciding what she is going to move down here with her. The rest is being tagged and sold at an estate sale.

We had some fun last fall when I crawled through the attic to bring down everything up there except for a couple of huge and heavy trunks. Her hats from the 1960's (which will go to the local college's theater department); decorative items from the 1970's (including a 4-foot carved wooden fork and spoon set - she recounted how she won that at some event halfway across the country and how difficult that was to get on the plane home); a couple of boxes of paperbacks that I ordered from Scholastic when I was in elementary school (I remembered the plots of many of them); my brother's and my high school yearbooks (the hairstyles!).

I learned during that trip that while it is fun to go through these things we've saved and enjoy the memories as we do so, I don't necessarily feel a compunction to keep everything. Some of the things I thought I wanted I actually didn't. I did bring home my purple peace symbol but it seemed enough out of the whole box to symbolize all of the my-room-memorabilia. Some things - the china, for instance - I did want to keep but much of it I did not. I believe that my mother feels the same way about a lot of those things she's had for so long. She has enjoyed them, and now it's time to let them go. Her concern has been with the family heirlooms (or things she considers heirlooms whether we do or not) most of the rest of it - well, it was great, but....

I will be interested in seeing what she decides to bring. I hope I will not have an opinion about it.