Gather the team: your kids—perhaps home from college for the holidays—are young and strong, and they owe their grandparents big-time.
Bring the van, if you have one, because you’re definitely coming home with some stuff.
Eat a good breakfast; you will need the strength and energy of a pack mule in the hours ahead.
Dress comfortably: your parents will have the heat up and you will feel like you are hacking your way through the Amazon as you dig things from the back of the closet on your hands and knees.
Do not say yes to taking Grandpa’s huge desk, or Grandma’s sewing table with the broken leg, to your small house.
Do say yes to the non-working hundred-year-old mantel clock; your parents will be happy, even if you keep it in a box in the garage for 20 years until you downsize, yourself.
Remind yourself again: they changed my diapers, educated me, fed me, guided me. I owe them everything. Including this.
Tell them how proud you are of them for their courage in taking on a move of such magnitude.
Express your gratitude: their downsizing will make your eventual task of settling their affairs a little easier.
To that end, encourage them (gently!) to let it go, let it go.
Introduce them to the ease of donating to Goodwill or Salvation Army; freely giving items they are not using and no longer need blesses others.
Drink your water, and remind them to drink theirs—you don’t have time today to drive someone to Urgent Care when they faint from dehydration.
Allow some trips down memory lane; meander together through the past as you pack. Your parents’ lives are being turned upside down; they need grounding.
When you lose patience with the slow pace of packing, bite your lip; remind them they can linger over these precious things anytime in their new place.
Inform them that, “No, when the grandkids are grown, they are not going to want the fifty sculpey figurines they made at your house when they were four.” Then let them pack them all carefully and keep them anyway.
As they sort through dusty boxes they sealed in the ’80s, before their last move, vow that your own belongings will flow in and out of your life, not stagnate in dark corners of the garage and basement until they disintegrate or have to be moved again.
Don’t agree too heartily to their expressions of remorse for the mountain of stuff they’ve somehow accumulated—this is not the time to gloat.
Take a moment to savor this house and all its memories amid the hurry of meeting the deadline. The truck is coming in the morning —ready or not.
Feed the troops! Takeout tacos taste incredible and bestow fresh courage after hours of hard labor.
Reminisce about the games of Hearts played at this table, the family art projects in the garage, the cookies you made together at Christmastime, the Broadway songs sung at the piano, the 4:00 am wakeups because the kids were so excited to be at Grammy and Gramps’s house they could not wait for the sun.
Plan to gather in the new place and christen it as home very soon: decide to make new, beautiful memories there.
See how swiftly life has brought your parents to this point? They are stunned. You may be, too. Sit with that reality. Let it sink in.
Note their example, how they are setting up an actual art studio in their new home, the dream of many years. Believe that you can prioritize your purpose, too.
Resolve: whatever it is I think I’m led by my Creator to do, whatever my gifts and purpose here, now is the time.
Come home and look around. See, afresh, your own belongings stuffed under this roof. Start with the hallway closet. Sing to yourself: “Let it go. . . .”
Michelle Goering has been writing forever, and for an audience for about a year. She is a musician with a background in publishing, married and the mother of twin college-age sons. A San Diegan who grew up on a Kansas farm, she’s recently published in Sasee and Christian Science Monitor: Home Forum. She can be found on facebook at michelle goering.