It wasn’t easy letting go of the things we’ve accumulated over the years and held fond memories and attachments to. Many of the items in our home were emotionally tied to a loved one or a special occasion. Every object in our home had a story. The copper cookware my Mother started collecting after traveling to France in the 70’s. The antique Italian glass grape clusters I hauled around for years until we had the perfect house to display them. The fun mid-century mod chair we bought at our neighbor’s estate sale. The sweaters I knit. How can we bring ourselves to let it go? How could I possibly give up my yarn stash?

There are two things that came into my life that made the downsizing easier. First was the book The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter by Margareta Magnusson and the second was Marie Kondo on Netflix.

I have to admit that I didn’t read Ms. Magnusson’s book from cover to cover but I did glean a couple of things that made the mental preparation of downsizing work for me:

  • Getting rid of most of our “stuff” will make our son very happy when we kick the bucket and he needs to deal with our estate. 
  • Don’t start with the most treasured objects. 

As far as Marie Kondo, I didn’t know much about her method until I binge watched her show Tidying Up With Marie Kondo. One thing I didn’t do with the Kondo method was take all of our stuff and make giant piles and then go through it one-by-one. That sounded exceedingly messy and overwhelming. What Terry and I did do was hold each item and ask whether it gave us joy and if we could see it in our future. If we felt conflicted we kept it. We can always do another purge when we unpack our storage unit. The next overwhelming feeling that we had was the regret of spending so much money on things we don’t use! But that was the past and we had to let that feeling of regret go. In the future we can make more mindful decisions before we purchase something so we can try and maintain our new minimalist lifestyle.  

We don't need to take much with us to our next home

After 38 years of marriage and 3 homes, when it comes right down to it, this is all we really wanted to keep.

We do have a storage unit. It’s not huge. 5 feet by 15 feet. We opted for a climate controlled indoor storage facility so that Terry’s artwork – and our other possessions – won’t get damaged by mildew. It doesn’t cost much more for indoor storage than an outdoor unit and will cost less in the end since we won’t have to throw out artwork, clothing and other valuables that were ruined by the cold and damp. 

We intend to live in a smaller home when we’re done traveling and we have no idea if any of the furniture we own now will fit into our future home so there’s no need to store our furniture except for a couple of coffee tables. Our style next time around will likely be more contemporary so that was another reason to get rid of our more traditional furniture. The same philosophy holds for our accessories; “how will it look in our next home?” “How does this object make me feel?” Conversely, we gave thanks to the things we loved before letting it go. 

Storing Terry’s artwork is a “no-brainer” but it does open up a discussion that a lot of aging artists have, “What do I do with all of this art??” At one time we entertained the idea of offering pieces for bid on social media and if it didn’t sell we’d burn it. Maybe not. Thankfully our son’s walls sport a considerable number of pieces that he’s always loved and some of Terry’s collectors are excited and happy to hang paintings on loan while we’re away. 

Friends and family are a great way of purging furniture. One friend’s daughter was moving into a place and needed bedroom furniture. Score! Another friend loved our wicker furniture and purchased most of it. Our son and his girlfriend are moving into a rental house and will be taking every rug in our house, a sofa and other miscellanea. 

So now we’ve stored what we want to keep, loaned out art, gave away to family and sold some things but “WHAT THE HECK DO WE DO WITH THE OTHER 80% OF YOUR STUFF??!!!” We considered holding our own estate sale but we’ve never even had a garage sale before much less organized and sold an entire house load of possessions. Not to mention watching people rummage through the things we’ve treasured for nearly 40 year, and getting pennies on the dollar for it, would have been exceedingly difficult. Swedish Death Cleaning and Marie Kondo might have helped our downsizing process but it couldn’t prepare us for that. 

There’s the emotional aspect of people going through the things in our house, and then there’s facing the sheer amount of work of hauling, cleaning and organizing all the bits and bobs. The boxes of miscellanea I haven’t unpacked from when we moved to our house 11 years ago; the Christmas decorations that I throw into bins at the end of the season; up and down the stairs over and over again. We think we were feeling more of a mental weight in getting a sale together than we were in giving up our possessions. 

We heard that an old friend worked for a company, Miller Estate Solutions and Services, that evaluates each item in the house and decides if it should go to auction, consignment, online, donation or dumpster. They know the value of things and the best place to funnel it. For donations, we liked that they had connections to local organizations that could use items to help people in transition. There’s a fairly hefty cost for this service (and a commission for items that sell) but for us, knowing that we didn’t have to go through the emotional and physical exhaustion of dealing with all of this ourselves was worth it. In 2 days we came back to an empty house. Priceless.

It was sad to give up things from our past, and regret at the money spent on things that didn’t really serve us, but we knew that the end game would make it ok. And it has. Now that we have fewer possessions, we feel more in control of what we have and we’re able to be more conscious of what we bring into our lives moving forward. Our footprint on the earth is much smaller now and that’s important to us as we move into this new phase of our lives. 


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