Zen and the Art of Downsizing

“I’m trying to be Zen about it…”

That is my new line that kinda makes me hate myself. Ugg. Have I become that girl? Yes. Yes, I have. But as I downsize, I am trying to adopt more philosophies from Eastern Religions as they teach about worldly possessions.

Joy comes not through possession or ownership but through a wise and loving heart.
-Buddha

For the last two years I’ve made several big purges knowing our goal was to cut our possessions in half. It’s not been too hard as those first few rounds were things like furniture from family we only agreed to take because we had a giant house to put it in. We gave away so much furniture I can’t remember where it all went! We also purged a lot of toys by being realistic about what our kids actually play with. We got rid of easels and basketball goals and kick balls and sets of blocks. You buy these things for your kids at Christmas, or on their birthdays, and then feel obligated to keep them even if the kids never show any sign of caring about it. It becomes like a battle of wills: I will NOT get rid of this thing you never play with! I payed good money for this thing!

The first few rounds were things like that.

Then there was the harder round. The clothes I can’t wear anymore because I’ve put on weight. But I want to lose the weight! Get back to race day weight for my next race! But I’m buying clothes for this body. Why keep both? So I only kept a few things that were either A) my favorite or B) would withstand changes in fashion because here’s the thing: If I lose the weight? I’ll probably want to celebrate with new clothes.

This similar logic was also used related to kitchen items. I haven’t used it in years, so I probably don’t need it. If someday I start cooking again? Maybe they’ll make something better for the same purpose. But honestly? I like simplifying my cooking life. I don’t need as much now that I don’t eat meat. I’ve been cooking from a cookbook and it’s mostly vegan, I don’t need anything fancy for 90% of the meals.

But these last two weeks? Not so easy. I’ve come across many tough decisions like things that belonged to my Dad or items that were gifts from loved ones. And this has been when I’ve tried to harness the Zen. Giving away Dad’s canoe which we haven’t used in 7 years and we can’t store, does not eliminate the memories of him using it. Giving away a gift someone gave me which has been more of a burden than a joy, does not jeopardize the love I have for that person. And the love they have for me should mean that they want me to be joyful and not burdened. Throwing away things my kids made me because they haven’t stood the test of time, does not erase the memories I have of the ages they were when they made the item.

Memories and love and emotions all remain even if the possessions that burden my corporeal frame do not.

But that’s been a challenge and I still wrestle with doubts. Will that person who gifted that to me be upset if I don’t own that thing anymore? But y’all…I’m 41. I’ve been given a lot of gifts over time and I can’t keep them all forever, not when I don’t love them or they don’t bring me joy. I’m 100% positive I’ve given gifts that weren’t loved or joyful and I’m 100% fine with that person giving them away to save the burden on their soul.

The true challenge – however – has been one lost item I had no intention of giving away. I have a pouch of sentimental jewelry that is always in a basket on my dresser and I packed up everything on the dresser in one box and when I unpacked it that pouch was not there. A ring my Dad made me. A bracelet my mother-in-law made me. My engagement ring. All things that simply mean a lot to me and I would never get rid of. NEVER. And yet? They’re gone.

There’s a chance they ended up in a box in storage so I won’t lose hope until the next move when we go through that stuff, but I’m not optimistic. So I’m trying to be grateful I’ve enjoyed the things and photographed the things and I’m trying to cherish the love and the memories behind the items and not focus on their loss. I’m trying to think of my wise and loving heart, instead of the worldly possessions that I no longer can hold in my hand.

Trying.

We’re not becoming minimalists any time soon. Getting our family’s possessions down to fit into a 1500 square foot house or less is our next goal. We’re there with quantity, we just don’t have the house yet so are now divided into an apartment and a house. There are people who shrink their possessions down to much less, and they deserve their own accolades. But for us? The family who used to fill a 4,000 sq ft home plus giant garage? This is a huge deal. And as long as we try to stay Zen about it (Donnie struggled giving up his college textbooks, to which I countered, “You don’t lose the education.”) we really enjoy this new, lighter existence.

