We Can Almost See The Finish Line.

So…we close on our new house today! It’s 1,500 sq ft which – if you include the differences in garages between the two houses – is about 1/3rd smaller than our old house. We have definitely achieved “downsizing” at a much more extreme level than we anticipated. We accepted a smaller house for a perfect location.

I mean, wouldn’t you accept one less bedroom to be next door to a Krispy Kreme?

KIDDING. We are not moving next door to a Krispy Kreme.

(But I would have accepted 1 less bedroom to do so, if it had been an option.)

The house we are buying is a 3-bedroom, was built in the 60s, and has had minimal work done to it since. We’re in a good enough situation with how we worked the sale to be able to get a 15-year mortgage and still put some money into upgrading it before we move in. So, while we close today, we won’t move in until later this summer.

The un-fun things: We have to re-do tons of electrical and almost all of the plumbing. And it’s not really “un-fun” because, you know, we’d like to avoid floods, leaks, and fires. But…you know…doesn’t do much to change the look of the house, so we won’t be able to tell much of a difference after spending tons of money to do that.

But we do like being able to sleep at night, so we’ll do it.

The fun thing? We’re remodeling the kitchen.

There’s other stuff we’ll want to do eventually…expand the master bathroom to overtake a hall closet, close in a carport to build a laundry room, etc. But the kitchen remodel will get us feeling like we’re living in a better house than before, which will be a good feeling. It’s sucky to downsize AND downgrade, so the new kitchen will make us feel like we traded up in some ways.

Most importantly though – the house is in a completely different part of town. It’s only 200 yards – as the crow flies – to the trails we run. Since we can’t fly like crows and have to respect property boundaries, it’s about 1/4 mile away. But that’s going to be great. It’s also really close to Donnie’s office and a little closer to mine. It’s just 2 miles from downtown where we end up going for a lot of functions anyway and there’s a pool and a playground one block away. We accepted the burden of a “fixer-upper” and a house a little smaller than we wanted, just because the location was ideal.

Once we get out of the apartment and the storage unit and into this new place the entire “Let’s Downsize!” adventure will finally be over.

And – it looks like – I will have survived it.

This house will have more challenges though, it’s got a backyard in disarray and it’s just – you know – old, but we’re excited about the neighborhood and the part of town and we really feel good about this step in our lives.

Let’s do this thing…

Lessons In Decluttering

We are finalizing the details of HOPEFULLY buying a house (location is PERFECT, it just hasn’t been updated in 60 years so there’s lots of repairs needed) and I find that discussing decluttering and downsizing is one of my favorite topics. We’ve learned a lot in the 3’ish years to get us to the point where we’re trying to buy a 1500 sq ft house after selling a 4100 sq ft home. The most important takeaway so far is that there are TWO reactions to decluttering. One negative, and one positive, and how you (and the people who share your home) fall on the spectrums of those two reactions will determine your success from day 01.

Positive Reaction

Let’s say you’ve gotten rid of a bunch of clothes. Or maybe books. Or maybe you cleaned out that cupboard. And now? NOW YOU HAVE SPACE. There is space where there wasn’t space before and whenever you see it or think about it you are overcome by a feeling of calm. Suddenly – the absence of clutter in that one location, and the addition of empty space – you feel peace. You feel like you can breathe again.

Negative Reaction

Let’s think about that same space in your closet. Or that empty book shelf. Now, think about how your friend wants to read that book you gave away…You could have given it to her if you still had it! Or maybe you finally lost the weight you had been struggling to lose for a few years and you have a wedding coming up and Why did you give away that one dress? That dress would have been perfect! And now you can’t stop thinking about that one book or that dress and you are MAD. You are feeling regret and frustration. YOU HAD THE STUFF. And now your friend has to deal with buying that book or you have to buy a dress. WHY DID YOU GET RID OF THAT STUFF?

Weighing The Two Reactions

We are all going to experience both if we take a big step to declutter. Now, the trick is, you have to weigh the two against each other. I still, after 3 years of decluttering, feel the peace and the calm of the freedom and the space WAY MORE than I feel the negative reaction to not having that thing I needed that one time. That negative reaction in my mind…that regret and frustration…it fades quickly because it is nothing compared to the peaceful feeling of not feeling burdened by ALL OF THAT CRAP.

