Downsizing Is All About Letting Go
by Daniel O’Rourke
Once everything was lined up to move to Prairie Hill and I had secured my chosen unit, I was left with the daunting task of reducing my earth footprint from 2,000 square feet in San Diego, where I had lived for 38 years, to 800 square feet.
I always joked I had the depression-era mentality of a farmer, rationalizing that I kept stuff, just in case. While my Dad was aging, he saved old TV Guides, plastic ice cream containers, glass jars and all the newspapers, which became a home for the happy mice on the porch. I worried I was an up-to-date version of him. Theatre tickets, programs, old letters, surfing magazines, books, pamphlets, 40 years of cards from all occasions. My stuff was cool and important, historical. His was just junk.
We're not the Kennedys
Then a friend quipped one day: collectors are just hoarders with good storage. Am I a hoarder in denial? I tried to get honest. Feeling guilty, I’d make light of my pack-rat behavior. I joked with my sister, “We’re Irish but we’re not the Kennedys. People aren’t really interested in our stuff.” She agreed. So, I was there at the crossroads with the big questions – what goes and what stays?
Marie Kondo, who’s built a little Japanese empire telling people how to declutter and get organized, has been a guiding light in my darkness with too many possessions. Kondo sets the tone by asking what you absolutely love, and what gives you joy? Read her book The Life Saving Magic of Tidying Up or just watch her inspiring Netflix series Tidying Up. She makes an amazing point: clutter and stuff burdens us emotionally, it affects our relationships. Letting go of things we don’t need and tidying up gives us and our family happiness and joy.
It gets easier!
If you believe you’re going to feel better later, the disbursement gets easier and easier. I gave some of my favorite things to friends. Selling on Craigslist worked well for me. When I found a buyer, I’d gift them a bag of odds and ends as a bonus, or another piece of furniture that was hard to sell. They loved me for it. Yay! More stuff out the door.
Furniture went back to the consignment stores. The Amvets would take anything! I put rickety furniture, strange objects and my ratty, old comic book collection out on the street, nicely displayed, with a sign that said, “Take Me Home, I’m FREE!!” Overnight, everything miraculously disappeared.
Some things were like old friends I’d had for years. I anguished about our separation. But I found solace in just taking a photo of a beloved object before letting it go. Turning long cherished objects into a digital keepsake, absolved of curatorial responsibility, I could look at them, love them, and feel grateful we were once together. My prized Eastlake Civil War desk moved on to its next owner.
It does spark joy
As any savvy traveler will attest, traveling light makes the trip much easier. So, I viewed moving to Iowa City as just another trip. Like all my other trips to Iowa over the years, this time I was just going to stay a little longer. We’re all tourists in this life anyway. We’re all just passing through.
Surprisingly, now that I’m here with my well-chosen artifacts, I do feel so much better. The dread of downsizing is gone. I did it! I do dearly love what survived the move. As I unpack my boxes, I continue to find more stuff I can give away. Marie Kondo is right. The benefits of decluttering, getting organized and letting go does result in a sense of joy. Go for the joy. Enjoy downsizing and just let it go. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.