The Upside to Downsizing – How You Can Love Life with Less
While sorting through my inbox, I came across one email with the subject line “Loving Life with Less.” Given my interest in downsizing, I was very excited to read it. Yes! I thought. That’s exactly the goal.
And then I began to think about how that really felt, and I wasn’t sure that it felt very good to think about living with less. Less what? Less clutter? Yes, that’s great! Less sleep? Well, that’s not so good even though many of us apparently are doing it.
I remembered a wonderful statement from John Muir, the venerable conservationist who fought so valiantly to preserve Yosemite. He said, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.”
My Downsizing Journey
Last year, I was faced with moving from my 2000-square foot home with a big two car garage and a very large yard to an 800-square foot apartment with a 46’x46” cage in the basement for storage. Yikes!
Among other things, this meant getting rid of about 80-90% of what I owned. Is this a possibility in your future? If so, you’re not alone in feeling the fears and overwhelm such a prospect can bring.
As I went through closet after closet, drawer after drawer and bookshelf after bookshelf, I realized that in addition to asking myself “How long has it been since I used this and how likely am I to use it again anytime soon?” I also took note of how the item felt when I held it or looked at it. Was it beautiful to me? Was it precious? Did it bring me joy?
What ‘Sparks Joy’?
In her very helpful book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo talks about those few things that, when we look at them, ‘spark joy’.
I think that, as Muir points out, we need more than ‘just functional’ things in our lives. We need some beauty, some play, some soul-feeding things and activities.
And I think that we need just enough of those things. Just enough to feel happy and satisfied and fulfilled in the same way we need just enough functional things to live with ease and a sense of spaciousness.
An Upside to Downsizing
In my book, The Upside of Downsizing: Getting to Enough, I talk about what it means to keep ‘just enough’ in mind while you downsize your home. Just enough functional things like pairs of socks and shoes, just enough camera equipment, just enough tools and books and pots and pans.
Just enough to get things done easily in our lives. But not more than enough. Not so that things are bursting out of closets and drawers and filling the garage to the point that the car doesn’t fit in any longer.
It feels better to me to think about “Loving Life with Enough” rather than “Loving Life with Less.” If I’m living with ‘less’ I may be deprived of things I really need. If I’m living with ‘enough’ I have everything I need to live a complete, fulfilling life.
How Do We Know If We Have Enough?
What are the signs of enough? For many years I’ve had a special project called the Sign of Enough, which is designed to help us answer the question “How will I know when I have enough?’’
It’s not an easy question, and we never answer it once and for all, but we can live ever alert to what the answer may be in that moment.
I invite you to try asking yourself this question for one day. If you’ll do this, when it comes time to do a major downsizing of your home, you’ll be prepared to downsize to enough, which will be at least a bit easier.
Loving Life with Enough
It took about five seconds for much of this to race through my mind before I opened the email I mentioned above. When I did, I realized that the subject was “Loving Life with Less Water.”
It was from a gardening shop and the topic was plants and shrubs that require less water to flourish. I smiled and thought, “Well, not all of us have enough, to be sure, but many of us have way more than enough to flourish.”
I invite you to keep in mind “getting to just enough to flourish” as you downsize your home.
You may find this process challenging, or even painful, so consider providing yourself with some extra support.
Ask a non-judgmental friend sit with you and ask you what’s important as you reflect on the issue. Or consider hiring a coach.
Can you think of a time in your life when you chose to live with less? How did that feel? In what ways does it feel different to you to think of living with less as compared to living with enough? What does downsizing your home mean to you? Let’s discuss in the comments below!