Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Marie Kondo Would Throw up a Kitten if She Saw me Downsizing



My recent computer meltdown freaked me out because it made me realize---again---how fragile the whole process of downsizing is, how interdependent each step is to another. At least the way I do it which is so not the KonMari way. Add to the computer malfunction was the fact that I couldn’t get a hold of the-son-I-wish-had who is slated to help me get my house ready to sell next summer and physically move my stuff when the time finally comes to do it. Last summer he hauled stuff off to the auction house, and I have another big batch ready to go—maybe the last, but I said that once before. By mutual agreement we didn’t have anything planned until March but he’s good at settling my nerves when I start obsessing about getting my downsizing done in time. I called but his voice mail was full for two days and I felt cut off from the emotional support I needed. Being old school, it didn't occur to me to text him a SOS. If something, God forbid, happens to Tim I’d be in a world of trouble. I need a backup plan just in case. It’s never good to have all your eggs in one basket.

Downsizing Saga Chapter Five, if anyone is counting: My husband collected cigarette lighters and amassed nearly 400 of them. Lighters are small and you wouldn’t think they’d take up a lot of room but they actually did because they were all stored in black, velvet lined boxes especially made for that purpose. His collection covered all the decades in the twentieth century including WW I and II trench lighters and tons of new old stock commemoratives put out by Zippo. In addition to old lighters he'd find at flea markets and estate sales, Don had befriended a Zippo district salesman and was buying stuff wholesale to keep for investment. Yup, the guy’s version of collecting Beanie Babies only they did actually turn out to be decent money makers. Over half of his collection sold on e-Bay for $50 to $125 each, many others went in the $35 range and six sold for $250 to $410 each. Now I’m down to the lesser quality ones that I’m selling in lots of five to ten.

Prepping lighters for e-Bay sales has not been easy because they are so shiny it’s hard to get good photos of them. The Far East and Mid-Eastern buyers who are big-time into collecting lighters bid higher when you have good photos of all sides of the lighters, their boxes and their guts. I finally, just this week, took my last photos and wrote up my last listing descriptions of the last forty lighters and I have them all boxed up ready to list and ship as they sell! Then I have all the collector display boxes to list but those will go in three large lots without a lot of fuss. I also have a shoe box full of empty lighter boxes. Believe it or not that will go for around $50. All of Don's lighters had been separated from their original boxes so they could go in the display boxes. You should have seen my dining room table when I tackled the Great Box-Matching Project and try as I might I just couldn't match up that last dab of boxes with their proper mate---an important goal with any collectible because it increases its value.

I did set aside two lighters for sentimental reasons and I’m trying to talk myself into letting go of one them go. Marie would tell me to toss both since I don't smoke and she is not fluid in speaking Sentimental Attachments. One of the lighters I bought for my husband on a trip out West. It’s a one-of-a-kind with a silver inlay added by a silversmith after leaving the Zippo factory and my husband loved it. He carried it when he was all dressed up for special occasions. The other one would have been another $300-ish sale if Don hadn't had it engraved with his full name. He carried it daily so I'm trying to gauge how I'll feel if I put it up for auction and it goes for peanuts. Military lighters don't seem to lose value if they're engraved but Military collectors are coming at the hobby from a whole different prospective than others do. Decisions, decisions. No matter what I decide to do, I’m absolutely ecstatic to be so close to ending the lighter saga and if you're still reading this I'll bet you're as sick of 'lighter talk' as I am.

Now I can move on to downsizing something else like my collection of fifty spaghetti poodles from the ‘50s. I will probably take a bath on those because the market has dropped so much I doubt I’ll even be able to sell them, but I’ve gotta give it a try. I might be crying my way all the way to Goodwill to donate them. I have a small, tabletop Zippo showcase that could hold six poodles and I’m desperately trying to figure out a place in my new unit where I could put that showcase. I am too sentimental for my own good. I’d keep all fifty poodles if I could. I like poodles. I had a poodle skirt back in the ‘50s and I didn’t talk to my mom for a full week after she gave it to my cousin. It didn’t matter that I out grew it, I would still have that skirt today if she hadn’t snatched it out of my closet. Mom was evil like that, but she sure made my younger cousin happy. At every family reunion Judy reminds me of how much she loved getting my hand-me-downs. Her favorites were my favorites and she can describe them in detail---the pink circle skirt with black poodles dancing around the bottom, the forest green velvet dress with the lavender ribbon belt and nosegay of violets at the waist, the chiffon, summer white wonder that made us both feel like we were a walking cloud.

