Category Archives: Downsizing

Eating my words: I want to go home!

I loved the idea of being footloose and fancy free, of downsizing to so little Stuff that I could live happily in a carefree studio apartment or tiny cottage with just a handful of my most special Things around me.

I loved the idea of being so unshackled to Home and Stuff that I could pick up at a moment’s notice and go to Italy, India, or indeed Indianapolis. Well, maybe not Indianapolis. But wherever the whim wafted me.

I thought house-sitting for others would also be a workable option. Take care of their pets and plants in exchange for a place to stay.

The house-sitting thing hasn’t been so great though. In turns out that I’m still a nester at heart. My own nest. It’s one thing to live out of a suitcase when you’re traveling, as I was for a month.  But when I returned to the community I call home, I re-entered the world of obligations and responsibilities. Where were my files? my printer? easy internet access?unrumpled clothes?

Worse, I didn’t enjoy cooking in someone else’s kitchen without my favorite knife or Caphalon skillet. I missed my radio and CD collection. I worried that my cat would scratch their favorite chair. I wanted my own bed. In short, I was getting crabby.

In the nick of time I fell in love. With a house.  A darling Craftsman, built in 1926, updated in 2002. Great walkable neighborhood, close to everything. Many friends nearby. It is 30% smaller than my last house, and the yard is about 1/5 as big.

I made an offer, they countered, then I countered and they accepted. I move this weekend.

The amazing thing is that most of the furniture that I saved from my former house fits beautifully here. In fact, I’m having to retract some of the furniture I’d planned to give my peripatetic son, because I will have a second bedroom for guests after all.

So… I’ve gotten to a lot less, but not as LESS as I originally intended. My excuse is that one must ease carefully into these transitions…

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Filed under Baby steps, Downsizing, Envisioning a simpler life, Rent or buy?

Living out of a few boxes ain’t so easy.

All my stuff is in a storage unit except for: 2 suitcases, 2 boxes of files and office stuff, a box of random kitchen & bathroom stuff and a box of books. Oh, and the laptop on which I write.

Since I’m house-sitting for two different friends till mid-February I don’t have to worry about a bed, a refrigerator and the other necessities of civilized life.

But already I’ve had to trowel into the bowels of my storage unit, seeking this or that particular thing that I suddenly need and I KNOW IS IN THERE SOMEWHERE. But damned if I know in what box it lurks.

You see, in the throes of moving you simply can’t label every single thing that goes into each box. Where is the lined cutting mat I need in the design class? The sketch pad ? I must have a gazillion partially used pads tucked away — did I pack them with office stuff, art stuff, sewing stuff, random stuff?

And where is the white blouse my volunteer usher gig requires?

A friend suggests that every time I open a box and don’t find the thing I’m seeking, I write on the box for next time: “sketch pads not in here…” “no white blouse inside”.

I eventually found the white blouse, but I ended up buying yet another sketch pad.

Sandra Tsing Loh may enjoy living peripatetically, but it’s wearing thin for me.

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Filed under Baby steps, Downsizing, Envisioning a simpler life, Getting organized, Storage

I’m not the only writer living out of her car…

The current issue of The Atlantic Monthly has a piece by Sandra Tsing Loh, “On Being a Bad Mother,” which features a description of her “mobile home” – a paper-filled Volvo station wagon:

I am bad because after a domestic partnership of 20 years, when my kids were still elementary-school-age, I fell in love, had an affair, admitted it, and quite deservedly got tossed out of the house on my ass. Currently between homes (my earthly belongings reside in a 10-by-10-foot windowless U-Haul storage unit whilst I alternately house-sit, pool-sit, and cat-sit), I furtively park at the curb of my former home for an extra few minutes after dropping my kids off and, with my laptop, I steal wireless. Approaching 50, I am living a life that is less sunlit Waldman/Chabon than tattered Charles Bukowski.

My situation is less grimly colorful, thank goodness. I am peripatic by choice, not bad behavior. My Toyota minivan has space for more crap than a Volvo station wagon (I know this from experience… I had a VSW, in my “good mother” days). Plus the Toyota’s windows are darkened so passersby can’t see the crap.

