Downsizing seems to be a reality of our times. From the Madoff survivors to the pursuit of better circulation in our phalanges, the relocation epidemic is here. In too many cases it is also a sign of unpredicted, unwelcome change–inevitable growth will accompany such a transition—like it or not. Recently I heard about a woman who had just been forced to depart with 8 of her 10 sofas, her new digs could only accommodate two sofas–bummer. Getting too teary eyed over that predicament would be a stretch if it were not for the sad story of lost health and suffering that contributed to the debacle. Very few of us are immune from these times of readjustment and conciliation.
Shrinking ones living space can also be a joyous journey riddled with opportunities—let’s hope this is your scenario. Distillation usually adds much flavor and richness to any circumstance—think of this as your opportunity to create a crème fresh of possessions. Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe,who was one of the founders of modern architecture and was born in 1886 is associated with the term “less is more”—this concept is not new.
Having just packed 20 years of life housed in 6,000 square feet of home into a space that optimistically speaking may be 900 square feet, this topic is fresh and very real to me. Here are some of the things that helped my transition (it’s like child birth, if you could remember what it felt like you would never do it again—the thought of moving again in the near future gives me a contraction)
- Sort your belongings in small steps if possible. This exercise is physically and emotionally draining. Every couple of hours take a break and do something nice for yourself. (I played Motown and “danced as if no one was watching”—because they weren’t. The Tina Turner in me rocks.)
- Set up a system that works for you to identify what you keep, what you meaningfully gift to those for which you care, what you sell, what you donate, what you store, what you give to people you have never liked (usually coming from the toss pile), and what you want/need to dispose of. Different colored stickers worked for me, some prefer lists or when possible physically moving items to areas designated to the above categories.
- Live with your choices for awhile to make sure that they feel right. Do not change ANYTHING from pile to pile without intense scrutiny of your motivations. (After more than one glass of wine DO NOT COME NEAR THOSE PILES.)
Other mandates that helped me were to get my kids and other interlopers to remove their stuff from my personal space (in a sweet way of course—kids are the worse.) If you begin in small rooms where few decisions are necessary, by the time you get to the daunting stuff you will be more experienced and the mental calluses combined with how sick you are of this entire exercise will work to your advantage. Call your buddies in for support—good friends usually make wonderful counsel when vacillating about anything.
Start now no matter what your situation—sooner or later you will be dealing with recirculation of material possessions—and it feels oh so good to cleanse.
Great resources are:
Ohio State University Extension. Tips on downsizing: Moving from the family home. Accessed June 17, 2008. Available at:
University of Florida Extension. Housing as we grow older: Moving to smaller, more efficient housing. Accessed June 17, 2008. Available at: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/HE708