My cousin is the most saintly human being I’ve ever known and I've never told her about rift those hand-me-downs caused between my mom and my adolescent self. It would make Judy feel bad and then she'd offer a sincere apology and give me a hug that would make me feel bad for being a petty kid who decades later still wishes I at least had a photo of me wearing that poodle skirt. Big sigh here. Poodle "adoptions" start in March. Stay tuned...and Cindy (my niece) if you are reading this you need one to go with your mid-century decor. The pick of the litter is yours if you want it. ©

This is the lighter I bought my husband out West on the day I label the happiness day of my life. It would not be an acceptable photo for e-Bay because of the reflections but I like the arty-farty look they create.

44 comments:

  1. I agree with you, your mom should at least have let you had a picture of the skirt! I'm tempted to write a post about Marie Kondo. From her site:



    "As a young girl fascinated with tidying, I thought the goal was to get rid of as many things as possible. This single-minded focus on discarding had a negative impact on my health – one day I actually fainted from all the stress!

    Coming to, I had an aha moment: Tidying is about what you want to keep in your life, not what you want to eliminate.

    This epiphany inspired what is the bedrock of the KonMari Method™ – choosing to keep what sparks joy."

    She's happy to sell you all sorts of expensive items to help spark your joy: https://shop.konmari.com/

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    1. The other two special dresses mentioned in my post were worn for special occasions so there are photos of me in those but the poodle shirt was made to wear to school, so no one thought to take my picture in it. I think of the 50s, I think of my poodle skirt and wish for the photo. My mom was big time into recycling and repurposing long before it became a thing.

      Marie is a very wealthy woman selling her books world-wide. Just the sight of her definitely does not spark joy in me. LOL

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  2. Huh. I've never heard of a 'spaghetti poodle.' Poodle skirts I know. Mine was gray, with a white poodle and a rhinestone collar. They were fun. I laughed at your story of getting mad at your mom for giving it away, particularly since it reminded me of a different but related story of a cousin getting mad at me because, in grade school, our grandpa gave me an expandable rhinestone bracelet and something not nearly so cool to her.

    As for Tim -- don't worry. If something should happen to him, you'd figure it out just fine. There are fine, responsible people who run great businesses that help people move. I felt a little daunted by the thought of moving myself, but it was easier than I ever imagined -- and easier than any move I've ever made. The downsizing ahead of time helped, and the willingness to pay a little more for the movers did, too. Funny how coughing up an extra couple hundred $$$ can improve service so much.

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    1. Spaghetti poodles were all the rage back in the fifties so named because they actually put the clay through a spaghetti maker to get the curly hair on them. They come in many forms from makers of fine china to dime store quality. I did some research last night and see people asking decent prices for their better quality ones but I don't know yet if they are getting them. With med-century decor so popular I can see hope. I sold some mid-century paint-by-numbers that went really high---shocked me. I will make sure to advertising my poodles as mid-century.

      I had one of those expandable rhinestone bracelets too, and my poodle skirt has rhinestones on the collar. My mom made it and until a few months ago I still had the pattern. You can buy poodles skirts today, but they are poor quality, made for retro parties.

      I will tuck your information about moving into my brain and let it comfort me next time I get obsessed. Thanks for that.

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  3. I haven't thought about or seen a spaghetti poodle in decades. Oh. my. goodness. what a throwback to a different era. I'm not surprised there's no market for them, but best of luck as you sell them.

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    1. Everything thing that was old is new again so there is hope that the spaghetti poodle market will be back again, since mid-century decor is so hot right not. But it won't be back in time for me to take advantage of it.

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  4. Have you thought of what you are going to do with the amazing amount of time you are going to have on your hands when you complete your task? I am constantly amazed at the many things you two collected and when I hear the prices, I realize they were good investments.

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    1. I have thought about it. I've been buying and selling collectibles for so many decades that I'm going to feel naked and lost for awhile. But hopefully, I'll be so busy moving and getting to know my new community those feelings won't last long. Then I'm going to take up painting again. Big time.

      Lighters have turned out to be very good investments as were my husband's gas & oil stuff. But every specialized collectible takes work to connect with the right buyers. It's chancy to hold onto that stuff as we age because people it takes time and knowledge to sell them right. As much as I've been around lighter collectors I ended up giving one of the pricy lighters to Don's nephew. He had four nephews that Don used to hunt with and they are all smokers so I let them pick from a box of lighters Don liked the best. I saw the nephew recently and he says he still carries that lighter so I don't feel bad that's he's go a $350 lighter because he values it for the memories of his uncle. Still I would have taken it out of the box before offering them to nephews had I known what it would sell for.

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  5. I get exhausted just reading about all your stuff and all that work! Great job.

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    1. I'm exhausted too and I still have stuff to sell that will take until mid-to-late summer.

