I went through a major downsizing last year. I wouldn’t have made it through without lots of help from my friends. The very first actual step I took toward what would become a four-month downsizing process was accepting my friend Lynn’s offer to help me do whatever I needed to get done on a chilly, cloudy Saturday afternoon. Now Lynn is very budget and value conscious, which often is an extremely positive and valuable trait. But not when it comes to helping someone downsize. Knowing this about her, I told her that I would very much welcome her help; however, she must encourage me to get rid of things and not try to get me to see all the ways I might be able to use something in the future.
With Lynn and others, I quickly learned that an explanation that seemed to work was this: “I had to make the decision to get rid of this once. Please don’t make me have to make it again.” See the thing is in most cases you acquired something in the first place because you thought it would be helpful, or useful, or pretty or something. And that may still be true. But have you used it? Have you used it enough to warrant its taking up some of your new, valuable, minimal space?
Anyway, she came and we began. The kitchen, actually, was a perfect place for me to start because I have less trouble getting rid of things in the kitchen than in any other room of the house. This will not be true for all of you, and especially not for those who are real cooks, which I am not. So, we got through most of the kitchen in one afternoon, and got rid of lots and lots of stuff.
Oh, I hoped that the whole process had been this easy. I hope it is for you; it certainly was not for me. As time went along it got more and more painful. But at this point I was luxuriating in the feeling of opening up the cupboards, drawers, and counter tops so that my kitchen felt more spacious and much less crowded. It might be worth it to identify the place or places that you think now will be easiest for you to clear out, and begin there so you have some “wins” and also keeps your energy and spirits up.
One of the other times my friends were invaluable was during a garage sale I had after a month or so of downsizing. I had literally mountains of stuff in the driveway and at least as much still inside the house at the beginning of the morning. There is no way I could have handled that on my own. Lynn and her husband Steve came first, and then Martha came with some snacks, and then Corrine came with breakfast for the workers. We never stopped until late that afternoon at which point they piled what was left in their cars and dropped it off at Goodwill on their way home. See what I mean about good friends? It was an exhausting day, and I made quite a bit of money. More importantly I got rid of lots and lots and lots of stuff; didn’t have to pay anyone to haul it away; and kept it out of the landfill for at least a bit longer.
Do you have trouble asking for help from others? Accepting help from others? If you answered even “sometimes” to either of these questions, it’s important for you to look at this carefully before you begin any major downsizing project because it is impossible for most of us to complete such a task successfully without help from at least a handful of people.
In my experience our friends don’t like to see us struggle. They want to help, just as you want to help your friends when you see them begin to struggle. One way to take some small steps toward making it easier to ask for and accept help is to be very clear about what we need help with.
So, get yourself some friends, and decide where you think you’re most going to need their help. Then when they say “Let me know how I can help.” You can quickly say “Well as a matter of fact, what I most need help with is . . .” whatever it is. Good friends want to help, but they’re not going to know what to do unless you tell them.
What do you know right now you’re going to want some help with? Some examples might be getting empty boxes, taking some boxes of clothing to Goodwill, dropping some bags of books off at the local library, bringing you dinner once a week. Keep adding to this list as you think of things. Remember, people want to help, they just need to know what you’d like them to do.
You may find, as I did, that making a list of very specific things I needed help with made it much easier for me to accept and to ask for help. Just try it and see how it works for you.
If you or someone you know is getting ready to go through a significant downsizing, please email me at [email protected]. I’d be happy to set up some coaching calls to help with getting through this difficult time