Downsizing as edit: Creating the “abridged version of yourself”

I’ve been watching, via his Facebook page, the transition of friend and colleague Mario Garcia from his 5,400 square-foot home in Tampa Bay to 800 square feet of co-op living in Manhattan.

Screenshot 2015-02-04 13.13.25His Facebook posts revealed the nuts and bolts of the move as it unfolded. But he’s just posted an essay on the downsizing that reflects the same panache and insight that’s made him one of the world’s leading designers of publications and digital apps.

He begins his story like this:

Everyday is special after you edit your life and live with the abridged version of yourself.

This is a story just about that, and how I learned that you don’t have to wait until the third act of your life for editing your life. There is renewal, practicality and emancipation.

As a visual journalist/designer, I have spent my career editing pages for publication, and more recently for websites, phone and tablet apps.

Nothing, however, prepared me for what I call the editing of my life. Editing the work of others can’t compare to the exercise of dealing with the roles of space, economy and redundancy in your own life.

In some respects, our move from Tampa Bay to Boston was more modest than Mario’s. We left a house in St. Pete that was less than half the size of Mario’s across the Bay in Tampa, and we’d lived there for only a decade vs. the 30 years Mario and family spent in theirs. We both relocated to pretty posh parts of pretty great cities — Mario to the Upper East Side of Manhattan; Carol and I to Beacon Hill just a block from Boston Common.

We do have Mario beat on a couple of fronts. His co-op is certainly historic, constructed in 1929, but just a youngster next to the 1804 structures we occupy at the Beacon Hill Friends House. And while the 800 square feet he now calls home might be tight, our single room measuring 16 by 18 feet renders him but a runner-up in the down-sizing sweepstakes.

Those of you who have visited us might suggest it’s not fair for us to exclude the 700 square foot library that’s across the hall or the spacious parlor and music rooms just beneath us. But in terms of us and and our stuff, our footprint measures less than 300 square feet. Even more than the space, though, it’s been our decision to join an intentional community — more specifically, the 19 other people who share community life with us at BHFH — that has us feeling so good about this move. (Not to mention Kate, Marton and Leila, et. al. living just three miles up Beacon Street.)

Screenshot 2015-02-04 14.02.15I especially appreciate Mario’s discussion of the letting go and the selection — the editing — of a life’s worth of objects and memories. In my case, the winnowing yielded memories, and some tears, that feel like they’ve been restored to a life perhaps too hastily lived.  Like Mario, we took a final walk through our Tampa Bay house, as Carol recalled in our first post to this blog 18 months ago. Like Mario, we remembered important things that happened in those rooms, including the death of a loved one.

Screenshot 2015-02-04 15.23.57Mario has been far bolder than us in one regard. He got rid of his car. Ours is with us still, at the ready right across the street from BHFH and bracketed by the two intrepid hikers pictured above. It’s a part of our lives that’s unlikely to be touched again by human hands until Mother Nature removes every last remnant of the decoration she’s applied with such fury and finesse in recent days.

Judging from the selfies Mario snaps of his runs through the ice and snow of Central Park, I’m guessing that he, too, is finding that even weather described by others as mean and nasty can serve to enlarge a life abridged.

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