When you are in the middle of downsizing, it’s not always easy to determine what you will want and need in the future. Beyond the low-hanging fruit (the worn-out things, the things you haven’t used in years, the things that spark no joy, the old financial records, the clothes that don’t fit or suit you anymore, the items you have in triplicate when one will do), the decisions become harder. Is there a way to make clearer which of the multitude of items before you are your life essentials?
Since we’ve moved out of our house of 27 years and put most of the stuff we kept in storage, we’ve created an experimental situation for ourselves. Which of the things that we don’t have with us do we miss and how badly? Which don’t we think about at all?
It’s interesting spending time in temporary housing, a unit that someone else has furnished, perhaps considering their own needs or imagining the needs of renters. How do these mesh with our own needs? Furnished units almost always have blenders. When I realized that we never use a blender, we donated ours. On the other hand, rental units hardly ever have citrus squeezers, an item we use regularly.
KITCHEN ITEMS: Before we moved, I set aside what I felt were items I would need and was unlikely to find in our furnished rental units. I still cook full dinners involving recipes, so I considered which kitchen tools I regularly used and “ear-marked” them. (See February 19 post on the subject.) I brought these with us to our rental unit and am paying attention to the ones I continue to use.
I’m also noting what I miss that I didn’t earmark in this department: a couple of sizes of mixing bowls, large mugs (rather than those silly little t-cup size mugs that often come with dish sets), the notebook I created of recipes I like to make. Mostly, I did pretty well in choosing what to bring along. But working with a smaller set of items, I am in a better place to get to the heart of what I use.
BOOKS: In that same post, I discussed books and clothes. Here’s what I’ve learned about books. While I love having books around me, the fact is I don’t miss individual titles. We have a perfectly good library down the street where I can borrow novels to read and wallow in reference books all I want. If desperate for something specific that isn’t in the library, I can download something to my Kindle. I do enjoy having art books for visual inspiration, but in many cases, I can find these images online. Perhaps, when I am reunited with my books, I will embrace them as long-lost friends. Or I will say, I treasured our friendship once upon a time, but I have outgrown it now. I am hoping my reaction will be more of the latter and that we can reduce our book collection to a more manageable number. (See post on "The 100 Book Project.")
CLOTHES: What I’ve noticed is that I gravitate towards the same items in my closet and often forget most of what is stashed in drawers (except for the underwear, socks, and nightclothes.) I know my time and weather samples need to be large enough to fully guage my needs. But a day of reckoning is coming.
DÉCOR/ARTWORK: We put in storage a lot of artwork (paintings, sculpture, framed photographs) and decorative items (many inherited from or given by family members, some we collected on our travels). They’ve been a part of our lives for years or even decades. I currently don’t miss seeing these. Being in a new environment, there is plenty to tease the senses. In the long-run, it’s hard to know how either of us will feel about these familiar and attractive items, some of which have sentimental value. Will they fit in the place we eventually settle in? Will we consider rotating the art and décor, so that we get to enjoy all of it at some point?
At the moment, I miss designated space to pursue particular activities more than I miss my things. I am guessing that being reunited with some favorite items (those I designated keepers) will give me warm, fuzzy feelings. Most of these are not space hoggers. But for many things I’ve kept, I may want to consider their necessity in my life—whether from a utilitarian, aesthetic, or sentimental role.
In the meanwhile, here are some thoughts for creating your own experimental downsizing experience. You should probably save this for a time when you’ve made some inroads and are feeling stuck as to what can go next.
Of those you can name----
Of those you can’t name, the out-of-sight, out-of-mind items, you know the drill.
As much attention as I’ve paid to what I’ve packed up, I know I already can’t name a lot of what’s in those boxes without looking at my cheat sheet. And two or three years from now, will it be like Christmas in July when we open them up? Or will we wonder why we wasted the time, effort, and money to pack up and save all these items?
In the meantime, I hope to create new memories and enjoy the here and now, something I haven’t been able to do in a while.