Tag 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?

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

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

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

I’m OUT! and gone.

I thought I could finish packing and cleaning in three or four hours on Friday, so I could head south before noon – but the piles of crap were like mushrooms after a rain and more grubby corners kept revealing themselves.

Even with all my ex’s cleaning assistance, I didn’t finish till 3 – and could have gone on longer if the eager new owners hadn’t pulled up in the UHaul and told me not to bother with washing the floors, etc.

Those last few minutes locking up the house for the final time were hard. I cried.

A wiser person might have stayed in town one more night to recuperate from the strain and get a fresh start in the morning, but I’m not that person.

I drove out the driveway and kept on going… up 78th and onto I-5. I was headed for the holidays!with my kids in California.

Never mind that rush hour was beginning and I fed right into a traffic jam all the way through Portland, making for a getaway with all the drama of a morning commute. I didn’t care – I just needed to get out of town.

By the time the traffic thinned my spirits had lifted and I imagined myself making it at least to Medford before quitting for the night, up and over the Siskiyous in the morning and on into SF by supper.

Right.

A little south of Salem it began to drizzle. Traffic slowed to a crawl. Then my car lost its connection with the road – and I began to skate. It turns out that the week of 20 degree weather made the ground so cold that when the rain hit it, a sheet of black ice formed instantly. Thank god the road was dead straight because staying on the road was challenging enough at 15 mph.

I decided to bag it in Eugene with dear old friends if I could just make the turnoff. Miraculously the off-ramp and Eugene streets were clear and Christine and Bill plied me with champagne and cracked crab to celebrate my exit and safe landing.  The gods were definitely smiling on me.

When the streets thawed (after a tasty lunch – thanks guys!) I got back on the road and made it over the  Siskiyous before the next spate of bad weather rolled in.  Still, it was seven hours on the road today and my butt is sore.

What amazes me is how serene and blithe I feel. I know I did the right thing by selling, and even though the next step has not yet revealed itself to me it’s ok.

As Christine pointed out last night, this is the first time I’ve not been responsible for someone or something else. No kids, no pets (for the moment anyway), no house, no yard, no spouse, no official job…  just space and options.

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Filed under Baby steps, Emotional issues, Envisioning a simpler life, Inspiration & encouragement

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