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How Getting Organized for Retirement Sent Me Spinning Down Memory Lane

By Jayne Ragheb April 19, 2016 Lifestyle

Today, I started packing up my home. The memories were playing in my head while I packed and taped the bubble-wrap. We spend so many years saving things, like little snippets of our lives.

My husband and I will soon be moving from our villa, where we’ve lived for nine years, to our smaller place by the sea. We built this home to our specifications, so we could totally enjoy our life and entertain. We certainly have done that. It was our dream 30 years ago, but it took a lot of work. Now, it’s time to reap the benefits.

A Little History

My husband will retire in about six months from his lifelong career as an airline pilot. I met him when I was still flying with a U.S. carrier in London and my life has never been the same.

We had an apartment in Cairo. Then we built a place in Sharm El Sheikh, the home of all the Peace Conferences. While he was flying, I ran a live-aboard diving boat.

We built our home in Sharm El Sheikh so that we could share our love of scuba diving and the Red Sea. We sold the boat after 10 years and moved back to Cairo. There, we stayed in an apartment for a year and a townhouse for two, while our villa was being prepared.

During all the craziness, his company offered to loan him to an airline in Korea.

We moved to Seoul, Korea for two years and had so much fun. It was easier for me – I had flown to Seoul for so many years, and I was familiar with the culture. He was a duck out of water (but that’s another book.)

A few years later, after we sold the boat, he decided to take an opportunity to work in Abu Dhabi, in the Emirates. So off we went for two more years.

Needless to say, we’ve traveled the world.

Back to Reality

So, now it’s time to downsize, and we’re finding this to be a big challenge. We have collected things from all over, and frankly, there isn’t enough room for it all. Parting with much of it will be difficult, although many of our possessions will find a new place in our small home.

Fortunately, we hope to go back and forth between Egypt and Florida whenever we need a change of scenery.


The memories that music evokes are amazing. Right now, I’m sitting with my old 33.3 RPMs in their original jackets. I just wish I could play them! My husband and I both have old ones that were our favorites so we’ve kept them all these years.

Glen Campbell’s first album, Elvis Presley, The Everly Brothers, Tom Jones and of course, Johnny Mathis’ Christmas album – these span the years of high school, nursing school and “stew” school when they were played every day, all day. Should I keep them?

Then, I move on to the huge container in which I keep our CDs. The ones we’ve played as a couple over the course of 30 years – keep or throw?

Something inside me wants to keep all these things, but why? I can download them onto my computer whenever I want. I can listen to them, in excellent sound, whenever I want. Technology is amazing!

Purple Tights and Petticoats

Now it’s time to go through my two drawers of “nylons” and socks. Well, this is fun! Wow, when did I wear these? I can’t even remember the last time I wore a petticoat or half-slip.

I remember buying one of them in Europe when I was there on a layover. It was in England and I was all of 21. Let’s see, 74 now minus 21. Oh hell no! That was 53 years ago and I still have it?

Way in the back, I found a pair of red pettipants. Do you remember those? We had a new uniform that was red and very short. We wore high boots, and reaching for something from the “then” hat rack (now, overhead bins) would expose our bottoms.

Pettipants were the solution to our problems. I can’t believe they have come with me from the U.S. to Egypt and many moves in between. I don’t think I ever paid attention to them before. The stories they could tell. What fun times! I was single, traveling the world and meeting new people. And I thought life was tough then. Ahhhhhhh…

Now to get rid of any tights or nylons with holes or runs. Did you ever cut one leg from each of two pairs and then match them together? I did. It saved money and it worked just fine!

Now, here’s a pair of opaque purple (as in purple!) tights, sitting in the corner of the drawer. Wow, just wow! I remember buying them in 1968, when I was taking my parents to Europe and I wanted to be fashionable. I paired them with a short skirt and vest in the same color purple and a light violet blouse with an amazing scarf.

It was the 60s and I wanted to be fashionable. I still have them and they are in mint condition. You guessed it! I’m keeping them, along with a red pair, just in case.

Junk clutter drawer

More Clothes

What about these bell bottom pants? Would you believe that I still have my favorite pair? I just haven’t worn them in forever.

These days, bell bottom jeans now have higher waists, I think. Mine are very, very low – but I never let my midriff stick out.

I bought blouses that had snaps at the crotch area to keep them tucked in with a great belt. I wonder if I could still pull it off. Ok, not throwing those out either!

Now, I’m looking at my shoe collection and, although I don’t have any left from the 70s, I do have platform shoes from a few years ago. Throw or keep?

