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. If you’re not wanting to throw out belongings that still hold value to you but you can’t justify them taking up the space that they do, like JIT Removals and Storage and many other companies can make downsizing a breeze, while safely storing your possessions. 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!

5 thoughts on “Zen and the Art of Downsizing”

  1. Oh dear oh dear oh dear! I really hope that everything goes forward. My husband wants to move due to his long commute, but moving 3 times in 7 years has left me with zero desire to ever sell a house again. I hope you can feel all of the positive energy coming your way!

  2. I know what you mean. We’ve been trying to downsize books – and other stuff, but the books are the hardest. The first few rounds were simple and got us down to about 8 bookshelves. The next few rounds were hard. I think we’re at 5 bookshelves and we can see our way to 4. I have no idea how we get below that, or if we do…even with maximizing use of E-readers to replace books when possible.

    Good luck with the closing.

  3. Hugs! I lost a box when I moved from one apartment with my dad to another. it contained many letters from friends from high school and all my recorded tapes of all my high school concerts, choir and solo. Of all things to have lost this was probably one of the most painful. Hugs to you as well and hope you find your treasures!!

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