Wednesday, July 21, 2021

You Can Lighten Up Your Life by Downsizing

Sometimes less can be more. Having less stuff can lead to…doing more, traveling more, appreciating more. It can lead to those things because of less expense, less worry, and fewer restrictions.

People downsize (or downscale or whatever word you prefer to use) for various reasons. Sometimes it’s relocating to a smaller abode. Sometimes it’s due to splitting of a household. Sometimes it’s due to an overabundance of belongings. Sometimes we just feel the need to “clean house,” and sometimes it’s a lifestyle change.

My personal downsizing journey came about for all of those reasons. Ultimately, though, the decision was made for me because of a need to move back to the West Coast without the use of any vehicle and into a tiny area. I was able to downscale in stages, and I believe that made the process much easier.

When I moved across the country to get married many years ago, I required a 26’ U-Haul truck and a flatbed trailer to haul my vehicle. During my marriage, I collected a lot more furniture, had a baby, and added a lot of little things that, through the years, added up to a huge amount. When my husband and I separated, I required only bedroom furniture, some kitchen items, and what I felt at the time was the important stuff: personal items, files, photographs, family history, books, movies, my dog’s necessities, organizing helpers, and some special decorative items. That move required a 15’ U-Haul truck—significantly smaller, yes?

The 15' Truck Only Partially Filled
 
Then early in 2016 came a full-scale lightening of my life. I had to be ruthless. I had to decide what was really important. I had to let go. Fortunately, I had three months to place the majority of my belongings with others. Some people are in the position of having to immediately get rid of things without time to think things through. I can’t imagine how stressful that would be. We grow to love our “things” a great deal, and I believe that having to haphazardly leave, dump, or give away those treasures can lead to resentment and regret. I am thankful not to have experienced either. I do admit to still feeling sentimental, though.

I did some reading online to give me ideas, and I feel good about most of my decisions. If you search for “downsizing tips” you will be inundated with articles on how, why, and when to downsize. You may connect with some of the information you find. My hope is that you can use some of my personal experience to make your journey to living with less a positive thing.

The items that ended up going to friends and family are the ones I feel best about. I was able to place many of my books with friends who had a genuine interest in the different subjects. I was able to give all of the furniture and family history to my daughter. I couldn’t find any parties interested enough to buy a couple of collections I had but was able to adjust their importance to me to make it less painful to let them go. I donated a lot to a local thrift store. I found an animal shelter that needed some of my dog’s unused items. I found a women’s shelter that desperately needed clothes and shoes. I thought long and hard about how I was going to get my remaining belongings from the East Coast to the West Coast.  And, because I still wanted to be able to see the things I needed to leave behind, I commenced with what I refer to as, “The largest scanning/reading/shredding project in the history of the world!” (Link to that article is here: Creating a Digital Archive of Your Belongings.)

Just One of the Trips to the Thrift Store
 
I ended up shipping all of the items I didn’t need to keep with me via USPS. I thought back to that time when I rented the largest truck possible to transport the things I believed I needed. Flash forward to five years ago when all of my belongings fit in 13 boxes, one suitcase, one purse, and one dog kennel. My life’s true measure of what I needed accompanied me on the flight west: my daughter and dog.
 
Most of My Belongings Were Shipped via the USPS
 
Traveling was something other people did—people who were financially solvent enough to travel even though they had a home, a family, and animals. I wasn’t one of those people for my entire life. Now, because of being willing to downsize and live a minimalist lifestyle and living with my sister who’s got the means and vehicle, we’ll be free to see and experience places we’ve never been. (Like our 5-month long epic driving and camping adventure up and down California, Oregon, and Washington State. It was over 5,000 miles of encountering beauty and wonder like we've never seen before!) Here’s to letting go of things to experience life!
 
All of My Belongings Fit Neatly in this RV Bedroom Suite...

...and This Deck Trunk!

Whatever the reason you’re considering downsizing, try to give yourself time to consider all of your options. If you have a deadline, don’t wait until the last minute. Things you will need to keep will vary depending on what you’re going to be living in: house, apartment, RV, etc. One way you may determine the need for the items that you are unsure of is to set them aside and live without using them for a while. That way you’ll still have them in case you change your mind. I believe there are ways to keep the memories without keeping the physical item. You will hopefully find living without doesn’t mean not living. All it may take to see downsizing as a positive thing is adjusting your priorities. I wish you the best!

[NOTE: This article has been edited and updated from its origins on my sister's and my camping/travel blog, Over the Hill Sisters.]

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