The downside of downsizing

It's time for us to start thinking of moving into a smaller house -- a house with only one level, with less to clean and repair. We've decided we don't want to spend the rest of our lives vacuuming rooms we don't use, dusting things we don't need and washing things we don't want anymore.

So Sue and I are downsizing.

That is, we are planning to downsize. We are thinking of downsizing. We are talking about downsizing. We are trying to downsize. We are doing everything but actually downsizing.

It's become clear that we will be spending our remaining years arguing about whose crap to throw out first, mine or hers, as well as vacuuming, dusting and washing. Sue thinks downsizing means getting rid of all my stuff and keeping all of hers. Me? I can't wait to rent a couple of dumpsters and start tossing out her horde of "collectibles." Dust is all they are collecting.

We've been talking about downsizing for a long time, but a best-selling book, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing" by cleaning consultant Marie Kondo, lit a fire under me.



First, I didn't even know there was a job called "cleaning consultant." That sounds like a lot more fun than actually cleaning. Little did I know that Marie is the queen of clutter-busting. In Japan, home of the tiny, efficient home, someone has made a movie about her. She is the Martha Stewart of tossing things out. The waiting list for her services used to be three months long; now she is so busy she has had to stop taking new clients altogether. Can you imagine how it must feel to be rejected by a cleaning consultant? It's like getting a rejection letter from your fallback college.

We will just have to declutter without her.

Her main advice on decluttering your home is to keep the things that "bring you joy," and get rid of everything else. Where I come from, that's called a divorce. Her main point is that anything we have that we don't really love is keeping us from enjoying the things we really do love. They are also keeping us from doing things we love to do by sucking up our time maintaining them.

In theory, it should be so easy. That 20-year-old yellowing paperback I'm never going to read again? Put it in the box going to the thrift store. Those ties I never wear, the pants that no longer fit, things in the bottom of drawers that go to gadgets we no longer have, old-fashioned computer paper -- the kind with the little sprocket holes on the side -- get rid of them.

So we did all that. But that's the easy, low-hanging fruit of decluttering. Once those things are gone, it gets harder and harder. Knick-knacks we've had forever, birthday and anniversary gifts, trophies and mementos from a lifetime ago: Are they aiding my memory, or fogging it?

Finally, we got to a place that made us both comfortable: We agreed to get rid of everything we did not want to bother packing if we moved.

It's a question we ask each other all the time now. "Do you want to bother to pack this?" If not, and none of our friends or family want it, it's going to the thrift store or to a lawn sale. A few things we can even put on eBay. We ask the same question when we buy things now: "Do we want to pack this if we move?"

I don't know if decluttering will change our lives, but then, what doesn't change your life? Every single day changes your life, whether you want it to or not. You just may not notice it for all the clutter.

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