We are now entering the "tough love" section of this process. If you think the first three steps were a challenge, prepare yourself. These next two steps are the hardest but most necessary of all.
Remember your motto: "Life is not measured by how much you own." (Luke 12:15)
5 Steps to Downsize
4. Choose some keepsakes.
- Framed photos and documents are items you deemed worth displaying in the past. Curate the best from this select group, and feel confident that they effectively represent your life.
- Include any photo albums or scrapbooks. You've taken time and effort to put these together – they deserve to be kept and enjoyed by you and your descendants.
- Keep three, or at most four, collections. Figure out which are your favorites. (By the way, books are a collection. So are videos and Christmas decorations.)
- Choose your favorite pieces of wall art. Set a limit, such as two or three items for each room of your new home. (Okay, okay... you don't have to count a wall clock or your dresser mirror as wall décor.)
- They aren't keepsakes, but you'll need important papers such as birth and marriage certificates, military discharge papers, loan documents or deeds, tax returns and the like. For most people, these documents can be stored in one sturdy fireproof box.
- If you have memorabilia piled in boxes, decomposing, admit that no matter your emotional response, the truth is they don't actually mean much. If they did, you would have done more than toss them into a box. Don't say, "But they're my memories!" They aren't facilitating memories – they're in a junk pile. If a family member has offered to go through and digitize them, don't presume on his patience and good nature. There's no reason for him to deal with what you couldn't be bothered to do yourself. Choose one box to give to that generous person, and be thankful that he may make it worthwhile.
5. Sell, donate, or throw away the rest.
Yep, you read that right. Special occasion serving dishes, basketball trophies, all the other knickknacks and memorabilia, books you haven't opened in years, old camping equipment, holiday decorations, the piano no one plays, those extra chairs... release them. Don't investigate the boxes, closets, attics, storage sheds, barns, under the beds, or anywhere else your accumulated items have gone to molder. Release them all.
Please notice that only Steps 1 and 2 include items that are necessary to life (clothing and housewares) – and I bet you still have some extras mixed in. Steps 3 and 4 (hobbies and keepsakes) are embellishments. They nurture your personality, interests, memories, and values. Even if you remove everything else after doing the first four steps, you are not in a deprived, comfortless situation.
Attachment to objects is fleeting. When we box things up and store them away, or move them to a new house and then don't get around to unpacking them for several months (or maybe never), it's pretty clear we have no particular need or affection for those items. Go to a yard sale, and notice all the things going for $1 or $2. They aren't special at all. They're just stuff.
Once settled into your new life, you won't miss the stuff you got rid of. You'll be too busy meeting new people and learning and doing new things. You'll find that you enjoy being light and flexible. Rather than tending to your piles of belongings, you can enjoy the people and activities that really matter to you. It's a joyful way to live.
Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash