Thursday, October 16, 2008

Adventures in Downsizing To A Smaller Life

The biggest barrier to downsizing? Time.

[W]hen I try to imagine permanently moving to something comparably sized -- from our 3,000-square-foot house to a 1,000-square-foot apartment with no garage, basement or attic to absorb the overflow -- I see some hard choices ahead.

While 1,000 square feet is plenty of living space for two people, it's not enough for all the things we own that turned our nondescript house into a real home.

Downsizing to this extent would mean jettisoning most of the artifacts I collected when I lived in Asia, the artwork and family photographs that cover our walls in Ann Arbor, and a lot of furniture. We would have to get rid of about 2,000 books and drastically prune our wardrobes. If the place is anything like this, there wouldn't be room for dressers in the master bedroom.

But judging by our trial run, the hardest and most time-consuming part of a permanent downsizing will not be making daunting choices; it will be sorting through the stuff of everyday life -- clothing, reading matter, work-related material and all the kitchen paraphernalia.

What to keep and what to give away was a deceptively simple starting point that soon became more complicated...

The sorting, tossing, donating and storing process extended over eight weeks.

Read the whole thing.

Ironically, in addition to time one of the other barriers I've found to downsizing is space. What I mean is having a space to spread out, sort, and store things while you're going through the process of elimination. For whatever reason, most people (myself included) find it far easier to accumulate than to eliminate.

I've considered getting a large bookcase/display case from IKEA and a nice file cabinet to help with this process. This would give me storage and organization to move and sort through boxes of books, papers, and souvenirs from my travels around the world that are currently in my parents' basement and in my closet. It would also serve as a nice place to display the stuff I decide to keep.

I'd love to be able to take a few days to a week just to give my stuff a proper sorting but it seems like whenever I get time off, there are other things I'd rather do and/or I get stuck halfway through the process and run the risk of generating more clutter and mess than I eliminate. The trick is to do a little at a time as you have opportunity if you aren't able to tackle it all at once. That's where the space and organization can come in handy. The danger of having extra space is the temptation to fill it up with even more stuff.

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