March 13, 2014

Simple Downsizing: Grabbing a Ready-Made Opportunity

One of the topics you have requested I re-visit on a regular basis is that of downsizing and simplified living. This is a subject that resonates strongly with me. For whatever reason, I have always been more comfortable when surrounded by less stuff. I probably would be quite happy in a small cabin in the woods or a cottage by the sea with just a few important possessions and a lot of peace of mind.

One of the bookshelves in my blogging office has several dozens books on simplicity, voluntary simplicity, downsizing, and the like. When I begin to feel as though life's clutter is closing in on me a bit, I'll grab one and scan it to refocus my determination to "keep it simple."

A recent event in our home reminded me that simplifying and reassessing what is part of your daily life can sometimes be stimulated by something else. After putting it off for at least five years, we finally had the downstairs carpeting replaced in part of the living and dining areas.

I had put it off for so long because of the hassle of the whole process of shopping for carpeting that both Betty and I would like, of moving all the furniture out, being trapped upstairs for 4 or 5 hours while the installers did their job, and then moving everything back.

Our project was complicated by the fact that a rather substantial crack had occurred right through the center of the living room. We knew it was there because we could feel it under the old rug. The 20 foot long split had also risen about 1/2 inch for part of the distance, giving our living room a definitely unwanted two level effect. So, before the rug could be replaced, men with large grinders had to come in and level the concrete before filling the crack with cement.

In any case, all went as well as could be expected; everything was actually under budget. And, this is where the ready-made opportunity to simplify happened. As we began to move everything back, both Betty and I decided to only return the basics right away. The books, knickknacks, candles, photos and paintings, coffee cups collected on various trips,  a dozen or so fancy tea pots, even two large CD  players that held 500 music CDs, all stayed in the garage.....for now.
gone from the living room!
much smaller

This was the perfect opportunity to decide what we wanted to look at everyday and what just added clutter to our home. It has been almost 4 weeks and only some of the stuff has come back in through the garage door. One easy decision was to get rid of the 30 pound CD players, burn the music we wanted to listen to onto an iPod, and put the players on Craigslist.

Betty has a great collection of pewter items that have been in storage for several years. She thought it was time to bring them back for awhile; they will take up residence in the dining room in place of the tea pots that neither of us really see anymore.

Coffee cups are staying in storage, candles are going into a newly found space in the laundry room, and even some of Betty's photos are going into the RV instead of the living room walls. When she has the time we will pick a few new photos to have printed on canvas or metal and mount them.

The net result is the living room and dining area feel fresher and less cluttered. The TV stand and bookcases now have room for our DVD collection. The huge CD jukeboxes are gone, replaced by a small speaker system and iPod that sound fantastic, and can be easily put in the RV for our extended trips. This project has prompted us to decide to tackle a thinning out of all the stuff in the outside storage shed and garage. Even the 200 old VHS tapes have found their way into a dumpster.

What began as a carpet replacement project has given us new impetus to cut back, freshen, and thin out. Who knew?


29 comments:

  1. Today's blog made me think of our technological advancements during our lifetime. I recently boxed up my CD's which I had catorigized in 5 disc magazine cartridges. It was a neat way to listen to music for many years. But a few months ago I discovered Pandora streaming music and switched to this great advancement. I remembered the day I boxed up my 45's, then my 331/3 albums, my reel tapes, 4 track, 8 track, and cassette tapes...WOW. Music formats have drastically changes in 60 years!

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    1. I love Pandora and use their service while walking and at home when I want something specific. Coupled with the iPod and it thousands of songs, I have rediscovered the joy of day long music in my life.

      When I first started in radio I played 45 singles and 33 1/3 LPs.Our commercials were on 3" reel to reel tapes. By the time I retired everything was digital and on a computer hard drive. Even the control boards in the studios had become super high tech.

      What's next? Everything on the cloud?

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  2. Downsizing/re-evaluating "stuff", both physical items & emotional/mental junk is a wonderful benefit of retirement. Periodically revisiting this is so useful! -- and each time I come back through I find a new perspective, sometimes things to remove, sometimes things I'm glad I never got around to removing because I suddenly see how I can use them in new ways.

    I love how you & Betty mixed it up so creatively; some items left your home for good, some will be displayed or stored elsewhere & some are now out to be enjoyed. Seeing things with new eyes often opens my mind to see the world & myself with new eyes. When folks hear "down sizing" it so often means just removal, but it can mean more than that.

