When Opportunity Knocks

22 Jul

I haven’t been in downsize mode lately, and I apologize for not writing a blog post recently. But in just over a month, we will occupy a slightly smaller living space when a full-time tenant moves into the downstairs apartment of the two-family house we’ve owned for more than 22 years and used for our businesses. For the past six months, we’d rented it furnished. Recently, we had to remove all the furniture and contents to prep it for painting and floor refinishing.

It’s not just the tenant’s impending occupancy of the rooms that have been causing a new impetus to get rid of things, but our decision to “refresh” our own kitchen and bathroom.  This “refreshing” (painting, new floors, new counters, and a thorough cleaning of the insides of the cabinets) required us to empty out all the cabinets. What we didn’t need in our temporary accommodations downstairs, which already had pots and pans and dishes, we deposited on the dining room table or put in crates or bags without much sorting due to time constraints. But. as we removed items from their homes, we found things we’d forgotten we owned and probably didn’t miss. There were a few whose purpose stumped us!

Within a few weeks, we had clean cabinets and drawers, fresh paint on the walls, and a sparkling new countertop that we wanted to keep free from clutter. When the moment of refilling the cabinets came, we had an opportunity to critically review each item before putting it back. We now understood Marie Kondo’s rule of spreading in front of you all your items of a certain type (i.e., kitchen items, clothes, books) and deciding what to keep rather than what to eliminate. I can’t say we applied her “does it bring us joy?” maxim, but we did ask ourselves the following questions:

  • Do we have just one of this item (if one would be the norm, such as a potato masher) And if not, do we need more than one? (small, sharp knives, for example, and wooden spoons—need lots of both). For glasses and dishware, just how many are necessary?
  • Do we like it?
  • Is it still functional? (no chips, parts all there)
  • Have we used it in the last year?

If the answer to any of these bullets these was “no,” then the goal was to part with it, as it was not serving our needs. The exceptions allowed were items that were truly sentimental and brought immense joy (though these will need to be revisited over time, too—does a joyful item stay hidden and unused?)

This activity is easier said than done. The timeline question (“have we used it in the last year?) is the one most of get hung up on. I almost never bake, but I have a number of baking items (baking tins, rolling pin, flour sifter). Do I keep these in case I get a sudden urge to make a cake or muffins, or my niece, who does bake, comes to visit? Perhaps I can store these elsewhere?

I am happy to report that we did pare down the mug collection, throw out outdated medicines, consolidate collections of similar items that were scattered in various parts of the kitchen, and relocate items according to frequency of use. Some of the cabinets even have a bit of space left. In addition, we have a tidy pile of dishes, pots and utensils awaiting donation.

Moreover, we managed to sell through “Nextdoor” (nextdoor.com) four file cabinets, a large sofa, two end tables, a coffee table, and two pieces of my parents’ old mid-century modern furniture that had seen better days.  A few pieces of furniture still await new homes. (Mid-century modern black-lacquer dining table with two leaves, anyone? Badly needs refinishing, but sturdy otherwise.)  Three rooms in the future tenant’s apartment now have empty, shining floors.

Had opportunity not knocked, I’m not sure how quickly we would have simplified this part of our lives, but we pat ourselves on the back that we answered the door this time.

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