December 10, 2021

The Art of Downsizing—during the COVID-19 Crash.

It all started eating scallops overlooking the chilly yet sparkling James River on a beautiful fall day in Virginia.

We were on our annual pilgrimage to Thanksgiving with my in-laws. The year was 2019.

The man at the bar awaiting our arrival was a childhood friend of my husband. He owned some of the best restaurants in the Richmond area over the years, so we knew the food would be delicious at any restaurant he chose. The conversation we had with him was when the ball dropped.

He had a tiny house for sale. Our interest was piqued. It was always a dream to move back to Richmond—where my husband and I met, married, adopted our first dog, and I graduated college.

Richmond didn’t happen but moving did. We downsized from a 3,500 square foot lake front property to an 1,800 square foot house in Charlotte City limits.

You think you are living the dream. You fill a big house with crap. Every room needs to be decorated and presentable, especially the 1,500 square feet you really do not live in.

Then there’s the pool, the kayaks, the six sets of lawn furniture, dock boxes, boat, two-car garage, and shed—which the new house had none of. We have a 10×10 shed.

Being overwhelmed is an understatement.

In walks the real estate professional with that critical eye, “Reduce your stuff by two thirds, then we can talk about going on the market.”

 F*ck, I just reduced it by five carloads; I cannot give away any more!

Over half of my cherished books were donated to the lovely local Habitat book store I had bought most of them from.

All the clothes we had not touched in a year were donated. I had five black shirts; I could only take my favorite one. I will admit I tried to cheat on the boots, but 14 months after taking up space, they too have been lovingly donated.

The juicer is now serving a family of four rather than just me. Do you want to know how many kitchen appliances you really don’t need? The smoothie maker, the chafing dishes, the wedding presents never touched in 25 years, china all boxed up that never saw the light of day.

Everything in our new house has a place, and we love every single piece. We chose a picture out of 10 because of the memories. Same with the knickknacks, clothes, and dishes.

I gave away potted plants and pictures that hung on the wall. Three-and-a-half bathrooms became one-and-a-half. The foosball table and pinball machine went to a young family who will love them more than I.

Thank goodness our son was entering college. His apartment was furnished with rugs, sofas, coffee tables, lamps, and dishes. He did not want a dresser. Evidently, they are a thing of the past; you shove everything into closets now.

We met a foster family in the parking lot of Habitat. They were thankful to bring that dresser to their loving home for their newest family member. That was one of the best days of 2020.

We filled a dumpster to the brim. We gave away water toys and pool chemicals. We bought a trailer and a truck because my husband could not part with his boat. We rented a 12×12 storage unit; it was full of things we thought we needed.

The CDs, cassettes, and VCR tapes—sold, donated. “Toy Story” and “The Aristocats” that saved my sanity as a young mother went on to the next family.

Our bedroom suite, that I love, wouldn’t fit in our tiny new bedroom. The movers took the bed and a TV, a last-minute decision. The dressers, we may have taken into consideration in the room remodel.

Not too many pieces of the lake house remain here two years later. We had too many “things.” Now, we have the essentials—that are functional.

We were on the market in January 2020. We closed the week that COVID-19 hit the nation. It was scary. Our new house was under renovation for a few more weeks. With two big, black labs, a college student thrown out of the dorms, and only a one-and-a-half bath, we decided to camp out in our new home. Covid had shut down the world.

I still have too many pieces of patio furniture in my backyard. But I love each piece and make sure I sit on each one. Our storage unit is now 5×10, downsized when the price went up. We just put our boat in dry storage, hoping we will use it more next year. If we don’t, that will be sold too.

So, yes, two years later and we are still perfecting the art of downsizing.

Seven reasons I recommend downsizing:

1. Things, objects, hold energy—good and bad. By letting that energy go, you free yourself.

2. Everything has a home—it just may not be with you.

3. Memories held in the singular “right” item are beautiful and strong. Energy is not scattered and weak throughout your house.

4. Sharing (and donating) is caring. If you are not using it, chances are you won’t.

5. You do not need a pot in every size, shape, and material. Your dinner dishes are a “too big” portion size if they won’t fit in the tiny house cupboards.

6. Yes! You only need one black sweater or three pairs of jeans (dressy, casual, and funky).

7. If you love every single little thing in your house, you smile more.

And I love to smile more! What about you?

This piece is lovingly dedicated to my best friend Karen because she is reluctantly trying to embrace the art of downsizing. I cannot wait to see how long it takes her to fill that dumpster!


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