Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Downsizing for cowards

You may or may not be aware that I moved recently. Actually I still consider myself in the moving-in and settling process.

Moving always forces the issue of what to keep and what to pitch. Moving to smaller quarters without the benefits of an attic or basement or garage pushes the issue of decluttering even further; especially if getting an extra bedroom or a rental locker is not an option.

However, a reduction of stuff is not the only issue in my current process of downsizing and decluttering (really it never is). So I have chosen (to borrow an idea from Christine Kane) an imperfect program for decluttering my new home. Choosing to do this imperfectly will help me work through the issues of sentiment, value and fear while I reduce my collection of boxes and increase my livable space.

I have broken this into six action points but feel free to use what you like and leave the rest:

1. Try not to move anything that is truly worthless – either it has no usefulness, or it isn’t sentimental, or it’s junk. If you can’t decide then move it and decide later; don’t get stuck on a decision, just keep moving.

2. Try to create some order to the “box city” in the new place. Either group things by room or by category but put like boxes and things together. Seeing things with their cohorts in the new place often triggers a decision that eluded you earlier.

3. Accept that this is not a once-for-all event but a longer process (for me 1-2 years). Because this is not just about getting rid of the most stuff in the least time some concessions must be made:

  • - hiring an arbitrary professional declutterer isn’t an option because “arbitrary” won’t work
  • - the new place will not look like a magazine cover as quickly as you might like
  • - mistakes will be made; as a back-up take a picture and write about any significant items discarded
  • - make some living space in each room while disguising stuff still to be sorted, keeping in mind that stuff in the way will serve as a reminder to work on it

4. Expect that this will be hard. On its own decluttering decisions are hard and emotionally wrenching, add to that the stress of the circumstances leading to the move and/or declutter and the difficulty increases exponentially.

5. Find a way to move past the emotional hook that the history, or your life, will disappear with the stuff you get rid of. The question really comes down to this – do you only want to maintain a museum to the past, or do you want to have things that enhance your present or future living?

6. Be accountable to somebody that you are making regular significant progress and being responsible with things you decide to discard.

This is post #9 in a series of discussions about life in transition.

The series:

1. Mommy tracking

1a. Exit strategy

2. Dreams

3. Net worth

4. Women and Self caretaking

5. Second-life Woman

6. Journals, Journaling and the Journey

7. Not started; or just never finished

8. The miracle of courage: getting started

9. Downsizing for cowards


1 comment:

chelle said...

Moving is so totally hard. Decluttering can be totally freeing too!