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  6. That is so much work but enjoy the benefit of cash rolling in!

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    1. I am going to. The money is going into my new furniture fund.

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  7. I'm afraid I don't have The Sentimental Gene, either. I used to, and I have no idea when I lost it along the way. Hell, even my wedding album is buried in some storage tub in the basement someplace. I'm more of a "Live Now; Move On" type of person. I also don't really collect things. I wonder if the two go hand in hand.

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    1. I don't think the two things really go together. Collectors are not all sentimental. They usually just have a passion for one particular thing that speaks to them and lots of sentimental people don't collect/buy stuff. That just keep what reminds them of special day.

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  8. I too never heard of spaghetti poodles! I have a tiny fox terrier china doodad that my Mom gave me and he reminds me so much of my first dog. My Mom loved fox terriers so that is what they got. Never had a poodle skirt but I had a red felt ice skating skirt with holiday appliques that my Mom made me and I turned it into our Christmas tree skirt. Wish you had a photo of you in your poodle skirt!

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    1. I love how you repurposed your ice skating skirt! What a wonderful idea.

      I can't believe that people who lived through the '50s never heard of spaghetti poodles! I didn't even start collecting them until the '80s.

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  9. Like others, I continue to be amazed at your collections. And your stamina at putting them on eBay. I think I've probably sold 20 items in the past year, and it's a lot of work. So I only sell things I think I can get a decent amount for - that is, unless I have an attachment to them, and then I will drop the price to sell it to someone who wants it.

    I'm never sure what happens to the things I drop at GoodWill. At that point, though, I don't care - I just want them out of my house. :-) My DD left me a few things to sell on her recent visit when she cleaned up the things she still had stored here, and I have listing them on my "to do" list. But for today, I'm shredding mountains of old paper with ID info on it. My shredder is getting a real workout.

    This downsizing project seems endless some days. And I have less time than you, but I don't have many collections, so there's less to purge. Of course, I'll make way less money off my 'stuff' too. :-)

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    1. Paper shredding was the worst downsizing project I tackled because there was lots of memories---most not good---and no money in it.

      I have no clue how many e-Bay listing I've done...can't go by feedback ratings because most people don't follow through with those, but it's a LOT. I try not to list things under $35, but even those add up.

      Ya, I agree, once you've send something toGoodwill it's best not to look back. I've gone into the store afterward and found some of my things there and thought, "Good luck getting that price." I don't go in anymore.

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  10. Just found your blog (from the Dept. of Nance blog). I sure enjoy your writing, your common sense approach, and good humor. I have been binge-reading your older posts and I am very happy to have found you! Thanks so much for your wonderful posts!

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    1. Welcome and thank you for making your presence known! I can always tell when someone is reading my older posts and I love it when readers leave a common afterward.

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  11. Dear Jean, oh, how I remember my own poodle skirt. The skirt itself was fern green. When I wore it, I felt like Elizabeth Taylor! (An Elizabeth who had no acne!!!!)! I downsides when I moved 10 years ago, but I had no collections--I've never had a collection of anything but books!--and so downsizing was so much easier than what you are having to do. Peace.

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    1. Those skirts were so whimsical it was easy to feel special wearing them. Books are hard to downsize!

      If anyone wants to know the history of how they got started, here's an interesting link: https://www.littlethings.com/the-poodle-skirt/5

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  12. Marie who? I think MK is a bit (or actually a lot) OCD and not at all my cup of tea.Fold my panties?Who is she kidding. I do my own thing. She sure made a great business out of her OCD though!!

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    1. I totally agree! She's made herself filthy rich with her OCD and I guess we do need to admire it when anyone finds their niche. But I still don't want her anywhere near my stuff.

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  13. I'd keep that lighter. If it still works, you can use it to light candles and have a nice memory every time.

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    1. It would work if I filled it. I don't like to use candles. I leaning towards keeping it but I don't have to decide for a couple of months. I've got an antique dental cabinet where I'm putting all my sentimental things. It's nearly full and when it gets full I'll have to make some hard choices because I don't intend to take any more sentiments things than will fit in that cabinet and it's pretty small.

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  14. I knew exactly what you meant as soon as I read spaghetti poodle. Saw many of those, growing up. Wonder what would be considered today’s tchotkes that people will be writing about 50 years later. Salt lamps, maybe?

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    1. Finally, someone remembers spaghetti poodles besides me and your younger by a decade. I don't know what will be iconic for the first decade of our century, the the salt lamps would have to be up there near the top of the list. The problem now is that with the internet fads come and go too fast for any of them to stick to represent an entire decade.

