Downsizing in the Time of Covid 19: Toes in the Water

31 Mar

In Part I of this post, I offered the perspective of someone who has the luxury of being able to continue to downsize during this pandemic, with its unknown short and long-term impacts on us. I’ve suggested that although you may have an opportunity to downsize, you might want to take a different approach—a kinder, gentler one, but one that still results in some progress.

Below are a few activities I’ve engaged in during these past days of self-isolation followed by a related specific suggestion that you could try.

CULL THE BOOKS: Time to cull the crop again. As a slow downsizer, I’m a big believer in culling. When you cull your collection of anything—books, clothes, kitchen items—you will not only not miss them, you probably won’t even remember them after a while. Books I’ve culled in my most recent go-round include books I’ve read (let someone else enjoy them), books that are falling apart (recycle), books that duplicate other books, books from my previous work life, books with print that’s too small to read comfortably.

Suggestion: Find 10-20 you will probably never look at again and put aside for donating.

CLEAN OUT A DRAWER: And not just the sock drawer (though I did that, too). I have a small, crammed odds and ends drawer where I keep some valuable items, such as my passport and foreign money, but also various other things that might be useful for travel (small nylon stuff bags, clothes brushes and lint removers, penknives, travel sewing kits, small purses, compact mirrors, eyeglass cases, luggage straps, flashlights, locks, key chains, travel clocks, earplugs, etc.) Do you note how everything I’ve listed is in the plural? Who needs multiples of all of these things, taking up space? I did keep some of the multiples, but they are grouped and ready for further culling. As a bonus, in cleaning out this drawer, I found over 200 Euros, not to mention a significant amount of Canadian and English money ready for future adventures I can only dream about now.

Suggestion: Pick one small internal space you haven’t organized in ages and go through it. If you want to tackle the closet, go for it!

READ OLD LETTERS: I grew up at a time when people actually communicated by letter and my parents’ generation, even more so. I have an enormous archive of family letters. When beginning my long, slow downsizing project several years ago, I had decided that letters would be one of the last things I went through—they are time-consuming to read (and sometimes hard to decipher) and often loaded with emotional content. But with the new constraints upon us, I felt the time was right to tackle the stash, focusing on letters written by friends and family to my parents (but not the letters they wrote to each other.) I sorted them, read a bunch, and made a few notes of revelations or points of history that interested me. I discovered that this task brought me great joy (and a little sadness, too)! I will write a full post on the topic of letters at some future date.

Suggestion: If, like me, you have a lot of family correspondence, spend time sorting it by person and date, and if you have the inclination, read some. (No need to throw any away at this point, but do mark as read.)

CHANGE UP THE CHACHKIS: I don’t subscribe to the minimalist life, even as I downsize. I like to see bits and pieces around the house that remind me of trips, hobbies, people, aesthetic pleasures. I have a bell collection (started because of my name) and a small frog collection from my late sister. (The frog was her “symbol.”) But I also have many little doodads that have been on display for years. They’ve done their duty, and perhaps someone else could enjoy them now. I’ve boxed them up ready for donation. I’ve rearranged the doodads that are left (and given them a much-needed dusting.) I have not put new things in their place but have created new arrangements so that the space feels fresher. (The image at the top is my new flamingo display. The flamingo is the symbol of our house, despite its Northern location, because some previous owner, obviously enamored with flamingos, emblazoned them in concrete on the front exterior wall and on the garage. Flamingos bring me joy.)

Suggestion: Find a visual corner of your house/apartment to reassess and freshen up.

PRUNE A FILE: Don’t get me started on the state of my file drawers, especially the 30 drawers in the basement. Given their sheer numbers, they are my downsizing nemesis! The only way I can deal with them is a little at a time. All that paper! I chose as my most recent file project, a box that contained copies of supposedly important papers. (The originals of many of these are in a bank safe deposit box.) Periodically, I have stuffed something new in there, but I apparently hadn’t reviewed the contents in several years. I found deeds of property we no longer owned, records of my changing eyesight, copies of long since cancelled insurance policies. In short, most of it was irrelevant and could be shredded. The box took up valuable bookshelf space. I moved the few important documents to a locked metal firebox (whose contents I also reviewed) to be stored in a closet, out of sight. (The collection of mysterious keys I possess is a project for another day.)

Suggestion: Tackle one large file or a group of files you’ve neglected. Prune and shred! This activity has the advantage that you can get rid yourself of the contents immediately (assuming that your town’s recycling collection is still happening.)

DOWNSIZE WITH OTHERS: Without our normal in-person socializing, many of us are spending more time on social media or on our phones. I have certainly been more active with this blog.

Suggestion: Hold an online downsizing session via Skype or Zoom or some other online platform with one other friend or a group of friends. Decide on a common activity, such as weeding your wardrobe, and getting feedback. Or, share your discoveries, victories, and tips with others on social media. #downsizing #slowdownsizing. Tell people about my blog and other resources you’ve found.

I’d love to hear from you about your own downsizing activities and approaches during the pandemic. You can respond publicly through the comment section, tag me on Instagram (bellebrett) and Twitter (belle_brett), or email me privately at

* The email will not be published on the website.