    Thanks for the post! (& I hope your spammers have moved on to other pursuits)

    pam

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    1. We are finding some of the stuff from the house actually works well in the RV. For example, a large photo Betty had taken of a friend's (remember blogger Galen Pearl?) cabin in Oregon had been hanging in our living room. It is now in the RV bedroom so it is the last thing we see at night and the first thing we see each morning.

      Google does a good job of catching 95% of the spam comments and putting them in one folder so I can quickly delete them.

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    2. Yes, I do remember Galen; I enjoyed her blog & miss it, but wish her well. I love moving things around as well as letting them go to new "forever homes!

      pam

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  3. Funny, even though we're moving (SOON PLEASE GOD) we will be condensing 2 homes into one, which makes things a bit more complex. We have the city house, which is more of an urban feel with bold colors, and the beach house, which I used to call my 'play' house. It's much more whimsical and airy in feel and colors. Combining these into a cohesive decor is going to be interesting, to say the least.

    I'm not complaining one bit, because I know how blessed we are to be in this situation! But until we actually find the new place it's hard to know what to throw and what to keep. I do agree completely about eliminating the old stereo system completely! I may try Craigslist for that stuff. Then there are the bags and bags of things heading for the goodwill. I'm exhausted just thinking about it all!
    b

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    1. I don't envy you the process of blending two homes with their belongings and differing styles. But, you have wanted to make the move to the beach for so long you have a major motivator at work!

      I tried to sell several pieces of old electronic equipment, but the market for high speed cassette dubbers, old non-Blu-ray DVD players, the CD jukeboxes, and a tuner/amplifier is virtually non-existent. So, I am listing them on Craigslist for $1 each and slowly finding good homes for them.

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    2. I don't know if other states have them, but in California old electronics are being recycled as e-waste by the school districts & nonprofits for some extra money. We sent our TV's etc. there.

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  4. I always get a chuckle when I hear that someone has gone out and acquired magazines and books about simplifying and downsizing ... when in fact the way to simplify and downsize is to get rid of all those books and magazines. Which brings me to kindle. Same idea as the iPod. You can get rid of all your books and bookcases and keep everything in a little electronic device. Except, I LIKE books and bookshelves. So . . . back to the drawboard.

    Then there's the other issue. Not your own clutter, but the clutter being stored in your basement and garage by your kids. Anyone got a solution to that one?

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    1. I like my Kindle, but I still prefer physical books. So, I have compromised by getting rid of several hundred books that I don't think I will ever re-read, getting most new books and e-books from the library, and using the Kindle for the rest.

      We stored one daughter's belongings for several years. When she finally got a place big enough to handle all that stuff and an employment situation that looks pretty stable, we gave her a month to take what she wanted before we gave away the rest. It worked.

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    2. Made me laugh Tom. Our son moved to Baltimore right after he bought an old Camaro, which came with studded snow tires. The tires are illegal in MD. We had those suckers in our basement for years! Finally took them to the recycling center.

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    3. Oh...memories of putting on those blasted studded snow tires every fall and taking them off every spring. I still remember the sound they made while driving on pavement devoid of snow. Glad those are a part of my very distant, upstate New York and Boston past.

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  5. I had to smile when I read the line "One of the bookshelves in my blogging office has several dozens books on simplicity, voluntary simplicity, downsizing, and the like." Several dozen, really? It's sort of ironic to have that many books on simplicity!

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    1. Yes, it is ironic. I do learn something new from each, but simplicity may have to begin on those shelves!

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  6. I'm also a book/bookshelf person (although as my eyes get worse, reading on the Nook is much more comfortable) but I limited the number of bookshelves & for fiction I am keeping only the four mystery series belonging to my mom who has passed away (eventually those also may leave or be put on the Nook.) As for the downsizing book, as counterintuitive as it sounds, keeping a few of the best of them around, as well as financial books to remind me that money is finite, have proven to be well worth the space in our home.

    As for treasures stored here by our wonderful offspring......not as much help here, as one child had to move home (we live in an ultra expensive area in California & although she can keep her condo, she needs to live with us until she can clear her second or carry 4 jobs for 30 years, not a practical idea); but what I have done, even with this person, is the same as the bookshelves; there is a finite amount, whatever I --- not they --- can live with, & a time limit for the rest to go. Although there was some surprise at first, they were remarkably ok with the concept. The person living with me has a storage unit & the minimum here, by the way, & her moving in was the impetus for my removing quite a bit of my own excess "treasures."

    pam

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    1. The daughter referenced in the comment to Tom above had a storage unit with most of her furniture there in addition to what she had at our house. For two years and $95/month the stuff sat there. But, to her credit when she moved out of our house into her own apartment, she used virtually all of what she had paid to keep. Obviously, she knew what meant something to her when she make the commitment to pay that much money to hold on to it.

