Relief v/s Regret
As I’ve written about before – there are two ways to respond to decluttering: 1) Elation or relief at being free of the burden of the thing you removed and 2) Anxiety or regret over not having that thing when/if you need it. We all will respond in varying degrees in both ways depending on the items i question. But, the key to being a good candidate for downsizing, is that you need to have WAY MORE of feeling #1 then you ever do of feeling #2. And some people just don’t. I know people personally that would constantly remember that time they needed that thing they had gotten rid of and it EATS AT THEIR SOUL FOREVER.
If you are that person? You probably shouldn’t embark on any big downsizing journey.
My Dad was that person for a long time. We only lived in a 1,000 square foot home, but it was full of some of the craziest shit you’ve ever seen because Dad had a hard time getting rid of stuff that might someday be useful. He said this was a result of growing up poor and on a farm where you used pencils down to the NUB and you saved every scratch of paper because you never knew what you might need for school work and no one could just run to Wal-Mart if you ran out of something.
It didn’t help that he also worked as a biomedical engineer at a hospital and most equipment got disposed of through his department. If you are already a mechanically inclined person who is trained in electronics then you see “broken” hospital equipment as boxes FULL OF USEFULNESS. Especially when some equipment and items had to be disposed of when they expired, not when they broke, because you don’t want something to break when it’s saving someone’s life. So, a lot of times things were 100% still working which is why we had an EKG machine in our house for awhile in the early 80s and why Dad had bilirubin lightbulbs he used as “night lights” in our garage and in our kitchen. We never had to worry about jaundice as children.
So, I’m not like that. At all. I get frustrated when I need something that is gone, but I immediately get over it because the elation and euphoria I feel at being FREE OF THE BURDEN OF THAT THING, way overpowers and regret or stress over now needing it.
The one area that is a little tricky is with arts and crafts. In our 4100 square foot house I had a walk-in closet I called the “craft room.” It had a sewing machine, giant cutting boards, huge canvases, and shelves and SHELVES full of jewelry making supplies and fabric paint and regular paint and sewing stuff and buttons and glue and scrapbook paper and…and…and…
You get the point.
As we started downsizing I had to face the fact that I just don’t have the TIME to do a lot of the projects I had originally bought the supplies for, so I started eliminating some of the big ticket items like the sewing machine. I always wanted to learn to sew, I just never really found the time and the drive wasn’t really there. I preferred crafts that involved my hands more than a machine, if that makes sense. Since I got rid of that, I got rid of all of the fabric and thread I had saved just in case I might someday find time or desire to sew. I started getting rid of just about everything that wouldn’t fit on this one bookshelf and that’s because I knew we were keeping that, at least in a garage, because my Dad built it out of my design. So as long as everything fit on that shelf, there would always be a “space” for it wherever we moved.
That shelf is holding craft stuff in our storage area as we speak and it will probably go in the garage at the next house. It has the basics: Cutting stuff, paints, glues, jewelry stuff and miscellaneous kids craft items.
This is all to tell you that this week? I needed to sew something. Nikki has a dress that she needs to wear today but when she wear to the end-of-the-year festivities today, but that tore a little at E’s graduation a few weeks ago. So I had to go buy a sewing kit at Target and this is where I realized how good I am at downsizing. THIS DID NOT BOTHER ME AT ALL.
It cost $3 and it got the job done. I look at this kit and think of how much space it will take up in a drawer somewhere and then think back to the sewing machine and the boxes of fabric and the thread that I got rid of over a year ago and how glad I am that I needed to buy this little kit because I’m free of that other clutter. IT BRINGS ME PEACE. And it reminds me how embarking on this downsizing journey two years ago was SO VERY WORTH IT.
The summer before I left for college my Dad and my brother started re-roofing our house. An unexpected summer storm rolled through at the EXACT WORSE TIME and our house basically flooded without a roof. It was insane. I remember being very glad for my job at the fried chicken fast-food place because I could get the hell out of the house and not deal with the chaos or aftermath. It was the ONLY time I was glad for that job.
Dad ended up just getting rid of a bunch of ruined stuff using the rented dumpster he had for the roof project. Tons of old hospital equipment and machinery…that dumpster was just FULL of weird shit when they came to pick it up. I remember watching the guys going through it before they took it away and you could tell how curious they were about the strange items as they pulled some of it out to be taken home.
Later Dad remarked about how good it felt to be rid of that stuff. I think that surprised him. I think he thought the fear over needing it someday would prevent him from enjoying the fact that it was gone, and he was shocked to find it was the opposite.
I thought about him and that feeling of relief when I was sewing Nikki’s dress last night. I had no regret over not having what I needed when the situation arose, I’m still basking in the joy of knowing we’re getting ready to move into a house 1/3 the size of the one we left. The relief my soul feels no longer being burdened with the huge house or the crap inside of it way overpowers the regret of having to spend $3 on something I got rid of years ago.