Finally (neener neener NEEner, Sandra), my storage unit is almost twice as big. Though this may not be a plus in my favor.

Like Sandra, I am house-sitting, pet-sitting, and wireless stealing while I figure out what’s next. (No pools to sit where I am…).

The downside of living out of a couple of suitcases during the holiday season is that my meager wardrobe seems always to be one garment short of the perfect outfit. Sneakers with velvet pants, thin rain slicker over a little black dress when it just snowed. The slacks are right but the top is hopelessly rumpled.

It would help if I stayed long enough in one spot to hang my clothes in a closet. My next house-sitting gigs back in the Portland area are three weeks each – remind me to empty those suitcases.

And Sandra, why don’t you and I make a New Year’s resolution to get our cars (homes) detailed next week… We’ll both feel so much better.

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Filed under Downsizing, Envisioning a simpler life, Storage

Goodwill for the homeless?

I don’t need to look far in San Francisco so see what homeless looks like here. Several homeless people camp outside my son’s office in the Mission District. Matted hair, dirty face and hands, worldly possessions stuffed into a garbage bag stuffed into a shopping cart pinched from Safeway.

In the past month of radical downsizing I delivered to Goodwill the equivalent of a dozen shopping carts-full of perfectly good clothing and under-used household goods.  And several more cart-full equivalents to other local charities.

What does Goodwill DO with all that stuff?

I had washed and neatly folded the sheets, blankets, and quilts. I tried to pin, tape or tie shoelaces together, pants and jackets of suits, lids and pots, so that they would actually be useful to someone.  However when I got to Goodwill the man placed anything that seemed hard (shoes, pots etc) into one bin, and tossed everything soft into a bin marked “fabric”.

Suddenly I remembered that my friend Kristen goes to the Goodwill outlet (can you believe, even Goodwill has an outlet!) and pays something like a dollar for five pounds of fabric (which could be anything from perfectly good sheets, sweaters, kid’s overalls, to rags).  She uses it for various forms of fabric art.

I wanted to snatch back the quilts and blankets. Hey! That could go to the guy on Ethan’s corner who sleeps under pieces of cardboard.  Even if that sweater was a little “tired” (as Judi called a few of my clothes) and beyond reselling, it would keep someone on the street warm on a winter’s night.

If you go into a Goodwill these days, you’ll see that they have quite a retail operation going. In fact in my town alone there are at least two “Goodwill Superstores.” Salvation Army is another that has expanded mightily – but I don’t donate to them because I don’t appreciate their missionary zeal.

If I’d had more time and energy during the downsize process I’d have researched the most direct and cost-effective places to get my good stuff to the folks who need it most. Goodwill was close by and easy.

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Filed under Downsizing, Emotional issues, Resources, Spiritual lessons

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

Costs of selling a home mount up

Yesterday I did the deed. Or more accurately, I paid Chicago Title a queen’s ransom to do the deed. For them to guarantee that there were no liens against my property I paid more than $1,500.  I also paid the realtors (mine and the buyers’) a commission of $21,000 and (state and local excise) taxes of $7,500.

In other words, it is very expensive to sell a house. Nobody mentions this when you’re in the lustful phase of buying a house. When you sell all those fees you avoided up front as a buyer come back to bite you. Too late you realize they should be figured into any profitability equation.

The pain in my purse would have been less if home prices hadn’t plummeted in the past couple of years.  To console me, my realtor brought a bag of handmade chocolate-coated toffee to the signing.

Ah well, what’s done is done.  I loved the house, I loved transforming it into a thing of beauty and functionality, I loved living there. The money I lost is just the money I lost.

Right now the house is empty but for the stuff I plan to carry in the car during a two-month stint of staying at other people’s house. So today is about packing the last remnants and final cleaning.

Here the kitchen looks as pristine as the day I finished the remodel.

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Filed under Attachment - Vairagya, Downsizing, Envisioning a simpler life, Rent or buy?, Selling stuff

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