I now have the zeal of a convert, and this is what I read. Also, 7 other things worth your time.
I’m driving on with the organizing project I mentioned on Friday. I hired my person Saturday, and I think it’s going to be very good. I swear: I have the zeal of a convert on this now.
Maybe that’s why the essay I’m going to share below popped out at me.
It’s by Jimmy Dunne, a writer/songwriter/producer/guy-who-does-other-things in Southern California, who explained in 700 words or so what it’s like to upend your life once the kids are gone, move into a smaller space—and find out that it’s OK.
Quick background: If you don’t know Dunne, you probably know some of his work.
He started as a writer and producer on Happy Days and its spinoff Joanie Loves Chachi (you’re dating yourself if you nod along with those credits). Later, he wrote some really big hit songs, including work performed by Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, Jermaine Jackson, Anne Murray, Dave Loggins, and Kenny Rogers.
Add up all the records (performed by various artists), and it’s something like 28 million copies sold.
Anyway, I read this, reached out to Dunne, and he said go ahead and share it. Here’s what he had to say:
My wife Catherine and I recently moved.
I realized I had something I never knew I had.
Thirty-four years ago, I carried my wife in my arms over the threshold in our home. Thirty-four years ago.
From newlywed days, to witnessing our babies go from little girls to young adults.
So many great memories, in every inch of every room of our home.
I didn’t think I was ready to ‘downsize.’ What an awful word.
I liked walking through our girl’s bedrooms and still seeing their stuff. I liked our backyard. I liked imagining our kids coming down the steps every Christmas morning.
We put it on the market. It sold in a couple days. Suddenly agreements thicker than my leg were instructing me to clear everything I ever had and knew—out.
Every night I found myself saying goodbye to our backyard, to our garden of roses that Catherine would till and trim, to the sidewalk where the girls drove their Barbie cars and learned to ride their bikes, to our front lawn where we hosted tons of talent shows with all the kids on the block—and the red swing on the front porch.
We found a condo in town and started lining up our ducks. What were we keeping? What were we tossing? We vowed that if we’re going to do this, we weren’t putting anything in storage.
I literally threw out half my stuff. Half.
Half of the furniture. Half of my clothes, books.
And the big one… way more than half the boxes in the attic.
The attic was more than an attic. It held our stories. Everything in every box, every framed picture, was a story.
After we gave away almost all of the living room furniture, we split the room in half and brought down everything that had been the girls’, from the attic and from their rooms.
We invited our daughters over, handed them a cocktail, and said:
“There’s good news and bad news. We’ve saved all this stuff: your outfits, drawings, dolls, skates—for you. It’s now yours. The bad news, whatever’s not gone by Friday at 10:00 a.m., is getting chucked in that giant green dumpster in front of the house.”
The girls thought we were Mr. and Mrs. Satan. But they went through it all. That Friday, most of it went out the front door and right in the dumpster.
I filled the entire dining room with boxes of all my old stuff. Grade school stories and pictures, report cards, birthday cards, trophies, you name it.
Boxes of old plaques and diplomas and just stuff and stuff and stuff like that. How could I throw any of this out? I may as well have been throwing me in the dumpster!
But this little jerk on my shoulder kept asking: What are your kids going to do with all this a week after you're six feet under? They’re gonna chuck it all out!
Here’s the crazy thing. The more I threw stuff in there, the easier it got. And I started to kind of like throwing it up and over in that thing. I started to feel lighter. Better.
We moved in a half-the-size condo – and the oddest thing happened.
It became our home.
A picture here and there on the wall, Catherine’s favorite pieces of furniture, all her knickknacks in the bathroom. We blinked, and it looked and felt just like us.
And then I found that thing I never knew I had.
I had enough.
The wild thing was that having less opened the door to so much more. More in my personal life. More in my career. More in everything.
All I have to do is look in the eyes of my two girls, and they take me back, every time, to the most beautiful, colorful, emotional scrapbook I could ever dream of having.
All I have to do is hold my wife’s hand, and it hypnotizes me back to kissing her for the first time, falling in love with everything she did, seeing her in that hospital room holding our first baby for the first time.
It sure seems there is so much more to see, and to feel, and to be—if I have the courage, if I have the will, to shape a life that’s just …
Call for comments: I’m many years away from this empty nest stage, but how many of you have been through something similar? Although frankly: When my wife and I got together and I moved into our first place together—her 1-bedroom condo—I got rid of probably 80 percent of everything I’d owned before. Anyway: Are you with Dunne? Did you find you had “just enough?” Or did you have a different experience?
7 other things worth your time
Some Amazon delivery drivers were sent home without delivering a single package Tuesday after an AWS outage scrambled delivery software during holiday rush. (Business Insider)
“President Joe Biden warned Vladimir Putin during a video call Tuesday that Russia will face economy-jarring sanctions if it invades neighboring Ukraine as Biden seeks a diplomatic solution to deal with the tens of thousands of Russian troops massed near the Ukraine border.” (AP)
“Citing mounting evidence of ongoing harm, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy on Tuesday issued a public health advisory on the mental health challenges confronting youth, a rare warning and call to action to address what he called an emerging crisis exacerbated by pandemic hardships.” (Yahoo News)
All the U.S. holiday shipping deadlines you need to know. (NPR)
Doug Parker, who has been CEO of one of the big airlines since just before 9/11—first AmericaWest, then US Airways, and then American Airlines (due to mergers and acquisitions), announced he’s retiring. (I’ll be writing about this in greater detail for Inc.com.) (AP)
Where are the flying cars? Oh, here they are, or at least in progress: A Swedish company called Jetson (which is what I would have called a flying car maker) says you can now buy its $92,000 flying car (sold as a kit), which has a 20-minute range and can go 62 miles an hour. Slower than a car, yes, but no traffic. (Jetson Aero, Business Insider)
Sharing just as a reminder to myself that even on a bad day, I’m a pretty lucky guy to live where I do and be with who I’m with: Stephen Mudoga tries to chase away a swarm of locusts on his farm as he returns home from school in Nakuru County, Kenya. Last year, authorities managed to contain the largest infestation in 70 years. (AP, Twitter)