Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Living with Less

Part of the process of moving to Arden included downsizing, which is something we were looking to do.  I had long been a fan of The-Not-So-Big-House movement, and really enjoy the poetry of those really tiny homes when I see them on Pinterest. Our first venture into Arden was in a place called The Little House. It was in that approximately 150-square-foot dwelling that our Arden mindset began. If I had to guess, I'd say we lost 1,000 square feet as well as a two-car garage when we moved here. We lost vaulted ceilings, a bedroom, a bathroom, and a family room. Our kitchen in Arden has storage for days, but I was coming from a house where I had a large kitchen, plus a dining room china cabinet, a full bar and bar cabinets. Those needed to be condensed. I didn't count the number of boxes I lugged to the Re-Uzit shop or the bags I sent to the curb. But my clearing was thorough and powerful.

It felt good to lighten the load. Still, I didn't get rid of everything. I gave myself permission to keep things I wasn't sure about because I didn't know what our new lives would entail. Looking around the house now, I hardly recognize anything from our old life. Most all of our furniture is gone and replaced by pieces that work better in our smaller, darker wooded home. We didn't start out to replace it all. The transition happened gradually. Today, I await the chair and ottoman, the last pieces to finish off the living room project we started in February.

I do find that this house is much easier to clean. It is more manageable to me, and I don't regret losing our square footage. It is about usability and sustainability. I don't remember missing a single thing I have gotten rid of, though I will tell you that sometimes I don't remember if I got rid of something or not. Did we keep the Bocce balls? Do we still have the camping pie irons? I am losing my sentimentality. Gone is the hockey jersey I worked so hard to earn. Gone is my high school artwork and box of letters that Mark and I wrote to each other in college. Mildew was a deciding factor in the last two, but I feel lighter for having released them. I have my memories.

Recently I read the book: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. She claims that her process of purge-first-then-store decluttering is one that has zero recidivism for those prone to the messies. I agree. I have been able to maintain a level of order in our new house. But now that we have been here for two years, I want to take my purge to a whole new level. After living in Arden, I can see that some of the things I held onto--just in case--are not necessary in our new life. I am going to go through my belongings with an eye for what serves me here, in this place.

Marie Kondo has two very specific and hardfast rules for getting rid of things. First of all, you need to touch the item in question--hold it in your hands. It isn't enough to look at the books on your shelf and say--do I want to keep these? And it isn't enough to look at the clothing on your hangars. Pull everything of a kind out and into one area. Then handle each item and ask yourself, Does this bring me joy? She goes into more detail, describing, for example, what to do with items that are weighted with sentiment and items that contain hopes for "one day." It is a good, quick read. And it does inspire a joy-driven life.

Speaking from my own experience of purging: when you get rid of a lot of extraneous belongings, you can really appreciate the items you do have. Like a child with twenty dolls. What do you do with them all? What about two dolls? With two dolls, you can play. Don't get my wrong. I still have my stashes. I am especially hoarder-y when it comes to glassware, and I have developed a bit of a mason-jar fetish since we lived here. I think that started when Maren announced, after seeing our house for the first time--"OH! We can drink out of Mason Jars here." I am pretty sure this energies of this house caused me to do the single-click Amazon.com purchase of all those purple mason jars I bought in February. I have no memory of making the transaction myself. But I can allow for these few niche collections after having let go of so many other things.

Purging is its own energy force. Everyone has heard the story of the man who could not accept a gift because he was carrying too many things already. Release the stuff. Learn to live with unfolded hands. If you give away possessions, you are making more room for new energies to swirl around you. It was certainly true for us. We are richer than ever with fewer belongings. We travel lighter. I can do Europe in a weather-variable time of the year for ten days with only a carry-on. Going to Europe is not about lugging suitcases--let me tell you. Having two outfits to choose from frees your mind up to decide which of sixty restaurants deserves your Euros.

Don't take my word for it. Try it. Purge ten items. Purge ten more. Let go of something you didn't think you could and see how it feels. Give something to someone less fortunate--even if you paid a lot for it. Give away something your grandfather made, but you know your kids don't want to be saddled with when the time comes. Maybe you can't just move to the house of your dreams in the community of your choosing just yet, but you can open up the environment you do have to surprises and joy and abundance.

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