Category Archives: 101 Reasons to Downsize

Footloose and fancy free!

It’s been 12 days since my house closed and I left for California with a couple of suitcases and a bunch of holiday stuff tossed into the back of my minivan.

The family that bought the house emailed that they’re thrilled with their new home – especially to be moved in in time to enjoy Christmas there.

I keep waiting for the grief to sweep over me, but so far…NADA.

OK, a little twinge when I couldn’t gather greens from my yard for holiday decorations. And a little twinge when I realized that a particular thing I needed was no longer in the second drawer to the left of the stove, but is buried in some poorly marked box deep in the storage unit.

But mostly I feel very light. Light-hearted, light-footed.

The last few days I’ve stayed with an old friend, helping her get her house ready for her extended family to arrive for Christmas. She has a gorgeous home near the California coast, high on a ridge with spectacular views in all directions. Many people would kill to live in a place like this.

But she was not enjoying it. She fretted about getting the tree decorated. She fussed about food preparations. She was in a flap about cleaning the house (to her high standards) in time.  Would the yard person show up? Would the garbage man make a timely pickup? No way just enjoying where she is.

I’ve been there. Oh yeah, have I been there!

But not this year. It wasn’t my house, and it wasn’t my problem, so I just plowed through whatever task she set me to – no big deal. The more challenging the better. I had a blast.

No emotional attachment = no stress.

Must.Remember.This.

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Filed under 101 Reasons to Downsize, Attachment - Vairagya, Emotional issues, Envisioning a simpler life

No distractions = FOCUS!

One of my biggest goals in this downsize maneuver was to re-center myself, to stop feeling so pulled by external responsibilities and the demands of maintaining a big house and garden.

It’s in my yankee nature to be a Responsible Person. But I was responsible for so much that my attention span was more suited to a gnat. Flitting here and there, frustrated that I never seemed to accomplish my own priorities.

Here in San Francisco, staying in my son’s apartment while he’s off at work, I’m able to be totally engaged in what I’m doing – to sit down to one task and complete it, even!

So far, so good.

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Filed under 101 Reasons to Downsize, Downsizing, Emotional issues, Envisioning a simpler life

On schlepping stuff.

So… all that stuff I threw into the back of my Toyota minivan just before I left town Friday?

  • 2 carry-on size suitcases
  • 3 boxes of important stuff I couldn’t live without for two months
  • 3 boxes of essential stuff required for our traditional family Christmas
  • 1 box of emergency stuff for winter driving over the Siskiyou summit
  • 2 boxes of random stuff that sprung out of hiding as I was doing the last minute sweep and cleanup of the house.

All that stuff. (Not counting my dog Molly, who’s staying with friends…)

I must have put it there to teach me a lesson, because it’s already rapping me on the noggin like a zen master  – it will not be ignored.

Yesterday I pulled up to my son’s apartment in the slightly rough Mission District of San Francisco, where he lives in an old Victorian, on the 3rd floor.  After he greeted me, he peered into the back of the car:

“Ma, what IS all this crap? I thought you got rid of most of your stuff!”

“It’s my stuff for the next couple of months.”

“Well, it can’t stay in the car. It’s a recipe for a break-in. We’ve got to take it upstairs.”

So up three flights we humped 2 carryon suitcases, 3 boxes of important stuff, 3 boxes of Christmas stuff, 1 box of emergency stuff, and 2 boxes of random stuff PLUS, for good measure, my traveling craptastic basket between the front seats and the faceplate off my car radio. This left only a couple of rags and a lot of pine needles on the floor.

Unfortunately, this is just the beginning. When I leave for a house-sitting gig in Oakland in a week, we’ll haul all the boxes back downstairs, and then I’ll have to hump them inside again for safe-keeping.  When I return to the Portland area for my next house-sitting gig, the cycle will be repeated.

And so on. I wonder how many more schleps before I learn a lesson…

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Filed under 101 Reasons to Downsize, Attachment - Vairagya, Baby steps

Thank god for ex-husbands who are still friends

My ex has been feeling more anxious about my move than I am, so to calm himself he offered to help oversee yesterday’s Big Move. Stuffing my Stuff into Storage. Squeezing Drusilla’s foot into Cinderella’s tiny glass slipper.

