Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Downsizing, how to

Barbara Anne commented on a previous post about me divesting myself of "things" and how did I do it. I'm not good at advice, all I can say is that I have made several major moves over my adult life and each time have had to sort through and pack up everything. On two occasions the cost was covered by someone else so I didn't have to worry about how much to move, but my last move from the west coast to Toronto had to be done within a very tight budget so I spent a couple of months sorting, reducing and packing. For two months that's all I did. It certainly was not easy, having to get rid of stuff after many years is painful. But I was kind of gearing up for the process for more than a year beforehand, thinking about it and talking to friends about it and wondering where the heck to start. It just looked impossible. But eventually it came down to realizing that I was stalled, I could not move forward in my life until I sold my condo, and I could not sell it and move out until I had reduced the pile of "things" to a much smaller pile.

Another friend of mine faced the same dilemma recently, she also did not know where to begin and was putting it off as an impossible task. But eventually she too came to the same realization I did and then was motivated to start. So I suppose the secret is to be motivated, to have a darn good reason why you need to reduce the pile. Even after completing the move I still felt I had not purged enough, I still have way more stuff than I think is a good idea. In Toronto I have a large closet, more than eight feet wide, full of clothes I never wear but cannot bring myself to get rid of. You just never know when an occasion to wear something one more time might arise! Even coming to Nova Scotia for a few months, I brought much less clothing but still I bet half of it I will never wear here. On the other hand there are some books that I purged that I wish I hadn't. I try not to think about that. I admit that since that last purge I have begun to acquire more stuff, mostly yarn and books. I am not too concerned about the yarn, it will eventually all get used up, but the books might be a problem.

When the movers looked at my pile of stuff to move across the continent, they told me that my books were going to be the most costly part of my pile of stuff to move. It cost me roughly a dollar a pound to move my belongings, I'd have been better off keeping more furniture and getting rid of more books. That is a big dilemma, it's really hard for me to part with books, and I still regret the loss of the ones I did manage to get rid of. But I survive the loss, I don't mourn interminably. So I guess that is the only advice I can pass on: yes it hurts to lose stuff that has sentimental value, but you survive it. And I think it is easier to deliberately divest than to lose it accidentally or through theft.

Here's a funny story about losing stuff: on a previous move from a house to a condo a few miles away, I moved everything myself in my truck. The last truckload was all the left over odds and ends, not properly packed because this was the last load and I was impatient to get it over with. So on the highway headed toward the condo, I happened to glance in the rearview mirror in time to see a small box  sail out of the back of my truck and land in the ditch on the side of  the highway. I was going too fast and there were too many cars behind  me to pull over, so I just kept driving.

When I arrived at my destination and unpacked the truck, I could not  figure out what that box contained. There was nothing obviously  missing. Over the next ten years of living in that condo, every time  I couldn't find something I wondered if it was in that mystery box  sailing out of the truck. But mostly I eventually found the missing  item so I still don't really know what that box contained. Whatever  it was, it wasn't important.

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