HOWEVER – I’m not sure Donnie feels the same way. He still has the most stuff to go through in storage because he can’t quite embrace the peace the space brings as he knows the regret will hang so heavy in his heart. He’s been able to weigh in favor of “decluttering” most of the time as he was excited about lessening the burden of the home we would own. But when it comes to specific items, and realizing they’re gone? He does experience regret much more than I do, so the majority of the final stage of “decluttering” will be on his shoulders as he’s had the harder time letting go of things.

This is a very important balance to understand if you have a person you’re sharing a home with. Because we all know how regret works, it eats at you and burdens your soul. We don’t want to push anyone into the “regret” zone simply because our feeling of peace in decluttering is so strong. You have to find a balance. Luckily, Donnie also feels incredible peace with the lack of clutter, so he often leans more to that side and even understands the appeal of things like “tiny houses” – if he didn’t experience any of the positive benefit of decluttering, we’d have bigger problems.

Consider The Generations After You

This is also something to think about when deciding what to keep of your children’s, or for your children. Because everything you store for them “when they have kids” becomes a burden for them in adulthood. Now, maybe it won’t be too big of a burden, BUT THAT IS UP TO YOU. When we sold my Dad’s house I left with two boxes of stuff from my childhood – AND THAT WAS PLENTY. Especially since he was gone, I’m not sure I would have let myself get rid of things. I’m very VERY happy he got rid of things for me over the years so that I did not have to deal with the burden.

We have to really consider how “value” translates over generations. This little dress is special to me because I remember Nikki wearing it. But will it be special to her? No. Probably not.

UNLESS – there are pictures of her in it. Then she might want to do the mother/daughter photo thing and that is a fun little homage to an article of clothing. So I keep clothes I have photos of my kids in. Of course, it also works for sibling photos too:

A friend of mine joked one time that he and his wife were going through boxes of their son’s stuff, “To help their future daughter-in-law.” Oh, man. Do I get that. Because it is hard as a kid to have a burden of stuff from your childhood you might not even remember, but that you don’t want to get rid of because your parents saved it for you. But it’s really hard to be the spouse of that person because all you have is the clutter and NO SENTIMENTALITY. I kept a lot of stuff of Dads for no real reason and – luckily – Donnie knew he only had to be patient and I would eventually see there was no purpose and would get rid of it. He trusts my purging skills to win out in the end. He wishes I wasn’t so good a purging most days.

But often he had to gently remind me the stuff was still in the garage. And when it came time to finally move out? He was patient with me as I went through the inner turmoil and he was sitting there thinking, “OH MY GOD, JUST GET RID OF IT, WOMAN.”

So, yeah. For the future spouses of your children – don’t keep stuff that your child won’t also appreciate. Are there photos of them with the item? Did they use it to a point where they actually have memories of it? Be aware that you are putting that burden on them with everything you keep. I still have weird dishes of Dads I’m not sure why I’m keeping. I don’t even remember him having them! But they are weirdly sentimental because they were mysterious. And they go on the walls so I can justify they won’t take up space anywhere!

Just don’t lose sight of the cycle of burden you could be starting, or perpetuating. You have memories with the dishes that belonged to your grandmother because you ate Christmas at her house ON THOSE DISHES every year. But will your daughter have the same affection for those dishes? Probably not if you never used them with her. But she will feel obligated to keep them because they were special to you. Do you see what happens in that moment? She is burdened by your sentimentality. And then her daughter won’t even have that and she’ll probably ditch the dishes.

It’s something we’re trying to do – consider future generations – when deciding what is important to us. We don’t want to burden them. And hopefully we won’t, now. If we successfully move into this home we will have to do one final purge and then it will be time to enforce the rule: NOTHING COMES IN UNLESS SOMETHING GOES OUT. And nothing comes in unless we can really justify it by NEED or WANT. We aren’t giving up consumerism, we’re not that brave. We still like stuff. New stuff especially. But we’re trying to weigh that.

EXAMPLE: We don’t have a full set of dishes and sometimes I consider ditching the ones we have and starting over with a new full set. But why? Why can’t I just buy some to replace the missing pieces? Because there’s a weird pressure to have 8 matching place settings? WHY? It doesn’t make sense. So when it comes time? I’ll just buy a few more plates. That’s it. And they won’t match and that will be part of our charm. Instead of burdening some thrift store with my incomplete set of dishes just so I can fulfill some weird burden society has imposed on me.

Anyway – these are lessons we’ve learned in the last 3 years and things we consider every step of the way. Do you have anything useful to share?

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.

************************

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.