We have a long history of trying to get rid of things. While we’ve made some progress over the years, we never seemed to get on top of it.
Deciding to move into one 16 by 18 foot room in a community forced us to grapple with our relationship with things in a much more radical way. Both of us are a little sentimental and have pack rat tendencies. We never bought things just to decorate the house. Rather, our house was decorated with things that had meaning for us – mementos from trips and times together with family and friends, gifts from people we love, things we inherited from the households of our parents. And then there were the books! And the art on the walls! Sorting what to give away, what would go into the room with us and what would go to storage invited us to struggle with how much we need, what we value most and what role stuff plays in our lives.
The furniture was easy. Our room would hold a queen-size bed, two dressers, two desks, a love seat with foot rests, a couple of bedside tables and some bookshelves. We put a little bit of furniture that belonged to our parents in storage for when we leave this house. The rest was donated or sold. Here’s what was hard: books, art, knick knacks, files and gadgets (Bill) and craft supplies (Carol). What’s crammed into our room and the storage unit reflects what was hard.
In the end we gave away far more than we kept. Some of the letting go hurt at the moment. What helped was trying to remember that everything we have comes to us as gift. It is ours to use for a while and then needs to get passed on. Focusing on giving things to others rather than giving things up shifted the energy. For those things that we valued most we tried to find the people who would most use/need/appreciate them. Probably the most fun we had with it was during our going away party. We invited each person to pick something they would like to have. There was joy in seeing what they picked and in knowing someone else would enjoy what we were willing to let go of.
The best surprise and biggest learning was that as things left our house we felt lighter, freer, happier. So far, we haven’t missed a single thing we gave away. That feeling of lightness makes us want to explore letting go of more things. Despite the radical downsizing, we still have work to do.