sixtyandme logo
We are community supported and may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Learn more

The Importance of Humor for Older Women Downsizing Their Home

By Sara Hart January 07, 2023 Lifestyle

“Humor is the great thing, the saving thing after all. The minute it crops up, all our hardnesses yield, all our irritations and resentments flit away, and a sunny spirit takes their place.”

— Mark Twain in “What Paul Bourget Thinks of Us”

Does this sound impossible to do? How can I giggle while I’m getting rid of things I’ve had for a very long time and have been important to me? What’s joyful about getting rid of my kids’ favorite toys? There’s no way I can smile as I trash album after album of our family’s pictures.

Right. There are some aspects to a major home downsizing that just can’t be funny. And there are other things that can be if we remain open to that possibility.

My Experience with Outdated Belongings

Several years ago, while I was going through downsizing from a very large house to a very small apartment, I discovered an entire box of heavy notebooks that I had used in a job I’d had 25 years earlier.

Everything was totally out of date. Even if I’d wanted to use some of the material again, I wouldn’t have been able to without major updating, which would have taken longer than starting from scratch.

I also found a box of index cards that contained research notes I had gathered hour after hour in the card catalogue at a local university library. Card catalogue! Probably everyone readying this blog will know what I’m talking about, but our children – and certainly their children – would not.

I found it really amusing that I could reconstruct and even greatly enhance that research in at most two days’ time using Google.

Finding Amusement in Unexpected Places

After a while I even found it funny that I was being really snippy with people I’m usually very polite and patient with. My snide, curt responses became sort of funny to me. And then I’d have to go back and apologize, but it was amusing to me at the time.

Does this make any sense to you? It seems to me that there are many things in life that we need to take seriously. Serious, yes. Solemn, no.

In the midst of many difficult times, if we’re open to it, we will find things that actually are funny, and, as Twain says, “all our hardnesses yield all our irritations and resentments flit away.”

What can we do to try and keep our sense of humor while getting rid of treasured things? For starters, it’s probably best not to even try when we’re working with our truly most treasured things.

There are many things I had to donate or sell that were very important to me, and I could not have laughed about those things. But those “truly treasured things” were a fraction of everything I eliminated from my home.

Laugh with the Items that Look Archaic

So, don’t focus on those special things. Instead, focus on those way-out-of-date things that you’re surprised are even still there. Believe me, for most of us there will be many, many of those things.

At a talk I gave to an organization on downsizing your home, a man in the audience described finding a box of copy books from his grade school days. When he first described that box, he was fairly serious.

As we talked about it, it became funnier and funnier that he still had those copy books that he hadn’t looked at for at least 40 years. By the time he sat down, everyone in the audience was laughing, and I think their laugher had at least as much to do with their identifying with him as it did with his story.

You also might watch for patterns to what you saved and what you didn’t. For example, do you still have every single trophy or ribbon you ever won in your life – even a blue ribbon for that cherry pie you baked when you were 11?

Do you still have all the sports memorabilia from when your children played baseball or soccer or whatever? Or what about the plastic whatchamacallits from the family trips you took when your children were growing up?

Just Think About It

Now, all that is pretty funny if you really think about it, especially if you’re surprised that it’s still there, which means you haven’t seen it for years.

I am certainly not suggesting that a major downsizing of your home is a fun event. What I am saying is that there will be many funny or at least amusing moments if you’ll just remain open to them. And if you do, the whole process will be just a bit lighter.

While I believe that is very true, downsizing your home can be challenging, or even painful, so consider providing yourself with some extra support.

Ask a non-judgmental friend to help you. Explain to them the importance of recognizing times that could be humorous during the process. Or consider hiring a coach like myself to help you.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

For any of you who have completed a major downsizing, I’d love to hear about how you were able to keep your sense of humor and how, at times, it helped. And for those of you who are contemplating such a process, what can you do to remind yourself of the importance of finding humorous things? Please share your thoughts below.

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Bbdl wilson

I downsized two years ago. Best book I ever found on doing it well was “Tidy the f*ck up” by Messie Condo. Reading it made me laugh and I loved it so much I summarized it and share with friends. Here are some highlights:
• Moral of the story is you are never going to feel like cleaning up but do it anyway, commit to it because you may find the process a little uncomfortable but the work is worth the result
• Tidying marathon will make you hate tidying
• Screw perfection – aim for happy because when you say something’s perfect what you really mean is it makes you happy so that is what you should aim for, whatever style of organization and cleanliness lights you up inside
• You get to decide what your happy place looks like and how you’re going to get there
• Stop worrying about how things look and start noticing how they feel
• Don’t worry about what others will think, ask how do you want to feel when you wake up, when you come into your home? Then think about all the nooks and crannies of your living space and how they make you feel now, then think about how you want to feel in them. If you are reading this book, they probably don’t line up
• Don’t try to make others happy, this is about you
• Dumping everything in bins won’t help
• Step 1: getting rid of the useless stuff in your house
• Step 2: organizing what is left in a way that’s useful to you, fits your overall vision for your home
• Step 3: is the hardest. Stop. Fucking. Shopping.

The Author

Sara Hart is a business owner, speaker, author and coach. Her project, the Sign of Enough, is designed to help us answer the question, “How will I know when I have enough?” with a focus on the emotional side of downsizing, not the practical. Please visit here

You Might Also Like