Our Slow Downsizing Story

Savoring the journey, bit by bit

Process, insights, reflections, and tips

About Slow downsizing image
In 2014, with no plans to move, but with an urge to purge and simplify our lives, we began the mammoth task of downsizing, but with a twist. We were going to take our time.

Living simple. Tiny housing. Decluttering. Downsizing. Tidying up. Organizing. These concepts have taken hold of our collective imaginations, if not our realities. With baby boomers retiring and relocating (whether to smaller quarters and/or to another geographical location), the public conversation about ridding oneself of a lifetime of possessions has never been louder. Many of us in this generation have also been responsible for clearing out our aging or deceased parents’ properties and have vowed not to inflict that backbreaking, time-consuming, and emotional task on another generation.

But where do you begin and when? For many, the call comes when it is time to relocate, and quick decisions must be made. Keep, donate, sell, toss.

We have chosen a different route, patterned on the “slow movement,” which encourages us to slow our pace of life, savoring the moments. I call our method “Slow Downsizing,” where the focus is on the journey, even as the destination is also important. Consider it more like traveling by ocean liner than jet plane.

We want to be ready when the time comes to change our living situation. But as sentimental people, we also want to enjoy looking through our bits, finding ways to preserve the photos, the letters, our history (and family’s history) and our memories so that they take up less space while still being accessible. We also want to find good homes for the items we no longer use nor want—whether through selling or donating them. At the same time, we don’t want this overwhelming task to overtake our lives.

This blog is dedicated to that journey. Although we have made much progress, we have only reached the tip of the iceberg (while hoping to avoid the fate of the Titanic.) The goals of going public are several: to allow for personal reflection on the process, to feel spurred to action, and to share both successful ideas and insights with others who have struggled with the same inability to let go. It is not a “how to”, and we are learning as we move forward.

We welcome you aboard our slow downsizing ship!

Belle Brett and John Heymann

  •  12/29/2023 02:50 PM

Despite continued challenges in downsizing, I suggest 11 positive gifts that come from this practice along with personal examples of some of these gifts.

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  •  11/15/2023 05:08 PM

Does it matter what we call our efforts to shed ourselves of things? I present some terms, their definitions, and the questions these terms raise for me, along with Ann Patchett's experience of lightening her load.

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  •  09/25/2023 03:06 PM

How to Weed Your Attic: Getting Rid of Junk without Destroying History by Elizabeth Dow and Lucinda Cockrell provides an overview of how to assess your possessions and archives for historical (not monetary or collectible) value and to donate or preserve those that do. I provide an overview of the contents and my brief assessment. Overall, the book is a useful starting point for downsizers who are interested in putting in the effort and time.

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  •  08/31/2023 03:45 PM

We tried to be as responsible as we could when downsizing to reduce the amount that would go to landfill. I provide suggestions for ways to do this as well as list some specific resources.

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  •  08/25/2023 02:41 PM

Downsizing with a partner has its pros and cons, including having different priorities and styles. I share some ideas for assuring that the downsizing process goes as smoothly as possible when more than one person is involved as well as some examples from our recent experience.

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  •  08/20/2023 02:30 PM

One of the simplest and most satisfying ways to preserve a lifetime of paper memories is to compile a special looseleaf binder. I describe my own process for creating such a binder.

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  •  08/06/2023 05:23 PM

Putting things in storage and living in temporary housing provides an experimental condition for us to consider what we miss and what we don't. I make some suggestions for how to create something similar and judge the results.

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  •  07/29/2023 04:43 PM

Although your ultimate goal as a downsizer is to eliminate the need for external storage, you may need such facilities for the short-term. Based on our experiences, we offer some advice for choosing storage facilities and packing and arranging your items in a storage unit.

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  •  07/21/2023 05:24 PM

Paper ephemera took up a lot of real estate in my house. I review what I did with the different kinds of ephemera I sorted through this past year and offer some suggestions on how to proceed with your ephemera collections, whether paper or not..

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  •  07/11/2023 02:22 PM

John offers his perspectives on what he has gained from following through on downsizing, including greater confidence, an ability to let go, and new definitions for his future.

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  •  07/05/2023 12:33 PM

The slow downsizers have moved after 27 years in the same house. We reflect on this recent experience and pledge to continue offering perspectives on the downsizing process, which has not ended for us.

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  •  02/19/2023 05:01 PM

Whether you have an upcoming move, a plan to move eventually, or just want fewer things in our life, the process of "earmarking may help you to make decisions about what to eliminate.

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