According to my intensive research, the word “downsizing” came into wide-spread use in 1986 to describe the practice of companies eliminating jobs. Now, by “intensive research” I, of course, mean Googling it. Yes, I Googled “downsized history of” and took the first answer that came up. You want serious, time-consuming research, read something by Robert Caro.
Speaking of Google, my first memory of the word is as part of a proper name: Barney Google.
I used to read “Barney Google and Snuffy Smith” every Sunday in the funnies. Before that, there was a song called “The Goo-Goo Song,” in 1900, that led a guy named Vincent Vickers to write a book called “The Google Book” about a creature called The Google. The Google prowls the land by night and devours things of beauty and value. So, not unlike the modern version of Google.
But, I digress. Then, again, isn’t that what the internet is for? Digression?
Truth is, the first thing that popped up when I Googled “downsizing” was that movie with Matt Damon. I didn’t see it but I’d hoped it would be like “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.” I hear it wasn’t like that, at all, so I’m glad I saved my ticket money.
On a personal level, I am in the process of being downsized, since gravity continues to pull me closer and closer to the ground. Meanwhile, what I lose in height, I make up for in width. So, it’s a wash. Also, I have been downsized in the job-related sense of the word. That sounds much better than “we’ve decided you’re not really very good at your job and can’t understand how you held on this long so you’re outta here.”
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More to the point of this pointless exercise, my wife and I have, over the last couple of years, downsized in terms of our living quarters. It has been quite a process. Of course, it took us nearly 30 years to build up the pile of stuff we had, so whittling it down has been challenging.
This is our first house in Kansas City. It was north of the river. Originally, a little farm house around which a city grew. Not far from the North Kansas City Hospital where our older sons were born. We had a wonderfully unusual blend of neighbors. There was the woman across the street who seemed to live next to her drapes…keeping an eye on things. There was the couple next door who kept their lawn pristine while looking with dread at the dandelions that had taken over our yard. There was the adorable family kitty-corner from us with funny little kids running around. And, there was the back-fence neighbor who, somehow, kept a banana tree alive in this climate. I always imagined his basement was like something from “The Island of Dr. Moreau.” He did kind of look like Marlon Brando.
I loved this house because it was the first one we ever bought together and it was the last one I could actually afford.
After a few years, we left that place and moved into a spot that had room for two more kids. This crew then proceeded to accumulate too much stuff.
In the Winter of 2016, I interviewed two real estate folks on some TV show (from which I have since been downsized) about the “hot” market in Kansas City. After the program, I called a good and trusted friend in the realty world and asked her if the market was “hot” enough for us to sell our beaten-up old house without doing any painting or repairs. I asked this because I am every bit as untalented at such work as I am lazy. She said yes and the sign was planted in the front yard.
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It was time to de-clutter. That's just a nice way of saying "taking hopes, dreams, memories and tossing them aside!" But, I may be a bit too emotional about it. The guys from the junk place hauled away about six and half truckloads. We had a basement, garage and backyard filled with decades of stuff that seemed important enough to save at the time. It was mostly my fault because I am a saver. It is only my history of underachievement that has prevented me from becoming a full-blown hoarder.
Even after the trucks rolled away, we still had stuff that needed to be stored. The other day, in a sad and unsuccessful effort to locate some Halloween/Fall decorations, I paid a call to our storage unit. I climbed on top of the stuff looking around but found nothing. I was experiencing nosebleeds while perched upon boxes of grade school papers and artwork. The overwhelming odor of old construction paper and crayons was making me lightheaded. Realizing I would need a Sherpa to go any farther, I returned to the ground, sighed heavily and, possibly, wept.
Here is a small sliver of what I could see just in the front.
That print on the bottom was the first thing we bought for one of our walls. Kansas City equals Jazz, so we put it up. Phoebe Beasley is an acclaimed artist with originals hanging in the homes of people like Oprah Winfrey. We got this print on sale at Levitz when we bought a hide-a-bed. Pretty sure it’s not an original but we did “Love It at Levitz!” The trophy is a little something I won for swimming the English Channel while wearing a Speedo made of olive loaf. No, I’m lying. It belongs to Samantha. She won it for being the best speaker in the nation while in high school debate. So, Coach Riffer, if you’re wondering where that trophy is, now you know. By the way, you can tell from the two sewing kits sitting there, how often buttons get replaced and rips get mended around our place. If I really want to be on pins and needles, I have to go to the storage locker.
Those crutches were used by our son, Harrison, when he broke his leg on the last day of 8th grade. He bounced the wrong direction off a bouncy castle at the class party. We were told by the adults on the scene that his first words were, “I’m okay and I’m not suing anybody.” That little bunny sitting on the broken toy high chair seems pretty content. Obviously, a case of “hare today-gone tomorrow.”
The NFL flags were stretched from beam to beam in our basement for years. Grandpa Michael saw them hanging in a bar, knew his grandchildren would love them and bought them. He also brought an inflatable porpoise from someplace. It’s in there somewhere. Deflated, I’m guessing.
Speaking of Grandpa Michael, he made that Bucky Badger sitting there. It was up in our house and then in our youngest son’s dorm room. He wants it back when he has a place of his own. That same son made the giant Toblerone for an art project. He likes Toblerone but it is really an homage to a great BBC character named Alan Partridge.
I just realized that I have become Alan Partridge.
There’s also this photo of some young person with barely any gray hair and only one discernible chin. Nearby is a plaque for a “job well done.” I do not recall what the “job” was. I think this was the station equivalent of a “Participant” ribbon at a fun run. However, I do remember receiving it because that was the day there was a gas leak in the building and everyone in management was behaving very oddly.
Later, I was downsized.