Big question: why does the younger generation think it’s their new style? We started wearing them way back when. Now, inevitably, they are back in fashion again. Keep! Now, I just have to hold on to my husband’s arm when I walk in them, or there goes my knee. LOL.

My last bikini was turquoise with ruffles. My sons helped me to pick out. There it was, hiding at the back of the drawer. I think it’s afraid of me. I remember buying it with my kids. I had just started dating my future husband and we were traveling to the Red Sea for a diving trip. It was one of the big things we had in common when we met.

I needed a new bathing suit, so, off we went. At the time, my boys were 7 and 9 and, let me tell you, I’ve always trusted their honesty when it came to what I wore. Well, most of the time anyway.

After trying on many suits, my kids decided that I needed a bikini like everyone else. Mind you, I was 40 at the time. They actually picked it out and off we went to the changing rooms. I put it on and had to stifle a laugh when they gave me the thumbs up and told me it was perfect and that Emad would love it.

After trying to see myself through their eyes, I decided, why not? I bought it.

When we got to the dive boat and I took off my cover, Emad was just smiling away. It was then that I realized that it didn’t matter if I looked like a swimsuit model. What mattered was that he was in love with me.

My sons were right – I was one lucky lady. I still am! After all these years, I still ask my sons their opinions.

Down memory lane

Time to Go Through My “Junk” Drawer

All the little pieces I have collected are missing from somewhere. I just have no idea where. They’ve been in my junk draw for almost 20 years. I have moved at least 6 times in the last 29 years and, apparently, I kept putting that little basket away thinking “I’ll get to it one day.” Today was finally the day.

I found a note that my youngest son, Adam, threw down the stairs once, when he was punished. Apparently, he realized that, just maybe, he was wrong. It was an apology by airmail. Now, I’m saving it for when he has his own kids.

Bobby pins? I kept buying more and they just disappeared. Now, I have a whole stock of them.

Next up are my airline name tags. I still have all of them – the ones with my maiden name, married name and maiden name with ex-name. Wow, those name tags spanned a long period of my life! They are still a keeper and will join Emad’s when he retires in a shadow box of our careers.

Someone please tell me where all these keys came from? Where they ever used?

I’ve seen really cute décor made out of keys on Pinterest. Once upon a time, I decided to save them to do something like this. Now, I realize that I have no wall space. I have too many memories on the walls as it is, so, this is never going to happen. Throw.

The Kids

Every year, at Christmas time, I love looking at the many decorations that remind me of my grandmother and my mother.

My grandmother made angels from Styrofoam egg cartons and gave them to her 20 or so great-grandchildren. I received two and still I have them. I’ve had to repair them a few times, but, when I put them on the tree, I always think of her and the love she gave to everyone she knew. She was an amazing grandmother.

My mom also gave me some handmade ornaments. How do I get rid of those? You just can’t.

There are also the ones that my sons made in school. I remember the day that they came home and handed them to me with such pride. These ornaments always had a special place on the tree. What they don’t know is that they still do.

Every year, I put up my tree in Egypt. My kids are far away, in the States, but they are also with me. The same is true for my mother and grandmother’s ornaments. These items may look old and worn, but, you just can’t replace them. They are keepers. Besides, they always seem to fit with any theme that I choose for my tree! It’s amazing!

Picking Pictures

I’ve gone through my pictures over the years and shrunk my collection down. How many pictures do you really need of the kids standing in front of the Grand Canyon or scuba diving in the Red Sea?

When my parents ended up living in a nursing home, I had to clean out their house. I remember looking through all of my dad’s old pictures. I also remember the VHS tapes of their travels. I saved a few for my sons, along with some that documented our family history. I gave most of the travel tapes to the nursing home. The rest, I threw out along with the unwanted photographs.

Some of these items were important to my parents, but, not to me. It wasn’t my life and I learned that some memories are better kept in our minds and hearts.

How often do you look at old pictures anyway? Do you need the clutter? You can always just take a cell phone picture of them and put them in the cloud. Then, send the login information to your kids. You’re done.

What’s Next?

Now, it’s time to close another chapter of our lives and work on building new memories. We want even more stories to share with our grandkids. I wonder where life will take us next. All I know for certain is that I’m off to unpack boxes. Then, it will be time to have a nice cold glass of wine, while I watch the sunset.

Have you started to sort through all of your possessions in preparation for retirement? How did you decide what to keep and what to throw away or give to someone else? Please join the conversation.

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The Author

Jayne Ragheb lives in Egypt has been a nurse, flight attendant and mom. It’s attitude, it’s about a mentality, accepting things for what they are and taking life as it come, and laughing at yourself all the way! Jayne is writing about anything that comes her way: good, bad or ugly.

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