Six Epiphanies about Downsizing from 2017


10 Jan
10Jan

Most stuff ain’t worth squat.  Assume that most of your possessions have no great monetary value. That silver-plated coffee set that might have been a wedding present to your parents? Probably worth nada. We boomers are flooding the marketplaces with our things, and young people don’t want them. Those early paydays of Ebay are gone. And don’t assume that the prices you see listed on Ebay and other auction sites reflect what you can get.  Nor by those rarities that show up on Antiques Road Show.  Of course, there are exceptions, and if getting remuneration is important to you, do the research. Otherwise, keep it if it’s personable valuable to you, or donate it.

Time has more value than money now I have less time on this planet.  When downsizing, it’s important to decide how you want to use that ever-decreasing commodity of time. If I were younger, I might feel differently. I concluded that what little cash I might get from having a yard sale was not worth the number of hours and physical effort it would take to organize one. I consign or outright sell to dealers those few items that may be worth something, rather than advertising them myself on Craigslist or Ebay. I don’t want to be running another business. But that’s me. 

Downsizing goals need to be realistic and workable. I have never been a big fan of BHAGs—big, hairy audactious goals. Too often these result in feelings of failure. Nothing is propelling my downsizing now except for a desire not to leave it until I am forced to downsize (or someone has to do it for me.) I have taken stock of the whole task, writing down all its various components. My own preference is to set bite-size, achievable goals based on what needs to be done and what I feel like doing. My husband has taken a time-oriented approach to his downsizing: four to six hours a week, chipping away at the whole task. Whatever works!

Documenting the process allows me to acknowledge my progress. Even before I started this blog, I took photos of many of the things I recycled, sold, or donated, and I kept track of what I did via a diary and through lists. Because I am working slowly, it is harder for me to see the visible markers of my success. It took several years before I have mostly emptied out my share of the attic. My documentation efforts remind me that I am moving in the right direction. They keep me from dwelling on what I haven’t done yet. In addition, my records let me see how I am spending my time. Thus, if a task is taking longer than I expected it to, I can either allow more time for that task or review my approach and mindset.

Going public keeps me honest. With this blog and my regular announcements of a new post, all my friends know I am downsizing. I have declared publicly the importance of this activity to me, and now I need to stick with it. I write fiction, too, and for a long time, only a few people knew I was working on a novel. I knew that if I mentioned it, people would ask me about it regularly, and I wasn’t sure where I was going with it. Once I started telling people, I felt I had to follow through, and I am happy to report that in Fall 2018 my novel will be published. With sharing, whether with one other person or the whole world, comes accountability, and accountability spurs action.

Everyone’s downsizing journey is unique.  Since I started this blog, I have been hearing from friends about their own downsizing stories. Some people have basements full of old furniture that they can dispose of with one or two hard weekends of work. Some have shelves of books they can’t part with. Others focus on capturing family history for posterity through photos, letters, and other documents. Yet others don’t know what all the fuss is about---they either never accumulate or part with their possessions with ease, as though they were snakes shedding their skin annually. Each of us will approach the task of downsizing differently, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from each other, consider what is helpful, and be open to new ideas that might break challenging patterns of behavior.

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