My storage place offers a 16’ truck for such occasions ($20), and my plan was to pick it up at noon so the two strong lads I hired at $25 an hour would be ready to boogie after their morning final exams.

The truck was so huge (to me) and the s-curve of my driveway so challenging that I was grateful Martin could handle it instead. I’d have taken out the mailbox, the rock wall, and at least one fender.

I figured I needed a 10’x20’ space but only a 7×10 and a 10×10 were open, so I took them, negotiating the price down from $173 to $98 for the first six months. (It pays to haggle in the storage bidness…).

Mart decided to put the boxes in the smaller one and the furniture in the bigger one.

The first run was a truckful of boxes. Me taping and labeling straggler boxes as fast as they hauled them off. Carefully noting on top and sides the most significant box contents.  They stuffed that unit to the rafters.

Then came the furniture. I had gotten rid of most of the big stuff, or so I thought. But I forgot about all the chairs and tables. 8 dining chairs, 2 office chairs, 2 living room chairs. A dining table, several side tables, etc. none of which fold well. Mart wove the pieces together into an intricate web of legs – again to the rafters.

Oops! we forgot the oak commode in the guest bathroom.  And what about these lamps? Do the garden tools in the garage go?

It was all done well after dark.  Oh, and it was 18 degrees out. At least it was dry!

Then after the very last few boxes were placed I discovered that the lads hadn’t even noticed my labeling… most of the boxes were placed LABEL SIDE IN.

No way am I going to be going to the storage place hoping to pull out just this one box or that chair. It’s gonna be all or nothing when I need something. Like when I move into my next place, wherever/whenever that’s going to be.

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Filed under 101 Reasons to Downsize, Downsizing, Furniture, Getting organized, Storage

Downsizing my closet, with help.

My well-dressed and ruthlessly honest friend Judi came over this morning to help me tackle that which I’ve been unable to tackle alone… my closet.

I thought I’d done so well this summer when I filled two large bags for Goodwill. But when I thought about squeezing my clothes into a couple of suitcases and a wardrobe box, it was clear a radical clothesectomy was required.

Mostly I dress very casually because I work from home. When I’m not at my desk I’m pulling weeds in the yard or muscles at yoga.

But I do like color, so I’ve got sweaters, tops and scarves in a rainbow of colors that look good on me. Some have the patina of age on them. Some were good ideas worn once.

Judi hauled them all out of the closet and arranged them by color in stacks on the bed. It became clear that I had an over-abundance of tops in certain colors, and an over-abundance of tops with round t-shirt necks which I recently decided are extremely unflattering on a person with an older shorter wrinkled neck. Not naming names.

An article I read awhile back said that we hang onto our clothes for three reasons:

  1. They represent a financial investment we don’t feel we’ve recouped;
  2. We have associations, memories, feelings attached to them; and
  3. We imagine a time in the future when we’ll need or want them.

Since I rarely spend much on an article of clothing #1 isn’t a real problem for me. Nor is #2 (at least in terms of clothes… we’re not going to talk about books, photos, art, vases, paper… ).

My problem is #3 – imagining the future. Unlike so many I’m not hanging on to a wardrobe in four different sizes, because I’ve been a size 6 for decades. But I do imagine a future in which that shade of purple will come back, that shape jacket, that style of bell-bottoms. I imagine a future in which I will be invited to a costume party, a rodeo, the Black and White Ball, a hike in the Arctic, and dinner with Barack Obama.

Judi disabused me of all those fantasies, and long story short, we filled three LARGE trash bags with Goodwill material. Whenever I faltered, she had me try the thing on and look in the mirror. If the mirror didn’t convince me, the look on her face did.

What was left will indeed fit into 2 suitcases and a wardrobe box.  A personal triumph. It will be easier to choose what to wear and I bet none will be missed.