P.S. The closing on our house was delayed yesterday evening so we aren’t closing tomorrow. Hopefully just a beauracratic paperwork type issue, but please PLEASE send all of the positive thoughts you can our way. We can’t carry rent and a mortgage financially so if this doesn’t go through we’re in huge trouble. IT IS HARD TO BE ZEN ABOUT THIS. But I’m trying!

Voices in my head

We are “settled” into the new 980 sq ft apartment with a 10×20 storage until filled to the brim. There’s still a small carload of stuff at the house that has to be brought to one of the two places – and a crap ton of stuff for the garbage and Goodwill so there is still a lot of work to do this week. BUT! Living in this apartment is amazing for two reasons:

1) We no longer have the threat of a showing at every minute. We always insisted on 24-hour notice so we didn’t have to keep it PERFECT, but whenever we got it messy I knew in the back of my head I could be requested to clean it at any minute.

2) We can use our ALL of our space again. After we got new paint and carpet upstairs on the house, we put barriers up so the animals couldn’t get there and we moved all of the kids’ clothes and bathroom stuff to our room and bathroom. They had bedrooms to hold their stuff and sleep in, but that’s it. Now? I’m sitting on a couch I haven’t sat on in a year to type this blog. And the kids have their own areas they can use however they please. (Nikki is in the dining room, BUT IT IS HER DINING ROOM.)

I am feeling a bit overwhelmed right now because I’ve been so busy the last weeks (and will continue to be this week) and COMPLETELY out of pocket Saturday and Sunday that I’ve dropped tons of balls and have missed tons of things. I’m starting to feel left out because I keep missing stuff and it sounds like my Sunday Group run was super fast in my absence. (I could only find one shoe yesterday morning, the other one was back at the house it seems.) I have four voices talking/arguing in my head all the time.

VOICE 1: Everyone hates me and is mad at me for not doing the thing they needed me or wanted me to do.
VOICE 2: No one is mad at you. The truth is NO ONE cares you didn’t do that thing because no one even notices you’ve been out of pocket. You are truly insignificant.
VOICE 3: Who cares if either one of you are right! If they’re mad or don’t care about you, then they don’t deserve the emotional energy you’re giving them right now! Only give your energy people who deserve it! And no on deserves it which is why you should never leave the house again!
VOICE 4: You are all wrong. You are surrounded by kind and sympathetic people who love you and understand the stress you’re going through right now. They miss you but don’t hate you.

I’m trying my best to ignore the first three voices, and to give my credence to voice 4. She’s the smartest of the bunch.

We still have 5 days of chaos, still haven’t gotten the dishwasher repaired, still have a bunch of crap to deal with at the house and need to find a cleaner. And all of this on top of work this week and a couple of big obligations. So, we’re not completely out of the woods yet but I can see the clearing ahead and I know we’re close.

Thanks for being kind and patient with me. If you’ve commented or emailed me in the last week, I’ll probably never get to it. I’m sorry. Starting next week life should finally settle down for awhile until we start looking for houses again :).

But downsizing? It’s the best. We already feel so much lighter.

The pets are milking this chaos for all of the snuggles!

Do Not Let My Hideous Appearance Fool You.

I looked in the mirror this morning and laughed. I looked TERRIBLE. I had crusty gunk all over my eyes (I did you the favor and cleared that out before taking a picture) my hair looked insane and I had sheet-prints all over my red blotchy face. But I laughed, which indicates something because often I cry when I look at myself, I have to say. I’m 20lbs heavier than I was this time last year, I’m tired and still sick and exhausted and normally? Seeing myself looking so rough when I’m feeling so terrible? Would normally make me sob. But this morning I laughed because…y’all? It’s getting better.

