Downsizing: How We Did It

Many articles boast the mental health benefits of being grateful and how helpful it is to write down things you are thankful for daily. This morning, at the top of my grateful list, is the recent simplification of our lifestyle. My husband and I made a considerable change this past year.  We moved from a large four-bedroom home into a cozy two-bedroom condo. I had lived in the home we just left for 17 years. My husband and I were both widowed before we married, so when he moved in from his large family home,  added lots of his to mine, so, yeah… we had a lot to sort through to get ready for the downsize.

I began mentally and physically de-cluttering well before we listed the house. It was a process that started long before Marie Kondi’s method of  Tidying Up became all the rage. There were a few “ah-ha” moments that got the process rolling. As our kids moved out and into their places, we found there were rooms in our home we didn’t enter for weeks or months at a time. We lived in what amounted to a condo-size part of our house: the kitchen and family room, our bedroom, and the bathroom. When we’d visit our kids or go on vacation and be in a smaller space for a while, I realized how relaxed I felt; how little space, and how few items we really needed in our every day lives. When we returned home, I’d find myself wandering through the rooms we didn’t use and opening closets full of stuff the kids left behind, and I began to feel overwhelmed. I lookedOur 100 SF Condo at a cabinet full of the pretty knick-knacks I somehow acquired through years and thought of the basement crawl space below me -full of things that were being stored.  I knew there were boxes of kids’ artwork, photos, toys, and costumes and lots of un-reconciled items that once belonged to our late spouses. Then, I thought about how hard it was to clean out our parents’ homes after they died. We agreed we didn’t want to leave that job for our kids.

Years ago, I was inspired\ by the writings of Leo Balboa, author of  The Power Of Less, and blog,  Zen HabitsBut it was the podcast The Minimalists and the philosophies of Josh and Ryan that motivated me to want to start the process of living a more meaningful life with less. When you talk about minimizing, it sounds as though living with less is some kind of sacrifice and that in simplifying and de-cluttering, you are getting rid of your possession and depriving yourself of things. But it is just the opposite. As I discovered, it’s not about having less but making room for more. One of my favorite quotes from Josh and Ryan is that “Minimalism is the thing that gets us past the things so we can make room for life’s important things—which aren’t things at all!” 

We started the process thoughtfully. Our kids took the things important to them and permitted us to do what we wanted with what was left behind. We made sure they each took those things that had meaning to them or memories from their parents. We carefully selected the items we wanted to move with us and those left behind we offered to family members, sold on Marketplace, or donated. We sold the house and moved into a place that not only was significantly smaller but significantly less expensive so that we would reduce our monthly expenses.

After spending time in Portland OR visiting one of our kids, we discovered the joy of a “walking neighborhood.” Portland has a number of these, and we love being able to walk to boutique shops, great restaurants, wine bars, breweries, parks, and grocery stores all within blocks of one another. We wanted to find something like that here in our hometown and have come pretty close in our new neighborhood.  Our condo complex is a quaint and homey community-built in the early 1970s with a New England charm. It’s within walking distance to grocery stores, restaurants, and my husband’s work. Because we don’t have a fenced-in yard anymore, we walk our dog 3 to 4 times daily, and while that isn’t always pleasant in cold weather, we are all healthier for it!  

I’m not sure that this is our forever home, but I do know than any move after this will be much easier. It’s funny how it seems like we spend the first half of our lives acquiring stuff, and the second half getting rid of it! But it sure feels like I’ve gained more by having a little less, and for that, I’m grateful.