Friday, August 30, 2013

Live Deliberately: Downsizing

The first of the 5 things I did to live more deliberately was downsizing. This is a pretty obvious choice when you're about to move into a 120 square foot house. However, I think that downsizing our lives can benefit us no matter how big our home. So often in our culture we buy large spaces and buy lots of things to fill it up. I know that I did.

When I talk about downsizing I realized that it wasn't just about things. Some of these things were keeping me from really being a part of my own life. They were distractions. Part of our process of downsizing was to determine exactly what things enhanced our lives and what didn't. I was surprised by many of the answers I found.

There is an exercise described in the book Little House on a Small Planet by Shay Salomon. The suggestion is to post a note at the entrance to every room in your house. Each time you enter that room over the course of a week or a month write down what you were doing. At the end of the exercise you will start to see patterns and notice that there may be spaces that you don't even use or that some spaces could be easily combined. If you do notice this it may be time to consider a smaller space.

In our 2700 square foot house in the suburbs of Atlanta we discovered that we really concentrated on three rooms: our kitchen, our entertainment space, and our bedroom. But the split level house had three bedrooms upstairs and one downstairs, three bathrooms, a formal living room, a formal dining room, and a laundry room. We also had a lovely back yard area that we used but not as much as we should have. We turned one bedroom into a library, one into an office, and the third into Piglet's very own room (decorated just for her).

We knew we were uncomfortable in our large home but we didn't precisely recognize why until we did this exercise. We had too much space for our needs.

I won't lie to you; downsizing is not an easy process. It can be downright brutal. We develop a lot of emotional attachments to our things which we translate to be need or necessity. We actually downsized in two stages. First we moved from our 2700 house to an 800 square foot apartment with very limited storage. Then, of course, we moved from that apartment to our 120 square foot house. We had a storage unit when we lived in the apartment and after we moved to the tiny house we could condense again but we still keep some things in our barn. But overall, we have significantly reduced the amount of stuff we own.

There are some practical ways to do this. For us, digitizing was a big step. All of our music, movies, and books are on our digital devices now.

Books are actually a very interesting topic. Books seem to be the single hardest thing for most people to give up. I am here to tell you it is not impossible. I would like to point you to this post on the Becoming Minimalist blog which I believe says it a lot better than I ever could.

Until just a few years ago, books were stacked everywhere in my home. My two huge book cases were double-stacked with volumes ranging from children’s fiction to college text books, and piles had formed next to couches and the bed, not to mention on any available surface. I could not imagine my life without these friends surrounding me – the very thought of letting go of just one was enough to send me hurling at my shelves, attempting to wrap my arms around every book I owned in protection.
The sentimental attachment to stuff is one of the biggest psychological hurdles that we have to get over in the process of downsizing our lives. Trust me when I say it is an important step and it can take the weight of a thousand worlds off your shoulders.

If you are thinking about tiny living or just deliberate living it might be time to start the downsizing process in your own life. 

2 comments:

  1. My problem is finding a small space in which to live. I have very little possessions. Yet here in the Midwest even studio apartments are 700 square feet or more! Every place I have ever lived had way too much space for me. I can't wait until I can find a place where I can legally build a little house and stop living in such large, empty spaces.

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  2. I prefer small homes as they are just simply cozier. Does not make any sense to heat or pay taxes or rent on something exorbitant that you do not need. If you have a partner, of course both of you have to agree. If one is a junk collector, the concept will not work. I agree with Emme that it is harder to find. Living spaces have grown considerably larger since the 70's. They are going back the other direction slowly, as it is difficult to change people's concepts and opinions of what they 'need.'

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