Downsizing and Letting Go of Stuff
This article was originally featured on www.styleblueprint.com in February 2018
Our two sons were finishing college when my husband of 30 years accepted a new job. All was good, except for one tiny detail. This position was located 780 miles from our home. All our stuff – literally and figuratively – was in Houston. A home filled with the accouterments of raising our boys. Plus 20 years worth of friendships, history, comfort, and security. My life was in Houston, and I was staying put.
Each Monday morning my husband headed to the airport and his office in Nashville, and I plugged away with my commitments at home. Besides my volunteering and consulting and golfing and dog walking, I kept things running around our charming, older home. The sort of house with lots of bedrooms, gigantic oak trees with falling leaves, and plumbing and electrical systems needing repairs on a very regular basis. When hubby returned on Fridays, we spent the weekends catching up with friends and schedules and chores, and then it was time to start the cycle all over again.
Every few weeks, I packed my own suitcase, boarded our pup, and traveled to the tiny condo he called home five days a week. With only one bathroom counter and sink, his toiletries and my hair products shared the same cupboard for the first time in 30 years. Since the bulk of my wardrobe resided in another city, dividing the closet space wasn’t as painful as I feared. Having a single bedroom and television to retreat to, we spent a lot of time really and truly connecting. The size of the condo forced us together in a tender sort of way.
Sharing the tiny condo within walking distance to restaurants and a university, we both began to feel like we were, kind of/sort of, dating again. We cooked meals together in the cozy kitchen and ate dinner overlooking our twinkling downtown view. On many evenings, we walked for ice cream – or a glass of wine. We read books in the same room, we watched movies on the couch, we had meaningful conversations and engaged. Without as much stuff to manage and handle, we had more time to play and have fun.
The decision came about in a gradual and gentle way. I grew to crave the condo’s simple surroundings with fewer distractions and obligations. I suppose, with less around us, I enjoyed our time together in a calm and relaxed fashion. When I looked closely and honestly, I realized I was tired of saying good night over the phone from our beds in separate cities. It was time to let go of the home where the kids played football in the front yard and basketball in the driveway – and I was ready. Was I sure? I was.
Setting the wheels in motion, we attacked our home of 20 years with a vicious sense of purpose. To prepare for passing it on to its lucky new family, we sorted and purged and donated and sold. Gone went the dishes and linens and vases we didn’t use or even really like. I finally parted with the holiday decorations I shuffled around every season but never actually displayed. Our kids came home to cheer us on. There were a few tears, lots of smiles and fond memories. Although I’d been warned they wouldn’t want our old stuff, it still smarted when they left with very few of our precious treasures.
I learned letting go of objects, like attitudes or thoughts, can feel good. But it’s hard to release your entire life all at once. Not ready to let go of them in Houston, we loaded plenty of items – wedding crystal, a gold mirror, a bunch of wicker baskets, old dog collars – onto the moving van. After paying to ship them, we placed many things in the “donate” pile as soon as they were unpacked. I had to wait for the time I was ready to part with them.
Two years later, we are still living in our little Nashville condo. Not once have we said “we wish we still had this” or “we shouldn’t have gotten rid of that.” Almost every day, I look around at the lack of clutter and the organized space and chuckle to myself. We are surrounded by all the things we love, and we say “yes” to more now. With fewer to-do lists and home maintenance projects, we are free to travel and explore.
Friends sometimes give me that – what are you doing? – look. And I get it. I often ask myself the same question. Sometimes it just doesn’t seem right that we should be so content in this space. Our adventure definitely includes pros and cons and adjustments. We’ve had to devise some new and special ways for our family to gather for holidays. Entertaining involves challenges and planning. We have no room for overnight guests. But, somewhere under all the stuff, we found what we needed. And, for now, it’s working.
The goal for this year? Set aside a rainy day or two, and tackle the last of our three storage units. It’s full of those final items we paid to transport to Nashville – and have been paying to store ever since. The remaining items we have completely forgotten about but couldn’t bear to part with earlier. But now it’s time to let go of our remaining batch of stuff – and I am ready!