Monday, February 17, 2014

Murphy's Law of Downsizing*

* "The amount of stuff you have is directly proportionate to the amount of storage space you have."

OK, so my downsizing story might not be a spellbinder, but it definitely changed my world.

Once upon a time I was on the same treadmill as pretty much everyone else in the free world.  The goal was to have a big house, gold plated this, fancy that, blah, blah, blah.  Whoever died with the most toys won, or so the story went.  Key to the whole scheme was the house.

We were taught to find the biggest one you couldn't afford, then keep looking until you found one a little bigger.

One day about 10 years ago I noticed the shelves in my closet were dusty.  (Who dusts closet shelves?)  As there wasn't much on TV that night I decided I'd do some cleaning.  Everything came out of the closet and it was dusted top to bottom.  Then I started putting things back in and thought, "Why do I have this?  Why am I keeping that?"  

If I hadn't used it or worn it within the last year, out it went.  My Goodwill pile grew and grew until it was larger than my keeper pile.  I found that all my stuff would now fit in one small corner of the closet.  It felt good.

Then I figured I'd go through the cabinets / linen closet in the master bath.  All those old sets of sheets that were there as backups, but were never used?  Gone.  Same with those old ratty towels.  I had stuff under the cabinet so old the labels on the bottles had faded away.  I reduced my stuff by 50%.

I was on a roll.  Over the next few weeks came the other bedrooms, the hall closets, the other baths, the utility, the study, and finally the kitchen.  Whoa, I was living lean and mean!

Eventually I began wondering, "Why do I have this big(ish) house?  Why am I paying all these taxes, and utilities, and mowing and maintaining it all?"  Turns out I didn't actually use but a fraction of what I had.  

Then I met and married K, but she didn't come with much "stuff" so I still felt like we were living excessively.  None of it brought me any more happiness and in fact was just a royal pain in my butt. 

I kept remembering a friend of mine who lived on a 35 foot boat in St. Pete, FL.  He once told me if he brought something new onboard, he had to take something off to make room for it.  That concept appealed to me.  I had developed a phobia of clutter.  

By this time it was 2007, the price of oil was shooting up, and storm clouds were on the economic horizon.  I figured all this would eventually affect the housing market, so if we were going to sell and move somewhere smaller we'd better do it then. 

The "for sale" sign went up and we began in earnest to hard-core simplify.  We kept the furnishings we thought we would truly need, then gave away or sold pretty much everything else, ending with The Mother Of All Garage Sales.

It's amazing what some people will buy.  I was happy to be getting rid of so much junk, while everyone else was happy to be adding to their collection.  "One man's trash is another man's treasure" as they say.

At the end of the day I took the few remaining unsold things and stacked them on the curb with a sign, " haul it, you can have it."  It was picked clean in 15 minutes.

Phase I complete.  (Not's an ongoing lifetime process.)

Next:  From talking about it to doing it.



  1. Mrs. C would go into a coma just reading this! She keeps just enough clutter to be able to navigate from one room to the next. I have been able to get her to toss some things, but it is always traumatic so I learn to accept it.

  2. We're planning a move in fall. We're slowly getting rid of stuff to make it easier. Crap really adds up over the years.

  3. When you move you really realize how much junk you have that you don't need. Most of my excess stuff was books I hadn't read in years and didn't plan to reread anytime soon.

  4. Moving to Europe taught me a lot about this very thing. While there are people here who also feel like bigger is better and become slaves to their mortgages so they can say they have bigger and better- it's not as big as in the US- but it's here.

    I can't wait to

  5. Loved it. I sent a link to SWMBO and to the BRD. Frankly we downsized quite a bit when we moved here from Phoenix but still have way too much "stuff". I'm getting rid of some of it day by day.

  6. I like to think of myself not being a slave to "stuff" and "possessions." I've moved many, many times in my life and always streamlined my possessions as part of the move. But you are correct - it's an ongoing thing, a lifetime battle. We've lived in our current house for seven years now (I'm just realizing now that this is the longest I've ever lived in one place as an adult...I feel a post coming on) and I've noticed that "stuff" and clutter is creeping in again.

    My in-laws' move from their house of 60+ years to a small apartment in a senior housing complex made us aware again that we need to declutter again. It became a sort of New Year's resolution. I'm looking forward to your posts about it. Always appreciate any ideas and tips... :-)

  7. I so wish I could do that! I keep trying to clean out my attic but then I stop myself when I realize that a) most of my "clutter" has very little resale value, and b) I'm not as determined to dump it all as I was when I started.

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. *punted out that previous version....need to do a better job of proof reading*.


    Hey, I think I like this guy.
    Over the years we've weaned ourselves off of clutter. Just can't stand it.
    I've parted with a lot of sh*t over the years. If something can't be found, I'm usually blamed. "You probably threw it out!". To which I reply, "Yup".
    Only once, after I had done a purge in the shed did I discover that I had parted with a certain plumbing item that I then needed. What a tragic situation! Had to spend all of three bucks.