Michele Meier Vosberg is a Ph.D., a writer, a freelance educator, and a happy downsizer. She had spent many years in a large house outside Madison, Wisconsin, with her husband and children. Along with the large house and big yard and her busy family life and career, she also had a long commute.
With the kids grown and gone, she realized that she was working and commuting way too many hours and spending way too few on activities she enjoyed. She and her husband knew they needed to shift the balance and decided the big house was weighing them down and keeping them too engaged.
During their downsizing process, Michele's experiences helped her not only live a simpler life, but also to live a much more enjoyable life. She created a website and blog LifeRedesign101 to share her advice and help guide people to find more meaning and purpose in their own lives.
A frequent guest blogger on the sites of others, I ran across one of Michele's posts about Downsizing Dilemmas on SixtyandMe. She also share advice about how to work your way out of the dilemmas often encountered during downsizing. Without further ado, here they are:
1. The downsizing task is enormous. It's important not to think about the entire process, lest it overwhelms you. Better to look at one small space at a time. Michele cleaned, sorted, and organized one drawer or box every day, and one larger space (such as a closet) every weekend. Over time, she made progress -- donating books or clothing or furniture every week at the thrift store, shelters or the library.
2. Parting with valuable items is painful. First go after the stuff that you never really liked or that will not fit into the new life you're designing (the gifts that were never used, the lamps that were a bargain but never looked right). Donate those items or have a yard sale. Toss the items that meant something at one time but that are no longer useful (broken sports gear, soiled linens, etc.) or put them at the street for someone who might find them useful. What's left are items you love and will find useful; if you haven't used items in a year or two, consider finding new homes for those items, too.
3. What if you get rid of something you might -- someday -- need? It's hard to know just what the future holds, but if you get rid of, say, a coffee carafe or a set of crutches, it's highly likely you can borrow or buy when the time comes. Try not to rent storage space "just in case," for the costs will almost certainly be higher than to replace the odd item or two that you end up wishing you hadn't gotten rid of.
4. Clothes, clothes and more clothes! What to do? Think about how you want to live in the future. Will you EVER be able to get down to the size 6 that you were way back when? Probably not. Will you EVER wear that expensive suit that never really suited you? No. Will you ever need eight pairs of blue jeans (some of which are out of style)? No. Donate, donate, donate!
5. "I know it's too big for the new space, but it's so sentimental! How will I ever part with it?" Michele's blog post provided great advice: Give things you care about to people you care about. Your daughter may not want what you're offering because she has a house full of furniture and accessories, but your grandson or your niece may want, need and love those side tables. Michele also suggests taking photos of your favorite items (or your grandkids' school projects) and putting the photos into a little "memory book" that you can share with others.
"Now that the dust has settled, I have found that I really don't miss the things I left behind. A little breathing space, it turns out, is good for the soul. I am conscious of the things I add to my home, and living with less has made me desire fewer things in my life." Like Michele, I went through the downsizing process and cam wholeheartedly agree that it's better on this side of it. It was a hassle. It was painful. But it was enlightening and enlivening. I've redesigned not only my living space, but also my life! And I wholeheartedly recommend it to others!