I did not expect it. Although as I look back, I now see I could have seen it coming. Like a hurricane, its path could be forecast although its timing and intensity were surprises.
Yes, we are downsizing once again. The Marcus household has been through this before. But this time … this time it seems the cuts are coming closer to the bone.
Downsizing happens in many households for many reasons. The children leave home and the house is too big. The couple splits and the pain of the emotional separation is matched by the mayhem of dividing property. Aging changes perceptions of what is necessary and a lifetime of stuff is re-examined.
I had thought all was secure for another decade. Then in a real estate blitz, a house was seen, a proposal made, a counter-proposal entered, and the deal was done. Enthusiasm hardly had a chance to melt into doubt before a schedule of displacement was proclaimed.
What does downsizing mean? It does not mean equality of sacrifice. If one-third of all goods must go, the solution is quickly found. One-half of his material possessions and one-quarter of hers become expendable.
This is a sound formula, not a sexist joke. After all, her “possessions” are more likely the ones that make the household a functional unit. Few men would claim the Mixmaster as part of their domain, yet a house is not a home if pancakes cannot be prepared expeditiously.
Right now I have made ready to release to the recycle bin items I have not examined in the past 10 years. Most of these are documents in unopened boxes that have collected nothing but dust over time. Others are books that are as valid today as when written in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Sadly the problems of urban areas, as detailed so well 50 or so years ago, are still with us.
Transit, income distribution, housing, education, finance, taxation, infrastructure neglect and deterioration, race, youth unemployment, crime, and an aging population are still the salient issues they were in the past.
The ideas for resolving problems of our cities have not changed much. There is more talk of privatization today, but no evidence that it actually adds anything to the discussion. Technology has evolved to heighten our awareness of some issues, but has not offered substantive solutions to our long-lasting concerns.
So the stacks of boxes and the piles of books for discard grow as the inevitable downsizing continues. The entire process has the potential for emotional drama as when I clasp my head and proclaim that I am giving up portions of my soul to reduce the number of square feet eligible for dusting.
But I resist the temptations of such moments. After all, am I not a consenting adult who has endorsed this transfer from one house to another? Did I not sign the documents? Yet, I must wonder, where was my head?
Opinions are solely the writer's. Morton Marcus is an economist, author and speaker formerly at the Kelley School of Business, Indiana University. He can be reached at email@example.com.