Originally posted on Sixtyandme.com
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
From the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu
From my experience I think a major downsizing of your home can seem like an even bigger undertaking than a thousand mile trip. Give me a choice, and I’ll take the trip!
Last year I was faced with moving from my 2000-square foot home with a big two car garage and a very large yard to an 800-square foot apartment with a 46’x46” cage in the basement for storage. Among other things this meant getting rid of about 80-90% of what I owned. Is this a possibility in your future? If so, you’re not alone in feeling the fears and overwhelm such a prospect can bring. You can read all about my emotional journey in my book The Upside of Downsizing: Getting to Enough.
If for the moment at least we decide to trust in the wisdom that has endured since somewhere between the 4th and 6th Centuries BCE, then how can we begin a major downsizing of our home with a few single, perhaps small, steps?
I chose the kitchen because, since I am not much of a cook, getting rid of things in the kitchen was going to be fairly easy for me. I had no “emotional relationship” with any specific pan or utensil. (Having said that, one of the two things I have missed in the last year since my downsizing was my apple corer when it came time to make apple sauce!) What would have been hard for me would have been to start with my books because they are very important to me.
So, we began in the kitchen. At the end of a long day, we had been through the entire kitchen, and had a mound of stuff in the dining room waiting for the garage sale or the donation pile.
Your single small step #1 might be to start with the room or area or closet that probably is going to be one of the easier places for you to eliminate most of whatever is there. If possible, it’s best to take everything out of whatever you’re focusing on at the moment, e.g. a drawer, and then put back only those very few things you for sure need to keep. NEED to keep. Not “oh this might be useful sometime” kind of keep. If this sounds draconian, it won’t feel that way if you start with something that is not so important to you.
When you get done with the place where you started, don’t immediately move on to another place. I didn’t go on to a different place for several days after finishing in the kitchen. Live with what you’re accomplished. Really take in how it feels to get rid of stuff you don’t need. Revel in the empty or open space you have that you didn’t have before. How does that feel? Imagine how it will feel when your whole house is like that!
For many of us, what it takes to really get going with a major downsizing is to have some early “wins.” For me to have wide open, empty kitchen counters was so gratifying! It felt absolutely wonderful. It felt as if I could breathe and stretch. It felt peaceful and free. And when you start feeling some of those ways, the next single step you want to take will seem easier. You’ll find that “getting to enough” is at least as addictive as acquiring more and more and more.
No matter how we get started, downsizing your home can be challenging, or even painful, so consider providing yourself with some extra support. Ask a non-judgmental friend to help you by sitting with you and asking you where you might most easily be able to start. Or consider hiring a coach like myself to help you.
For any of you who have completed a major downsizing, I’d love to hear about how you got started and how it felt. And for those of you who are contemplating such a process, what is the first single, small step you can take?