Less is More

As I mentioned last week, Pete and I have decided to buy a new house. This move is part of our determination to simplify our lives—a smaller house on a significantly smaller lot means less to maintain. Instead of a 2,000 square foot veggie garden, for example, I’ll be planting in two raised beds. After keeping hens for the past twenty-plus years, we’ll be buying eggs at the market. I’m looking forward to investing my time in new ways, or at least getting a bit more sleep!

Of course, there’s more to downsizing than simply moving into smaller quarters. If we bring all the stuff we’ve accumulated in 35 years of marriage, cramming it into a smaller space will mean more work, not less. So, after the fun of choosing a neighborhood and a floor plan, we’re now focusing on eliminating many of our belongings.

Things are going into four piles. First of all, we go through and throw away anything that we don’t want, and no one else can use. These items either go into the trash or the recycling bin. That’s the easiest pile to deal with.

Next comes the “give away” pile. This one is the most fun. Everything in this category is useful to someone, it’s just something we’ve decided we don’t need to own. Books, dishes, kitchen utensils, clothing—someone else can make better use of it than we will, so we’re giving it away. (The alternative would be to hold a garage sale, but that’s not feasible in mid-winter.)

Some of the nicest items have become Christmas presents. I know that re-gifting can be considered tacky, but I think it depends on the exact situation. Christmas is the perfect time for passing along some treasured family heirlooms. I won’t say more, since our kids read my blog (at least some of the time), but l expect some big smiles on Christmas morning.

For the rest, there’s a wonderful ministry in town that resettles refugees, so extra household goods go there. Another ministry helps the working poor with clothes and personal items. Then there are are various thrift stores, the Salvation Army, and Goodwill.

The third group consists of items that are too valuable to just give away, e.g., my dad’s furniture, art work, and good dishes and flatware. We’re learning that, when it comes to good quality items such as these, it’s much easier to buy something than it is to get rid of it. We’re learning about appraisers and consignment stores. Some items can be sold on eBay. Others are either too large and heavy, or too fragile, to easily ship, and need to be disposed of locally. And while we work at selling the items I inherited from my parents, we’re also realizing that our kids will someday have to do the same for things we own. Having nice things is lovely, but it’s also a liability.

Finally, we come to the things we’re keeping. Those we can live without for the next six months go into boxes. The rest goes back into the closet for packing after the house sells. Having partly empty closets and cabinets makes them look more spacious. In the same way, eliminating all those little decorations from the house makes the rooms look bigger.

While we started packing things up in order to get the house ready for the market, we’ve made an unexpected discovery. It’s easier to live in an uncluttered house.

Mind you, we’re not hoarders. We’re not even packrats. We actually use the stuff we’re keeping. It’s just that, for now, we’ve decided that we won’t read those books, use that pressure cooker, or wear those boots until after we move into our new house. We can get by without them.

What if I start looking at this process from another perspective? Why not start with the empty house and just add enough to make it a pleasant place to live? After all, it seems as if the more I throw away, give away, sell, or pack for storage, the easier life gets. Maybe we won’t need to unpack these boxes after all!

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