I still have so much to do but I’m starting to see the end of the tunnel from here. That tunnel has led us to a destination where we only own about 40% of the crap we owned 2 years ago. It took three BIG purges. One when we FIRST put the house on the market and we had to get it “ready” to sell. One the second time when we moved everything from upstairs to downstairs to put in new carpet and add a 5th bedroom. And the 3rd and final purges has been this week as we pack up to squeeze everything we own into a 10×20 storage unit and a 900 square foot apartment.

There have been tons of little purges along the way, but most of the purge happened at those three times and I sat down and REALLY thought about it – furniture and closets etc – and I think we’re 60% less burdened by crap than we were 2 years ago. Two years ago we filled every corner and closet of this 4,000 square foot house along with the 20 ft tall, oversized, 2-car garage which could barely hold ONE car. And now that we’re 9 days away from selling the house I’m starting to finally feel the freedom associated with all of that purging. It’s been hard to really bask in the lighter load on our lives when we’ve had this giant house holding us down. But now that I have a lease on a 2-bedroom apartment and a storage unit and I’m seeing how condensed we’ve gotten everything and I’m starting to finally feel lighter after 2 years of work.

And it’s been a LOT of work. And I’ve done it all. Donnie does not have a lot of flexibility with work and he’s also been training for giant races over the last two years so it’s all fallen on my shoulders and I’m feeling really good about how much easier our lives are going to be at this point. I suddenly see the results of this long road of work and while there’s still going to be another big step (finding a house to move into so we don’t have to live in this too-tiny apartment forever) I just feel good about it. Like…YES…this is what I’ve been working for. To ease the burden of crap we’ve had on our souls for too long.

I expect one more moderate purge at the next step, when we decide what goes into the new house from storage. We put a lot of stuff in storage that we hope to have room for but we’re not sure we will in which case we’ll have to do a little bit more purging. But for the most part? We’re hopefully where we were at when Nikki was born and we moved into a 3-bedroom home. We’ve always said – that is the size of house we want. It was easy to manage in terms of upkeep and cleaning and even when we fill it up (which we did) we didn’t feel like the weight of our possessions was squashing our souls.

So I look terrible, but I feel better. I’ve gained 20lbs but I feel so much lighter. There’s still tons of work left to do and my back and shoulders may never feel good again, but I finally see/feel the purpose of it all.

There’s still several factors hanging in the balance – we still have to get a dishwasher repaired and a fireplace working but we have someone set to do everything else next week. Hopefully by Saturday night we’ll be living in a 2-bedroom apartment (WUT?) and we will spend the next week cleaning the old house for a closing on the 20th.

The end is in sight. At least the end to this leg of a VERY long journey. The next leg is not as challenging and will be WAY more fun. Looking for houses is fun…selling a house is terrible.

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OH! Something fun happened yesterday I have to tell you about. I got a call from the nurse at the kid’s school, it was your standard “Kid Hit His Head We Are Required To Call You” call…OR SO I THOUGHT. (I get those calls at least once a month.) Then she said, “He hit his nose on the other kid’s head and it’s a little swollen and…well…definitely disfigured.”

I know there’s not a lot you can do about a broken nose, BUT, I feel like in case he gets made about having a crooked nose later in life I need to at least have evidence that I got a professional opinion on the matter.

It’s always a part at the Zoot House.

Operation Downsi…OH SHIT.

We got our request for repairs back from our inspection yesterday and it’s all manageable in terms of cost. But…there’s the whole “time” factor that could be a problem. Donnie could do some of it if he had the more hours in his days, but not all of it so we still have to seek outside/professional help and…well…WE CLOSE IN FIFTEEN DAYS.

FIFTEEN DAYS.

Do we have a place to live? Nope.

In my head we would just get a 3-bedroom apartment (preferably bottom floor but we would take a townhouse) in our part of town and stay there for six months. But guess what I found out yesterday? THERE ARE NONE AVAILABLE. Well, there are a few but not on the bottom floor and there are only a few so we have to decide FAST. I looked at some yesterday and I’m looking at some today and PLEASE GOD LET ME FIND SOMETHING THAT WILL WORK. I gave up on liking it when I realized how few apartment vacancies there are in our part of town. We’re even looking at 2-bedroom places and will just let one kid sleep in the living room. I had no idea how many full apartments there are.

