Liberate Your Life by Downsizing
Oh NO! The horror!
I thought it was the end of the world, as I knew it. Perhaps it was, but it was a good end instead of a bad one. My husband got laid off. He was one of the 7 pastors at a mega-church when the economic downturn caused the church to decide to lay people off. He was the pastor of drama and video ministries, so he began a freelance business doing video for weddings, funeral memorials, occasional women's ministry specials, and the local Rescue Mission. Things were tight but okay at first. Then I needed surgery and my job hours were cut back. Within a year my job was also downsized and we found ourselves in a house we couldn't afford to keep paying for. The bills were mounting and the stress was awful. I really didn't want to loose the house but I didn't want to be homeless either. We found a small apartment that had the perk of allowing us to keep our washer and dryer, so we moved in and put everything else in storage. I hated seeing the furniture, all my art supplies, beloved books, and paintings all stacked in that small storage space. Eventually, I began to see that I didn't need those things as much as I thought I did and we began the difficult journey of freeing ourselves from it all.
Out it goes!
Fun points to Downsizing:
1. My children keep asking if there is something they aught to know… like am I dying or planning on moving out of state, etc.
Keep 'em guessing, I say.
2. The more I give up the better I feel about giving things up.
The first thing was the refrigerator. Okay, it was old and had one broken plastic shelf in the door, but I loved that fridge. It had served my family well, from teenage kids to empty nest to grandparenthood. Now it had to go. Just like Dee Williams talked to her vacuum when it was time to let it go, I had to pet the dear fridge and say I would miss her and thanked her for her faithful service. The Salvation Army man looked at me funny, but it had to be said.
My husband and I had to set up our workstations in the "living room" which is no longer a living room but more like a double artist’s studio. We have two desks with computers, printers, art easel, shelves with video equipment and CD/DVD files. With all this there is not place for a couch or even a love seat. With that in mind, we gave away our couch and love seat and coffee tables. Also, the table lamps had to go. There was no place put them.
What to keep?
3. Rule of thumb: If you haven’t used it, seen it, noticed it isn’t around in over a year, you probably don’t need it. Time to get rid of it.
I have a friend who has been paying a storage bill every month for the last 20 years. Doing the math means that she could have bought a new couch several times over with the money she has been paying to store her old one. An old one, which by the way, is way out of date and style. Why do things have their hooks in us this way? It is a mystery to me.
4. Paying storage to keep things that you aren’t using, probably will never use or need again, isn’t economically smart.
Another friend invited me over one day to look through some of her clothes she wanted to give away. What I found was so amazing that I am still stunned by it. She directed me to not one, not two, but three spare bedrooms where the closets were full of clothes, some with the store tags still on them. Not only that but each room also had another free-standing hanging rack filled with clothes. The question I keep asking myself is, how many clothes does one person need? The store tags proved she had more than she could ever get around to wearing. This reminds me of the short story by Leo Tolstoy called, “How much land does one man need?” In the story the man went through great lengths and physical exertion to get the most land for the least money. In the end he killed himself and the answer to the question: how much land does a man need? Just 6 feet by 4 feet by 6 feet deep. By the same token in the end all I will need is one dress to be buried in. After talking to my friends, I decided I was not going to be one of those people who has been paying good money to store junk for 20 years or one who had more clothes and shoes in the closet than I could ever wear. This made it easier to let go of even more.
5. Knowing someone else is getting good out of it instead of it gathering dust and spider eggs in storage is comforting.
When my husband and I began packing to move into a small one-bedroom apartment, I discovered I had clothes in several closets and wondered how I could possibly get them into one apartment closet. The answer: I can’t. I had to get rid of clothes. The good news: I haven’t missed having several closets of clothes. I had my favorite pieces/outfits anyway. Now, when I get a new piece of clothing, I just get rid of an old piece to make room. What a concept!
As an artist, I had several things that I prized but could no longer keep, like an artist’s desk, a potter’s wheel and spinning wheel. Nice to have when there is room but a burden if you haven’t the space. The potter’s wheel I sold on Craig’s List to a couple who are starting a pottery class experience in their nearby town. I felt good knowing it was going to have a good home with people who were going to use it regularly. I listed my thousands of used books and sold them on Amazon. Awesome to get some return back from them and to know that they are being read by new adoring fans.
6. I’ve said it before: I find I’m twice as happy with half as much. These days it is even less than half as much.
I've written several lenses on giving up and doing with less. I find that it gets easier as you go along.
7. If you really needed it, you can always get another one.
Next to go were the artist’s materials that I used for classes I used to teach to kids. These supplies are perishable. If I let them just sit in storage they would be of no use to anyone. My teaching days may or may not be at an end but they have slowed way down, and it was time to let go of perishable supplies. If I really needed more, I could always go get more for far less than the cost if storing these in some unit somewhere.
Photo credit: Photo of one of my many students during an art lesson.
8. Smaller means less to keep clean.
I can bless my little apartment with a cleaning in less than an hour. Saving time, money and effort. How can you go wrong?
9. Smaller space means less power to heat or cool.
Now that is a HUGE plus where I live. The summers are hot here in the Central Valley of California and the power bill always spikes in outrageous Olympic numbers. Keeping that at a minimum is hardly a sacrifice.
10. Bless others with things that once blessed you.
Giving things away means more than loosening your own grip on things. It means that the THINGS loosen their grip on you. Have you noticed that your don’t own your car, it owns you? With repair and maintenance, constant washing and filling the tank, it becomes a chore you must maintain constantly. When you start to give things away the grip you never noticed before begins to loosen and you can breathe again. Not only that, but someone somewhere is getting use out of those things. Instead of thinking of it as a time when I have to let go, I’ve begun to think of it as a time when people less fortunate can get things they never would have been able to afford before. Those things blessed my life once and now they are blessing someone else. I’m happy for them.
Power of positive shrinking
Smaller is better
11. Like losing weight, losing THINGS is liberating. The best things come in little packages.
You have to understand that losing these things is liberating in a way that is hard to explain. It is like losing weight. You feel lighter, more energetic, unencumbered, and freer than ever before. Do you have things hanging on to you, weighing you down? Is it time to open your grip on things that don’t matter and let them go? Don’t wait for a heart attack to make the decision for you. Time to start now.