When someone makes a decision to downsize and declutter, they usually envision it as a project or a list of tasks that has to be done. Believe it or not, using this approach when you plan to downsize to a smaller home can set you up for “downsizing failure”. I know that sounds a bit dramatic, but let me tell you what I mean. As a Downsizing Specialist, I often help people who have gotten stuck in their attempts to downsize. They may have made several efforts to start: gathered boxes, purged closets, hauled stuff off to a donation center. Afterwards, they look around and can’t see or feel that much progress has been made. The list of tasks can be overwhelming, and the work seems to go on and on. This is the first way NOT to downsize.
The second way NOT to downsize is to purge everything quickly in one fell swoop without first sorting through the contents. For some it’s the easiest and least painful alternative when downsizing to a smaller home, or when cleaning out a loved one’s estate. The risk in that approach is that, in their efforts to “git ‘er done”, many emotional ties and life memories are tossed aside. There may be an initial sense of relief when the home is clear of belongings. Most people I have talked with months or years later have experienced regrets with that approach.
Sometimes it’s the items that seemed most insignificant at the time that can bring up a feeling of loss. For me, it was a small eclectic statue that sat on my mom’s piano. I sold it in a garage sale for $8.00. I didn’t take a photo or video of it, and I every since then I have been missing that statue in a heartfelt way, as though it was a piece of my mother. I know several of my clients who chose to move forward too quickly that have had similar experiences.
Instead, see downsizing as a process, a journey of self-discovery, letting go and celebrating. Keep track of your progress in clearing out a closet or a room. When you find something that evokes a strong heartfelt memory, take a moment for a quick photo or video to capture your feelings and memories. My great-aunt’s pie tin was the gateway to so many recollections of family holidays and the source of my love for pumpkin pie. Celebrate every downsizing session, no matter how much or how little was accomplished. And don’t stop – at the end of your downsizing journey is a new life that will reflect the essence of you!