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  15. Wow. I have not thought of those poodles since forever. I don't think I've even seen any in the thrift/charity shops. The Charity Shops in my area get a lot of neat old stuff because of the number of people that aged in their home in this historical district. Wish I could think of some other sources to sell.

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    1. Etsy has some like mine listed for between $40 and $75 which would make them worth listing but I don't know if they are getting their asking prices. They aren't getting those kind of prices on e-Bay. Now that you mention it, I haven't seen any spaghetti poodles in Charity and thrift shops ever. Antique stores, yes.

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  16. I just missed out on the Poodle Skirt era! But I would have loved one.

    Your explanation in a comment above about the difference between collection and sentimental is perfect. I collected swans for about 15 years but just ran out of space. They still speak to me.

    I could never do the work you are doing in downsizing. You've been at it so long ... but happy you found your new home with enough time to make a huge dent. And I'm sure the new community would have recommendations if un-son-in-law is unable to continue.

    I love this blog.

    And it IS fun to read blogs from the beginning!

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    1. Swans are so beautiful and calming to the soul to watch and I know the story of how you got started collecting them.

      My realtor also has a list of people to help if push comes to shove, but paying people $75 to $100 to help me pack just grates me. Nurses don't even make that!

      You've been reading me since almost the beginning. I would have thought by now I would have bored you to death. LOL

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  17. On a recent post you mentioned that you sometimes don’t see anyone for days and don’t go out much. Well, your collections keep you so busy that you hardly have the time to turn your attention to people! Golly, your house must have been a veritable treasure trove.
    Most of my husbands stuff (apart from his instruments) has gone to charity and I am seriously thinking of letting the stamp collection and ancient programmes of royal occasions (where he played) go the same way. I am not on eBay, so have no idea what to do with the stuff.

    Good luck with the dispersal of your joint collections before you move.

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    1. People used to tell us all the time that coming to our house was like going to a museum. It was well displayed and orderly and for a joke someone gave my husband a power-point pointer to enhance his show-and-tells. He loved it.

      We had stamp collections too but there is no market for them here in the States. They will get donated to a stamp musuem that does outreach with them.

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  18. You're right -- Marie has no concept of sentimental attachment. Keep the lighter. It will add little weight to your pile of moveables. Put it in a shadow box and hang it on the wall or on a shelf or someplace where you can see it, even if that means opening a drawer where it is stashed. My unasked for two cents!

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    1. I have an antique dental cabinet with glass sides that will hold all my sentimental treasures. The bear claw lighter is already in there and I'm pretty sure the other one will also go there. Having something in a drawer where you occasionally see it reminds me of a book I read where a woman kept her deceased husband's picture in a drawer because, she said, you actually look at it that way where as if it was out in the open all the time, you quit seeing stuff. Makes sense to me!

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  19. I have about 10 things I'd like to sell on eBay, and they've been sitting for almost a year. The process of getting good photos and posting, watching, answering questions, and shipping is a full time job with the amount of collectibles you have to deal with. I'm not nearly as disciplined as you are.
    Because the dump charges $22 for 135 lbs, I'm sometimes tempted to simply load up the car and drive it there and start heaving. I have no collections other than collections of crap. Not hoarder type crap, 'things I might need someday' crap. It's from developing the curse of the frugal.....

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    1. Have you looked into selling or giving stuff through your local Facebook marketplace? I haven't done it yet but I'm told it's easy and you meet in public places for the exchange.

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  20. Don't heed that advice of Marie "whatevers" - it sounds like keeping a few lighters isn't going break you out in a rash...and they are reminders of a good time you both had sharing your collectables; makes for interesting conversations with the new people you will meet in your forthcoming new community

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    1. I really like having unusual things in my house for conversation starters. And I think I'm going to have a lot more company in this new place, kind of college dorm-ish with it being a brand new place with all of us moving in at one time.

      Marie gives me a rash just thinking about her. LOL

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  21. I continue to be amazed at the variety of items you guys collected...and where you stored/displayed them!

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    1. One three foot wide, 7 foot tall bookcase held a ton of display boxes for the kinds of things we collected...the lighters being the biggest things in them...well, not really I have collector boxes of fountain pens too. And I also have a glass showcase in the library 5" wide by 6" tall with glass shelving that holds bigger things.

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  22. I had no idea about collecting lighters and how valuable they can be. It is nice to know people are buying his lighters and thus they will have homes. Your poodle collection sounds cute, I hope you will keep some of them. I had a poodle skirt too and really liked it.

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    1. Americans don't collect lighters them as much as they used to. If not for the overseas buyers on e-Bay the market would be hard to find here in the U.S.

      My poodles are cute. I'll probably do a post with those someday with photos for me to keep.

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