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Filed under 101 Reasons to Downsize, Attachment - Vairagya, Baby steps, Emotional issues, Inspiration & encouragement

My daughter, my angel

I don’t know how anyone downsizes out of the big family home alone. The job is immense and takes five times longer than you could possibly imagine.

My daughter has been here for four days – left her usual job as Household Administrator and Sanitation Engineer in Oakland, California so she could perform a ramped-up version of the same duties with me in Vancouver, Washington.

I kiss the ground on which she walks.

Together we have sorted, tossed and packed unbelievable amounts of stuff.  Evidently my belongings were stored under pressure, because when a cabinet door is opened, its contents explode into a heap fifty times the size of the cabinet dimensions. Kind of like one of those paper-thin sponges when you add water.

I have this thing about like being packed with like. Kitchen pots with kitchen pots. Sweaters with sweaters. Tstchotchkes with tstchotckes. This makes packing a challenge, especially for volunteer help who just want to get the stuff stuffed.

My daughter notes, correctly, that when you pack really heavy kitchen pots you need something light and fluffy to cushion and fill the box so it is still carryable. So I have pots and sweaters in a box, tstchotckes and towels in a box, books and undies in a box.

You get the idea. Like with unlike. The boxes are labeled, but not so specifically that I could actually find the blue sweater without searching through all the boxes in which sweaters may be the only cushioning material.

Boxes are now piled in every room. Goodwill is better off too. I sure hope I have sufficient storage space!

Despite all this concerted effort, when Heather leaves tonight I’ll still have days of work ahead.

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Filed under 101 Reasons to Downsize, Downsizing, Family issues, Getting organized, Storage

Sold one more thing

Garden Way Cart

Garden Way Cart

Baby steps, I tell myself, baby steps.  I posted the cart on Craigslist and probably should have priced it higher because eight people responded excitedly in short order. But the cart has  lived outside for fifteen years and my son had scoffed at its saleability. “Who would want that old thing??? You should pay someone to come get it!”

So I asked $35 for it and could have gotten $50.

If I were to sell, donate, or toss one item a day, I’d be fully down-sized by maybe 2050. Down into my grave, actually.

Perhaps I need to pick up the pace?

Especially motivated since yesterday, when I went on a house tour  in the downtown neighborhood where I’d like to live, once I sell this place…

The Hough (pronounced “howk”) neighborhood is waking up from a generation or more of neglect. Nobody wanted an old Craftsman bungalow from the 1920s, because McMansions were the hot thing around here.

Then the market collapsed.

But now those cute little bungalows are HOT,  people are doing fabulous renovations and the neighborhood is really coming up. Six homes were on the tour and I could have been happy in any of them, though three were really too big.

Between my travel lust and now bungalow lust the motivation is getting stronger. I begin to see that alternatives to my current life could be extremely attractive…

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Filed under 101 Reasons to Downsize, Baby steps, Downsizing, Envisioning a simpler life, Gardening/plants, Inspiration & encouragement, Selling stuff

I’m jealous.

Wy-amtrak1

My25-year-old son mooched off his kindly old mum from October thru May, stashing away heaps of money from his job – like so many autumn leaves in  giant trash bags.

And then poof! He took off for Wylie’s Excellent Global Adventure – to travel in distant lands till his money runs out, or I yank on the invisible apron string I tied to his ankle the night before he left (whilst he slept).

To make his money last, his plan is to work for room and board wherever possible. Right now he’s helping a Swedish family renovate their old farmhouse through the WWOOF program (worldwide opportunities  on organic farms).  He’s strong, smart, and a hard worker (when motivated… i.e. not working for his mother).

Suddenly I’m thinking, hey! Instead of downsizing, why don’t I just sell/store everything and get the hell out of town myself. Way out of town. Far away. I would be an aged oddity at a WWOOF placement, but I sure have done my share of garden work and have the experience.  (Not quite the stamina or strength though…).

I know if I really put my mind to it, I could do it. But first I gotta figure out how to sell this place for a decent price. Oh that.

