Former legislator realizes there won’t be a Sutherland political library
For Clark County Today
Former State legislator Dean Sutherland and his wife, Roxane, have been able to reduce their possessions and memorabilia over the last 25 years and have plans to disburse more of their remaining “stuff” to family members and friends, along with an inevitable estate sale at some point in the future.
The couple’s experiences can provide lessons for others who simply don’t know what to do with lifetime collections plus family heirlooms passed along from prior generations.
Roxane no longer has 125 pairs of shoes; Dean has reduced his collection of coats from 50 to a mere 15. Over the years they have made several life-changing decisions that resulted in an emphasis on enjoying and using family keepsakes rather than being burdened by the weight of excess possessions.
The changes came about as the couple decided to move to different living situations. Dean said he would like to spare his children and grandchildren the emotional stresses that come with decisions regarding the disposition of possessions.
Long-time Clark County residents
Dean moved to Vancouver with his family — parents Art and Vi and brothers Jerry and Bryan, at age 13. After graduating from Fort Vancouver High School, Dean married high school sweetheart Roxane Paull and began work as a journeyman electrician. He also took up welding.
In 1977, the couple built a 2400-square-foot home on five acres in Hockinson where they raised their two sons and began collecting an assortment of vehicles and various possessions.
Dean served in the state House of Representatives from 1983 until 1988 when he moved on to the state Senate. He left the Senate in 1996 when he decided not to run for office again. He took with him a very large collection of personal records including campaign brochures, letters from constituents, newspaper clippings, and more.
While in the legislature, Dean began working for Clark Public Utilities, holding several positions until retiring in 2013.
In 1998, the couple purchased a 28-foot Carver boat which had a cabin, kitchen, bedroom, shower and one engine. A year later, they acquired a 40-foot Blue Water trawler which had two staterooms and other facilities. Although slower moving, it was more seaworthy.
In 2004, Dean and Roxane decided that the Hockinson home required too much maintenance including mowing, weeding, pool care, roof work, cleaning 12,000 square feet of asphalt, and spreading 100 yards of bark dust annually. It was then, after 31 years of marriage, that the first “purging” took place. “It was our first financial, physical and emotional purging,” said Dean. “We came away from that realizing that even when kids took heirloom furniture, they thought items from Ikea were just fine.”
The purge included disposal of five trucks, trailers, tractors, welding equipment and air compressors. Why did he have a 1-ton hay truck? “It looked cool,” Dean said.
Dean said he knows there will never be a “Sutherland political library,” so he sorted his tubs of legislative records and made two trips to the recycling center with sideboards on his pickup and the 8x8x4 bed filled with loose paper. That still left him with 10 tubs of legislative-related material.
Roxane talked up living in a condo and in an urban environment. “I wasn’t there yet,”said Dean. So in 2004 they purchased a 2900-square-foot home at Steamboat Landing along the Columbia River in Vancouver with no shop and no barn for storage. “The kid’s stuff went to the kids,” said Dean.
At one point, they had remodeling work done on the Steamboat Landing home during which time they lived on their 40-foot boat. They enjoyed that experience.
Acquired a bigger boat
After retiring, the Sutherlands purchased a 50-foot boat which had more ocean cruising capability. They decided to sell their Steamboat Landing home and live on their new 550-square-foot boat. More possessions had to go. A 24-foot rented truck was filled with patio furniture, heaters, barbecues and tool chests and taken to son Jaret in Ridgefield. Other furniture went to consignment stores or Goodwill. Several items were “stored” at the homes of others. Dean’s parents took in a grandfather clock. A 10×15 storage unit was still needed. Dean disposed of all his suits and ties, keeping only two Blazers. The couple took some clothing on the boat but the rest fit into 4-5 plastic tubs. Thousands of books were given away.
For the next eight years, the couple lived on the boat, traveling to Mexico and Alaska, stopping sometimes for two months at a marina and making new friends.
In September 2022, the condo idea surfaced again. They looked and looked. Roxane convinced Dean that The Sahalie at Tidewater Cove should be their next home.
The couple now live in a 1,619-square-foot condo which comes with two 12×15 storage units. The 10 tubs of legislative records are now down to 5; Dean pledges to get that down to a 3-ring binder soon. Thirty years of tax returns has been reduced to 10 years. Tools have gone to grandsons.
Dean has enough tools to hang pictures, repair an outlet and fix a leaky faucet and that’s about it. Their dining table is 120 years old and has been in Dean’s family since 1956.
“We are now down to the last 10-20 percent of family heirlooms,”said Dean. “We will now purge down things we have left.” He does not want his children to endure the same emotions he feels when sorting through memorabilia. He plans to take photos of family keepsakes and, if no one wants them, to dispose of items and retain the photographs. Some, but not all, of the couple’s remaining family heirlooms are labeled.
“I’ll take care of getting rid of stuff,” said Dean, who hopes that he and Roxane will someday move themselves to a senior living facility and that their children and grandchildren will have already decided who wants what. The rest, he said, could go in an estate sale. By then, however, he hopes the hardest parts of purging will be over.
“It’s just stuff,” Dean said. “We enjoy the moments we have with stuff.”
The grandfather clock now has a prominent place in their Sahalie condo, as does an oak hutch that once belonged to Roxane’s grandmother. The hutch is filled with valued and historic family dishes. Yet Dean and Roxane use another set of heirlooms dishes every day. “We have those memories every day,” said Dean. Another set of great-grandmother dishes has gone to a son and daughter-in-law.
Dean and Roxane have lived at Sahalie for less than a year. On Aug. 22, Dean was elected president of the homeowners’ association. Roxane retired in 2016 after teaching at Clark College for 30 years.
”This is about recognizing that we enjoy each moment as it happens as well as the creation of the memory, then rather than burdening our family with the decisions of what to do with stuff they don’t want but feel obligated to go through or keep, we get rid of the stuff and let them keep the memories — all guilt free,” said Dean. “I’ll keep enjoying the stuff we have, purging what we don’t need now, having moments as I go through memorabilia, continue giving stuff to family that want it, and then giving/selling stuff to other families (strangers to me) to start enjoying. Much of what we have came from other families after they got their enjoyment out of it. I’ll feel good knowing our ‘stuff’ is making the life of others a bit more enjoyable.”
- POLL: Do you believe there should be a forensic audit of the Clark County Elections Department?Do you believe there should be a forensic audit of the Clark County Elections Department?
- Opinion: Seven years of blessingsEditor Ken Vance reflects on the seven years since Clark County Today was launched as a community news website.
- Vancouver is expanding its ‘Safe Stay’ homeless housing programThe city of Vancouver is planning to open five “Safe Stay” shelters for homeless people, with each site providing up to 40 homeless people with their own private units.
- Opinion: Washington State Supreme Court narrowly upholds Inslee’s eviction moratoriumIn a 5-4 decision, the Washington State Supreme Court upheld Governor Inslee’s eviction moratorium during the pandemic.
- Legal expert tells Biden impeachment hearing: President ‘has lied’In his presentation, Jonathan Turley went into detail about the history of impeachment, what has been used as a standard in the past, and pointed out that investigations by Congress have proven the need for such hearings.
- Washington Gov. Jay Inslee tests positive for COVID-19 for the third timeWashington Governor Jay Inslee tests positive for COVID-19 for the third time, the first in May 2022 and again this February.
- Ridgefield Police Department recognizes Breast Cancer Awareness Month with vibrant pink patchesRidgefield is joining public safety agencies in Clark County and across the nation by participating in the “Pink Patch Project” for the sixth consecutive year this October.