A meditation on downsizing

How big a job?

How hard is it to downsize? And what can help you get through it?

After a month of merging the contents of our now-sold house in Georgia into our already-furnished condo in Charlotte, NC, I can report that it is possible, but not easy. Questions arise, like, dear God in heaven, do I REALLY possess 30-plus tee shirts, dating as far back as 1976? Or, ok, I remember buying one recliner, but how did we ever end up with FOUR? And, What does it say about us that we possess no fewer than eleven devices intended to open a wine bottle? …Although, admittedly, those did see a lot of use over the past four weeks.

It’s worth noting, too, that this wasn’t just the contents of a 3300 square foot house that needed shifting. It was also the accumulated stuff you might gather over 25 years in a 2500 square foot hangar. Two riding mowers, three work benches, four bicycles, rakes, shovels, implements of destruction, automotive tools, old batteries, cinder blocks, lumber, plumbing supplies, and on, and on…

Yes, it was a gargantuan task, but what did we learn?

What’s the take-away?

Well, for one, emotional attachments to “stuff” are pretty much toxic. While I do love the sentimental rush I get by going through old drawers and bookcases, it bears reflection that those old mementos have been marinating for decades in darkness. And only now to elicit that murmured “aww”. After trashing about three cubic feet of fuzzy photos of inexplicable locales and strangers, I felt light as a feather. Likewise for a closet full of old theater tickets, gimme hats, business cards, and mix tapes.

For another, no human being should ever have a favorite pillow, towel, or pair of sneakers. Such objects, if so favored, have undoubtedly worn out long before the bond was formed. And, oh, by the way: Take a look around, and you’ll realize that you possess no fewer than six pairs of worn sneakers, another four of bedroom slippers, and two of hiking boots, alongside a linen closet with dozens of towels, and a gaggle of lovely new-ish pillows. It’s time for change! Out with the old, in with the new!

Finally, what’s the most important thing?

The Lesson!

It’s this:

Giving things away is much more satisfying than boxing, shifting, and keeping them.

I had an old piano; an upright Baldwin from the 1930’s, with yellowed ivories and worn ebony flats and sharps. I’d rescued it from the basement rec-room of a friend long ago, and lovingly refinished it. I took lessons, but never quite learned to play with any facility. When my daughter expressed a desire for it, I was very happy.

When her crew of friends who came to help move it were done with loading, I encouraged each of them to choose a piece of art from the house to take as a thank you. It gave me peace and joy to know that those objects would be kept in the light, and viewed with pleasure by these people and their friends. The alternative was storage in darkness.

Take those superfluous cork pullers, and all the whatever else… take it straight to Goodwill Industries, and help others to uncork some wine.

It’s the best feeling ever.

4 thoughts on “A meditation on downsizing”

  1. Hi former neighbor! Very enjoyable read, and it really resonates with Lisa and myself. We’re deep in the effort to pare down our possessions to the barest necessities ourselves, with an eye toward doing a significant amount of traveling in the coming years. You and Ann stay safe!

  2. Beautiful!! Love the pic!! Happy memories! I couldn’t help hearing Partridge in a Pear Tree in your list from the hangar. I would also add that from experience, most things really hate storage, especially clothes and shoes. By the time you get back to them, you no longer want them.

    1. It’s so true, Beth. I’m now so confounded by a heap of boat stuff that I doubt I’ll ever make use of on Kathryn: a storm jib, a spare main sail, a generator, fer gawd’s sake, and much else! Do we take it with us, and leave the canned goods behind? Yikes!

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