Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Upside of Downsizing

The Upside of Downsizing is Sara B. Hart’s story of her own downsizing effort as she moved from a 1,610-square-foot house with a two-car garage to an 827-square-foot apartment with a small storage cage in the basement. Sara apparently didn’t really want to move and downsize; she did it for financial reasons as her mortgage payments were about to go way up and some expensive repairs were looming.

This motivation shapes the book; as Sara says, the book is particularly intended for those needing to downsize “not so much from choice as from necessity.” The downsizing process was very painful for her, and not everyone will feel the same emotions that Sara did. But for a downsizer who is feeling the same unhappy emotions, it might help to read about someone else who worked through them.

(As a side note, I would have appreciated if Sara’s explanation of why she was downsizing had come at the beginning of the book, rather than many pages into it. I kept wondering why she was downsizing when it was obviously causing her so much distress.)

Still, there were a number of insights that could be useful to anyone who is downsizing or simply decluttering.

When Sara was going through her things with a friend, that friend would sometimes encourage her to keep something she had already decided to part with. What Sara learned to tell her friend was this: “I had to make the decision to get rid of this once. Please don’t make me have to make it again.” She also mentions that one of the best things friends can do to help is to take away the items destined for donation and do the drop-off.

Sara didn't just work with friends; she also hired a “downsizer.” She interviewed three people and found the one she felt was right for her — someone who listened to her and understood her feelings about downsizing, but would still push her to be realistic about how much she could keep. I was glad to read this, given how emotional an organizing/decluttering project can be; you want to choose someone you’ll feel comfortable with.

As part of her process, Sara held a garage sale, and her instructions to the folks helping her were wise. “If someone wants to buy it, sell it! Otherwise I will have to pay someone to come and take it away!”

And then there’s this bit of wisdom:
Many people have found that their kids don’t want any of the things their parents had been lovingly saving for them, sometimes for years. They don't want the beautiful bone china or priceless silver or elegant crystal. They don’t want the gorgeous table linen. In fact, they don’t want the table! And so far as stuff that belonged to them — the trophies, prom outfits, graduation tassels — they don’t want that stuff, either.
What Sara stresses over and over again is this: “If you need to go through a major downsizing and move, it’s better to begin earlier than later.” This is good advice, but the repetitiveness became a bit annoying. This book was derived from Sara’s journals, which I expect explains the repetition.