Wait. Let me back up. There are a few more vacancies if we don’t mind paying more rent than we do currently for our mortgage. WE MIND DOING THAT A LOT. THAT CAN NOT HAPPEN. I can NOT rent an apartment and not at least be saving a little bit of money from when we were paying a mortgage on a 4,000 square foot house, you know? I just can’t bring myself to do it.

So, there are very VERY few vacancies if we want to NOT pay more than our mortgage. We don’t want to adjust the budget to rent an apartment, it would pain us too much.

Basically I need to quit sleeping for the next 15 days so we can repair what’s broken on our house, and then…you know…PACK AND MOVE AND OH MY GOD WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?!?!?!

All I can say is that I am really glad we have already downsized so much. If we had faced this timeline the first time we tried to sell our house? We would be screwed. Severely.

I have a storage unit I’ve already rented so I’m going to start moving stuff into that this weekend. And I guess I’ll just stop sleeping for the next 15 days. NBD.

Truthfully though? I feel like the weight of the world is starting to lift from my shoulders. I won’t breathe SUPER easy until we close (I work for a real estate company, remember, I’ve heard all of the horror stories) but I am breathing SO MUCH BETTER. So even though I’m writing mid-panic attack, I’m also smiling because Operation Downsize is finally completing the biggest mission of all.

Anyone want to come help me fix shit and/or pack and/or move? Or just come hang out and watching me lose my mind the next 15 days? ITS GOING TO BE A PARTY, Y’ALL.

Remember Operation Downsize?

Y’all remember how we decided to try to sell our house almost 3 years ago? First we went through a wave of Getting Rid Of Shit to prep the house for real estate agents to look at it and give us their thoughts. Then we painted, reorganized, repaired and decorated accordingly. Then the house sat on the market for 6 months and we had 3 showings.

During that time I started working doing photography and marketing and web work for a real estate company and learned a LOT. So we changed the floor plan a bit, got new carpet and paint and put it back on the market again. Since then we’ve had about 20 showings. Most people liked the house and all agents gave feedback that it was priced right, it was just never EXACTLY what people were looking for.

Until today. We finally have a contract.

Now, I know a lot can happen between contract and closing. I work for a real estate company, I’ve seen it all…LITERALLY. BUT! I’m still celebrating because DAMMIT, WE HAVE EARNED IT.

We decided a long time ago that unless we just stumbled upon the perfect house, we’d do 6 months in an apartment first. We don’t want to rush the house buying part of Operation Downsize because we want to get the smallest house we can manage and that requires the right floorplan or weighing the wrong floorplan v/s cost. Also? Selling a house is really stressful and we really like the idea of being WITHOUT the responsibility of homeownership for a little while. Like…can we live in filth for a bit without worrying about if someone wants to see the house? PLEASE! Can we just not stress about anything home related for…like 6 months? That would be HEAVENLY.

PLUS – it would give us an idea how how small we could really handle. Some days we want a tiny house just so we can have more money for adventures. But then other days we want to be as far away from each other as possible and would pay a million dollars for that ability.

So! 6 months. We’ll sign a 6-month lease on an apartment and get a small storage facility for furniture as we don’t want to get rid of stuff E may want after graduation. (Which will fall before that 6 month window closes.) We will look for houses of course, but we are scheduled to close in 30 days and there’s no way (unless we found the perfect house today) we could make that work so we don’t want to feel forced to be obsessing over real estate when we need to be PACKING UP THIS HOUSE.

I’m so glad we’ve gone through TWO batches of deep purging before this moment. We still have a lot to go through, but we have about HALF of what we did when we first started this 3 years ago.

We needed this desperately. I fear we were/are at maximum capacity in terms of emotional stress and this was the news we needed.

Thanks for thinking good thoughts for us. Now…anyone want to come help my husband with a few things around the house? We pay in pizza and beer.