I must’ve gotten too smug about downsizing to mindful minimalism.
Living off the back of a motorcycle for weeks at a time taught me to embrace mindful minimalism— I even facilitate a Mindful Minimalism workshop—but I had no idea that the process of downsizing would take such a toll.
Tamela, you silly goose, living off the back of a motorcycle is easy when you don’t have to throw anything away before you throttle up!
Suburbs to Townhouse
As I reported to newsletter subscribers, January and February were a blur to me. I was felled by flu and walking pneumonia and didn’t work more than ten hours over the first six weeks of the year—an awful a way to marshal my strength for moving out of our suburban home of 26 years.
We found a marvelous place in the heart of the city and started moving mid-March. We are over the moon with our new urban digs!
Sleek digs with NO storage space to speak of. My spouse and I remind each other that we must learn to live like Swedes, which is a nod to Ikea, with a showroom floor plan demonstrating that it’s possible to live in 375 square feet and not have to share a bathroom with your neighbors down the hall.
Thankfully, we’ve been preparing to move since last year, starting with our closets. I donated a truckload of my clothes to charity. I’m not kidding…a true truckload. Before winter set in we made a lot of headway through the old shreddable tax records and college memorabilia, through my now-grown boys’ childhood toys, sports gear and so on. I felt virtuous (a sure warning sign of a hard fall, I see in retrospect).
I firmly believed I was ready to downsize, but it turns out that I didn’t have the emotional or physical stamina for the job. It’s the end of May and I’m still dealing with it.
26 years and 10,000 daily decisions
I was quickly overwhelmed by the volume of family “heirlooms” and stored mementoes (oh, the macaroni art!) that stood between me and my new downsized life. If you’d bet me how much I’d saved, and we measured it in cubic feet, I’d have lost that bet by an order of magnitude.
My mom shipped some of those boxes of heirlooms to me 14 years ago when she retired and I never even opened most of them before hauling them to the attic. Now I wish I’d skipped the attic step and just donated them to Goodwill—I had no idea the emotional energy I required to deal with them, along with everything else.
Mom had lovingly wrapped each item and attached a handwritten note about where it came from and its family history. For example, two figurines came with a note about how her grandmother had taken her to a store and told her she could pick anything she wanted, and these figurines were her choice. What kind of brute can part with such treasure? A brute under severe storage constraint.
If something’s been in the attic for a couple of years and you haven’t missed it, you don’t need it.
I can’t blame the family heirlooms entirely for my grief. Most of the mess was of my own making because I saved too much along the way of raising children. Here’s a sample of the tough calls I had to make (not “we” because Matt was ready to toss all):
How many birthday cards should I save for each of the boys from their great-grandparents, grandparents and extended family? Dozens to choose from, but what criteria should I use for making the final cut? Should I look at each of them or just throw them all out?
How can I part with handmade treasures from my grandmother? She taught me to knit and crochet and I inherited over 100 needles and other tools plus afghans and garments for me and the boys. Anguish.
What is the honorable way to disencumber the costume jewelry passed down to me from my deceased mother-in-law? Should I keep any of it? If so, which pieces?
Which photographs of our offspring should we keep? OMG we must have photographed the boys’ every baby burp! Will I ever EVER take the time to digitize them?
How about all those VHS tapes of their soccer games and birthday parties? The money we spent on that big shoulder-mounted video camera should have been socked away in an IRA.
Books. We shan’t speak of these sacrifices. Let the wound heal.
Nothing’s Worth Anything
We must’ve thought we were royalty when we married in 1984. The Wedgwood, the sterling silver flatware, the crystal and other “must-haves” are antithetical to mindful minimalism and they’re not worth anything on the open market.
Use it or smelt it, Tamela.
The Depression Glass that my family has been passing down? No market for it. Not worth the cost to ship them to an eBay buyer.
Use it or donate it, Tamela.
The collection of “Occupied Japan” ceramics I’d forgotten in my attic? I decided I didn’t have time or energy to research which pieces are most valuable and which dealers are most trustworthy. Some eagle-eyed shopper at the Junior League Wearhouse will probably snap it up and be on Antiques Roadshow next year.
Have at it, sister.
Board games? Ha! Everything’s online now.
It’s the end of civilization as we know it, folks.
Yard Sale? Yuck!
I don’t even go to yard sales myself, so I wasn’t a highly successful seller. I actually told one woman who was trying to talk me down from a dollar to a quarter on a set of mugs that if I was going to give them away I would at least get a tax receipt for giving them to a charity!
Know what? That’s exactly where those mugs went.
Stay tuned for downsizing ruminations as I gain the time and clarity to share. This week, I’m headed out for a two-week motorcycle road trip!