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Filed under 101 Reasons to Downsize, Downsizing, Envisioning a simpler life, Family issues

“The Joy of Less” – Pico Iyer’s simple life

Lake after the rain passes

Today’s essayist in the NY Times series on “happiness” is Pico Iyer. He calls it “the joy of less…”   which would have been an excellent title for this blog given that my name is Joy. Unfortunately I’m only GETTING to less.  BEING at less is still just an aspiration.

Iyer’s parents are Indian, but he was raised in Santa Barbara, with stints at Oxford and Harvard.  A constant world traveler, he went to Kyoto more than 20 years ago for a stint at a Buddhist monastery. Although that only lasted a week, he satyed on. Perhaps because he has spent so much time folded up in an airplane seat and living out of a suitcase, the simple life is especially appealing to him these days.

I still live in the vicinity of Kyoto, in a two-room apartment that makes my old monastic cell look almost luxurious by comparison. I have no bicycle, no car, no television I can understand, no media — and the days seem to stretch into eternities, and I can’t think of a single thing I lack. I’m no Buddhist monk, and I can’t say I’m in love with renunciation in itself, or traveling an hour or more to print out an article I’ve written, or missing out on the N.B.A. Finals. But at some point, I decided that, for me at least, happiness arose out of all I didn’t want or need, not all I did.

In an interview for Vagabonding.com he spoke of how he came to travel so light:

A few years ago my house burned down, and I lost everything I owned; all my notes, all the books I hadn’t yet completed, all my photos and hopes and letters. And yet traveling helped me see this as a liberation: to live more at home as if I were on the road, to savor the freedom from a past and from possessions, and to think back on all the people I had met, in Tibet and Morocco and Bolivia, who would still have thought of my life as luxurious. Most of the people one meets while traveling deal with more traumas every day than the privileged among us meet in a lifetime. That’s how traveling humbles and inspires.

I know that if I had less to care for and worry about and be attached to, I’d be much more inclined to travel. Heck, my son is currently globe-trotting with nothing but a backpack, his modest savings, and his native wit. Could I (would I?) do that?

Iyer concludes his Times essay:

And yet my two-room apartment in nowhere Japan seems more abundant than the big house that burned down. I have time to read the new John le Carre, while nibbling at sweet tangerines in the sun. When a Sigur Ros album comes out, it fills my days and nights, resplendent. And then it seems that happiness, like peace or passion, comes most freely when it isn’t pursued.

If you’re the kind of person who prefers freedom to security, who feels more comfortable in a small room than a large one and who finds that happiness comes from matching your wants to your needs, then running to stand still isn’t where your joy lies….

I love the idea of such a simple life… but getting the ball rolling seems so hard, like a Sisiphean boulder:

Rock, thy name is Inertia.

Rock, thy name is Inertia.

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How much is my time worth to sell this stuff??

I have listed a bunch of things on-line, which means I had to describe the thing in enticing terms, photograph it, figure out how much to ask for it, and go through the posting hoops.  Time-consuming. Nibbles on most of the stuff not happening.

dscf3117I also made a trip over to Powells Books in Portland this morning with three and a half boxes of great books, sheet music and instructional CDs. They took about 20 books and gave me $74. More time spent. I now have to figure out to whom to give the remaining almost three boxes.

Books and sheet music are sacred things in my universe. A happy home must be found for them. So I’m bringing some to the Friends of the Library and some to our magnet school for the arts. Another trip and another hour to distribute those. Sigh.

As of today I’ve pocketed about $150 for merchandise that probably cost $1,000 new and it took many hours to “earn” it.

Already the take-away lesson is shockingly clear: the value of a purchase plunges steeply the minute you take it out of its wrapper at home — and if you need to sell it, expect little or nothing in return, and expect it to eat away at your time.

Buying something new makes NO sense any more unless you plan to use the thing to death.  It’s much much smarter to buy used if you must have it, or to rent, borrow or share if you need it only briefly.

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Filed under 101 Reasons to Downsize, Baby steps, Downsizing, Envisioning a simpler life, Paper and books, Selling stuff