The Rules of Dis-engagement

The very best thing we did as a couple in the process of downsizing was to talk about it before it began. I think it was the vital piece of making this process successful.

MP and I agreed that we wouldn’t give input on what the other chose to keep unless asked. If there was something that held value to one or the other of us, it stayed and needed no explanation. That was a great way to start the process because I knew there would be no pressure from him and no need for me to try to make him understand my choices. And it didn’t leave either of us with feelings of resentment for having been ‘made’ to get rid of things. I would highly recommend that agreement if you’re thinking about downsizing. It takes trust that you’re both on the same page but it alleviates a lot of stress if you can make that commitment to each other.

After we talked, one of the first things we did was rent a small storage unit as a place for the few unknowns to go, like the kayaks. We went through closets and donated clothes that were either out of date or didn’t fit or we no longer liked. I took 20 purses to the Idaho Youth ranch along with 15 pairs of heals I hadn’t worn in years. MP took shirts still in their dry cleaner bags and slacks that had more pleats in the front than a curtain. We took kitchen gadgets and stacks of dinnerware. Somehow I had ended up with 25 champagne glasses…I mean I love a good mimosa, but that is A LOT of champagne glasses.

Then….we had a garage sale. And the deal was, whatever didn’t sell went straight to donation. It motivated us to sell so we didn’t have to haul it!

I’m not going to say it was all easy. I let items go for penny’s on the dollar and for a numbers girl, that can be a tough pill to swallow. But I knew items were going to someone who wanted them or would use them. I had to let go of my emotional attachment to some items that quite frankly, I just liked.

We sold all of our furniture except our bed, my art desk and MP’s work desk. We sold some items that were bought specifically for the house to the new buyer and then we donated some more.

Up until then, it hadn’t been too hard.

The real emotions came when I had to make decisions about sentimental items. My grandmothers china, items made by my kids. Photos.

I did a lot of reading during that time. I found some great articles online about emotional attachments to things and how to live smaller. One of my favorite podcasts about minimalism is The Minimalists and they have a blog that I have mentioned before specifically about sentimental items that really gave me some clarity. My other favorite blog regarding FIRE and downsizing is Middleagemark.com. He has a great perspective on the same journey. 😉

And I made decisions relatively slowly. I rarely decided the very first time I picked precious items up or looked at the really important things. I would spend a few hours or sometimes a few days deciding what stayed and what got donated. I would often pick up the items and hold them in my hands, remembering who gave them to me or a memory of its use. I used Marie Kondo’s approach and thanked each item for the gifts it had given me. And I reminded myself that I was not getting rid of the person or the memories. Just things. I would always have the memories and events with those I love. I even took pictures of a few items.

And then, I let a lot of things go.

Sometimes I drove home very quietly.

And that’s ok.

I knew I was doing the right thing when I had decided to keep an item my grandmother had made for me when I was 6 or 7. I took it to our new place and planned to store it in my closet. I sent her a photo of it, thinking it would be a fun memory for her too. Sadly, at 94, she doesn’t remember it. I was only going to keep it to honor her, when in reality, honoring her is in my heart, not in a wall hanging she doesn’t remember making. It was a good lesson about why we keep things. I donated it so another young girl could have a Holly Hobby on her wall.  Gran will like that when I tell her even if she doesn’t remember making it.

I won’t go into everything we donated or kept, but I will say I opened three boxes I have hauled around for 30 years only to find my report cards from 3rd grade and some hand turkeys I had made around the same age. Sigh…  what a waste of space, time and energy.

Our journey may not be your journey. You may have kept things I didn’t or visa versa. Each person has to be ok with their decisions. I am. I have no regret. I don’t remember people less because I don’t have things they gave me or pictures of them. My love for them is not diminished. Just the stuff that filled my closets and corners.

So, talk to your other before you start and lay the ground rules. Then, just start. Do the easy stuff first and remember there is no right or wrong. Everyone gets to do this their own way. And that means you too.

What is your story of letting sentimental items go? Maybe you’re still working on the smaller stuff. That’s great! I hope these thoughts help you through the process.

Let’s talk again soon.

~rache