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  7. Is this downsizing part of the changing fire in the belly? Less is more? I downsized a lot when I moved into a new home 13 yrs ago. It's time again, especially the clothes closets. I often ask myself when I'm attracted to some new household item/book, etc - do I really need it? want it? or will it just create clutter? Technology has added to the clutter. I have an old boom box stereo with good sound that I listen to my CDs on. My son has decided that I need to move into the 21st century and has gifted me with a Ipod & the ear buds & the adaptor for the vehicle (translation: more clutter). Now I need a docking station. And now I'll have the CDs and the boom box to deal with when all the music is burned onto the Ipod (translation: more clutter). Yes, it's all more "efficient" and yes, I have a learning curve to challenge my aging brain but I call this "feeding the machine". A year into retirement and I believe I've finally uncluttered my mind!

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    1. I sat down one evening not too long ago and figured out all the technology my wife and I are surrounded by: two desktop computers, two laptops, two TVs, a DVD player, Kindle, smartphone, old CD boom box, iPod and docking speaker, amplifier for TV, and VHS player to be able to watch old tapes of our kids growing up.

      Add to that six amateur radios and three scanners for my ham radio interest and I can never claim to be the most energy efficient person around. The only saving grace is 90% are not on at the same time and all are on power strips so when they are off they are completely off.

      Still.................

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    2. You can get those VHS family tapes put onto CDs and dump the VHS player.

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  8. Malcolm and I just finished painting the interior of his Mom's house so we can relate. She was so pleased with the freshness of the new color that she decided to take the opportunity to "edit" the clutter as she returned her things to the rooms. Whatever the motivation or impetus, it's always a good idea to evaluate our "stuff" in terms of its continued usefulness.

    Musictonic is also a great music site.

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    1. I have not heard of Musictonic but will take a look.

      When we replace the upstairs carpeting sometime in the next few years there will be enough stuff to be removed to fill a dumpster and a few blog posts!

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  9. We have been living away from our home for six years because of my husband's job. As we begin the move back process I have been doing the same thing. I spent the last few days cleaning out the garage. Working with the theory that if I haven't used it in six years, I probably don't really need it, I made four trips to the thrift store and two to the dump. I feel much better!

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    1. I've read that some organizational experts use the "one year" rule: if not used in one year get rid of it. That is a bit too rigid for me, but after two or three I feel comfortable in doing what you did: into the trash or thrift store.

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  10. Creep happens . . .

    Getting new flooring, particularly if you do the closets as well, is as much of an effort as moving. Inevitable only a portion of what came out goes back. Speaking of which, since we have no plans to recarpet anytime soon, I have at least two closets that need to be decluttered . . . for about the 10th time each! I swear I don't know how or why this keeps happening because I'm really not the shopper these days that I used to be!

    But the baby books I've been holding onto? Well, finally they will be put to good use come this fall when we become new grandparents. Yippee!

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    1. Grandparents? Hey, congratulations when that big moment happens. Grandkids are fabulous additions to your life: all the joy without all the responsibility.

      When we do the upstairs carpeting we will have a hire some guys to move everything downstairs and into the garage, then all back again after the install. Yes, moving is about as much work.

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  11. I just can't get my wife on board with the de-cluttering idea. I've done just about all of my stuff, but now I'm entering into amine field if I suggest we downsize her "hoard."

    As for the kids' stuff in our basement...I do a garage sale every year and encourage/prod/cajole/beg them to put some of their stored things into the sale. Once they see a few dollars coming their way, they went back into the house and started looking for more things to put out. It still looks like a warehouse in our basement, but we've made a dent.

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    1. I am not entering into that dispute!

      Money is a good motivator for the kids and their stuff. So, is the parental right to say use it or lose it.

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  12. We live contentedly in the winter in a 620 square foot park model in Tucson. We brought everything we needed for three months in the back of our Prius. When we get home I am going to feel overwhelmed with all our STUFF in Seattle. I would love to downsize but my husband? Not so much. Yet.

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    1. You are pretty persuasive. Linda. Use your mediation skills on Art.

      620 square feet? Really? I have seen the inside of your winter home and it felt much more spacious than that.....maybe all the windows and sunshine.

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