The Slow-Downsizer Returns and Assesses 2018

03 Jan

I note that the last “Slow Downsizing” blog post I made was five months ago. Forgive me, dear readers, for neglecting you.

The date of that last post says a great deal about the pace of my slow-downsizing in the second half of the year. But in truth, I’m amazed that I kept the column going at all in the first half because 2018 was the year of THE BOOK. In September, my first novel, Gina in the Floating World, was published. I’m not sure I anticipated not only what a time-consuming, but also emotionally-consuming task it would be to prepare the manuscript for the publisher and to market it. In addition, in the first part of the year, I made a lot of art, took art classes, traveled, and with my husband prepped our kitchen for a rehab and cleared out the first floor for a full-time tenant.  

No wonder I was out of steam for downsizing by the time the fall came around, with the actual book launch and other events, including two out of town ones, looming over me.  The launch was truly a highlight of my life, and to give it less than my full attention would have been a shame. And that is the way it is sometimes with slow downsizing. You still want to live your life!

But as your slow-downsizing maven, it would be less than honest of me not to do an end-of-year reckoning. So, here goes:

  • Wrote 12 blog posts (averaging one a month, even with the blank months),
  • Read Dostadning (reviewed), Downsizing Your Family Home, The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up (reviewed).
  • Attended a full-day workshop on downsizing sponsored by Harvard University’s retirement association (taken by a friend).
  • Prepped two consignment loads for consignment shop and dropped off another at an additional shop.
  • Sorted through books to donate to our favorite book charity—More than Words.
  • Cleared out all linens and kitchenware from first floor. Because of our kitchen rehab upstairs, reviewed our own kitchenware and eliminated unwanted items. Sent off 14 boxes to Big Brothers Big Sisters as well as several bags of linens.
  • Sold several pieces of my parent’s mid-century modern furniture.
  • Took photos of my my mother’s artwork in a storage unit in prepartaion for deciding what to do with it.
  • Reviewed contents of two desk file drawers and shredded 2011 financial materials and other documents no longer needed.

Not as impressive a list as in 2017 in terms of tasks, but the items we parted with probably took up more real estate. More importantly, I came away with a few new habits and mindsets, which is a part of the slow-downsizing process, kind of like dieting. You can’t just take the weight off; you need to keep it off.

Learn from others: As with any process, it helps to be informed. This year I took the time to read several of the many books written about downsizing as well as attend a local seminar on the subject. Although I don’t generally come away from these experiences with any life-altering epiphanies, each presents a new angle, insight, or resource.

Read what I have: I own a lot of books I’ve never read but always meant to. This year I managed to read at least eight books that have been on my shelves a long time. The only new books I’m allowed to buy are those written by authors I personally know and want to support. I will continue with my reading project and then donate those I’ve finished.

Create a more positive kitchen space: In addition to eliminating some unwanted items, we added some pullout shelves to the cabinets and moved a number of rarely used small appliances to shelves on the back porch. The kitchen counters are now freer of clutter. Overall, with the rehab (new floors, counters, and fresh paint), the kitchen brings more joy!

Wear what I have: In moving our living space to one floor, I now have all my in-season clothes mostly in one room. It’s easier to see what I own and then wear a greater variety of items. This goes for jewelry, too. This way I’ll be able to see what I gravitate towards and try to eliminate things I don’t wear.  So far, this approach is working well.

One in, one out: I made a hard-to-keep rule two years ago—spend on new clothes (other than essentials, like underwear and gym sneakers) only what I make by consigning, and then eliminate one item for each new one I buy, generally by donating these. I find I don’t really enjoy clothes shopping like I used to, but I confess to a small end-of-year spree at my favorite store, taking advantage of birthday coupons and sales. I’ve spent more than I’ve earned through consigning this year but vastly less than I used to. A good habit is to keep track of spending in areas that have been previous sources of accumulation as well as number and type of items.

Have patience and a plan B:  A couple of years ago, I signed up for our local “Next Door” listserve. This summer, I managed to sell two pieces of furniture that my antique dealer furniture guy didn’t want. I also listed a loveseat sofabed that I no longer had room for. It sat on our front porch for months, but I never removed the listing. Five months later, someone wrote to see it was still available. Bring a big vehicle and someone to help you carry it, I answered. It was gone within the hour!  I wasn’t so lucky with the old dining room table. We couldn’t find a place to donate it to, and no one wanted it, even when it was free. Finally, we put it on the sidewalk the night before trash day in hopes it would have a taker. I believe it was crushed with the garbage.

Learn to let go: I said goodbye to some items that had strong emotional meaning—my father’s “bachelor chair,” as we always called it, for one, since he owned it before he was married to my mother. It was an elegant S-bend chair, probably from the 1930s. My husband and I kept it in our guest room. The antiques dealer, who had his eye on it, would call me regularly to see if I was ready to sell it. Eventually, I realized I had no place for it upstairs, and it would have cost me a lot to refinish and recover it. The memory of my father reading in that chair is firmly in my brain. I took some photos and handed it over, along with a black laquered side table and two mid-century modern end chairs that my parents bought new in the 1950s. They all had long and useful lives, first with my family and then with us. I followed Marie Kondo’s practice and thanked them for their service.

HAPPY DOWNSIZING YEAR 2019! What new mindsets have you developed that have helped you move forward with your downsizing?

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