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5 Reasons Downsizing Is One of the Most Courageous Things You Can Do!

By Margaret Manning August 19, 2023 Lifestyle

Contrary to popular belief, the process of downsizing is super easy. All it really involves is three things. First, penetrating awareness that you have way too much ‘stuff’. Second, a firm commitment to making some tough decisions. Third, courage – a lot of it! I thought that I had all three, but the truth turned out different.

Downsizing Forces You to Make Hard Decisions

For the past few years, I have been systematically reducing my material possessions. It all started about 10 years ago. After a move that didn’t materialize, I found myself looking at 39 boxes of stuff that were waiting patiently to be opened. I was overwhelmed and started a downsizing initiative to reduce my possessions to just 200 items. Items, in total.

Admittedly, there were some things like books, and postcards and photographs, paperwork, handmade items and children’s art that I allowed to remain in limbo for many years. It was not until this year, that I began to tackle them.

Letting Go Reveals Your True Self

So how did I get to 200 items? Some of this was guided by a travel experience. I was going on a trip to India to visit close friends. I knew that I wanted to take gifts to friends and charities I supported, so accepted there would be baggage limitations on my international flights. I culled and honed, and selected and made decisions like a crazy person. I felt great and a little self-assured that I had been so disciplined.

Downsizing Challenges You to Be Honest with Yourself

So, off I went to London from Seattle with the following entourage! I took three purple suitcases filled with clothes, gifts, and goodies. In addition, I carried one small pink roller carry-on bag with an extra change of clothes, more gifts, and miscellaneous treasures.

Next was my trusted leather Tumi computer bag carrying my laptop, charger, extra phone battery, mouse, book and my famous ‘just in case’ bag. Finally, I carried a small crossover handbag with my wallet, passport, kindle, phone, makeup, pen, paper, and chocolate. Jet Blue to New York City – no problem. Virgin to London – no problem. Emirates to Delhi (via Dubai) – problem.

You Learn How Small a Kilo Really Is!

Now, at that time, I honestly had no idea what on earth a ‘kilo’ was. I figured it was around a pound – so even though I knew the suitcases were bulky (with clothes, gifts and a few of the chosen 200) no idea on real weight. But the little machine knew – 74 kilos.

Ok, I do freely admit that is a LOT. 30 kilos went free and then came the shocker. Emirates Airline policy was to charge $25 for each additional kilo. Yes, it was, apparently, in the fine print.

At this point my mind froze. I was trying to multiply as the blood rushed through my brain, but thank goodness for Emirates efficiency! The airline representative knew right away that 44 extra kilos would cost $1100 for my 2 suitcases. Obviously, this was an impossible scenario. With 90 minutes left to my flight, there I was in Terminal 3 with two suitcases chock-a-bloc with everything I honestly thought was totally essential.

So, I went to a quiet spot, opened both suitcases, and went through them one item at a time. I made decision after decision. Do I want to carry this grey t-shirt or that white one? Do I really need that purple sweater? Do I take back that jacket or that scarf? I burst into tears a couple of times and tried to disguise my despair for insanity. In an airport like Heathrow, this seemed to be totally acceptable behavior.

A couple of people passed me and shook their heads like “ah, poor woman.” But with every decision, I felt lighter, physically and metaphorically. My mind moved from “Oh my goodness, what am I going to do” to “Why didn’t I downsize this far in the beginning?” I donated the one remaining bag to charity (Thank you, kind person, at British Airways Terminal 3 Info Desk) and with a much lighter suitcase holding 18 kilos of special treasures off I went.

You Quickly Forget What You Gave Away After Letting Go

Now, funnily enough, I can’t remember what I left behind – so that tells you how important everything I thought really WAS. I did keep some pretty silly things like a funky handmade mirror, but mostly all I have now is what I really need. But this process was the ultimate forced decision-making. I am eternally grateful that I was given the opportunity.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Have you ever had to make tough decisions about items in your life that you need to let go? What is the most courageous downsizing decision you have ever made?

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It is an ongoing process, not without trauma, for me. A year after losing my husband who had Alzheimer’s, (years of caregiving and grief took a massive toll). I experienced a burglary in our home that incurred not only a physical loss of valued items, but financial resources that have left a hole in my retirement. The burglary was traumatic and difficult, but it did bring me to awareness that “things are just things”.
Moving forward I find myself in an ever present mindset that I don’t want to collect “stuff” anymore. I want to collect experiences! It is serving me well.😊


All credit to you for being a loving carer. I looked after my father for just over a year when he was in the early to middle stages of vascular dementia. It was very hard and even after such a short time I was exhausted. Being perimenopausal made the exhaustion worse. I have total respect for everyone in this position as it takes its toll and is very traumatic. I hope you have found peace.


I learned the hard way about keeping too much “stuff” when the house we lived in over 20 years ago was flooded by a burst pipe in the attic when we were away on holiday over the festive season.

Sadly, we came back to a serious mess with a lot of trauma attached. Most of the downstairs was wrecked, as was one of the bedrooms. The house was assessed as unfit for habitation as it needed to be dried out, so we lived in a hotel for a month until we could find somewhere to rent. All we could find was a furnished bungalow that hadn’t been decorated since the 1970s so it was very depressing. I had days when I stayed in bed.

It took over 2 weeks to sort through sopping wet items for the insurance claim, then the house had to be refurbished twice after drying out as the first time wasn’t successful. From start to finish it took 18 months to resolve; at one point we were living in our kitchen during the second renovation. We also had the stress of wrangling with the insurers.

I resigned myself to the losses being just “things” and vowed I would never have too much or hold on to things in future. I also told myself being healthy and alive was far more important.

5 years later I had breast cancer and my husband sometimes blames it on the stress of dealing with a flooded house and losing most of our possessions.


a homeowner’s nightmare, to be sure. and i think your husband might have a point. trauma of all kinds takes a toll on our physical being. i hope you are okay now.


I lived in a 4000sqft, 100yo Texas farmhouse. My husband had died in 2004 and the 4 kids were starting to scatter. The size and accumulation was overwhelming. It took a couple of years but in 2017 I started going through things, throwing away, & giving away. I took all of my mother’s and mother-in-law’s heirloom collections and laid it all out in my living room, called the kids, & told them to come get what they want. I kept only a few items that were meaningful to me. What the kids didn’t take went to the thrift store or were given away. I did the same thing with the library. The kids took only a hand full of books. The remaining 600 books went to Half Price Books. In 2019 I decided to fulfill a lifelong dream and live on a mountain in the Ozarks. I downsized again (big downsize this time) because all I had was a 432sqft cabin on 145 acres. In the fall of 2022 I decided to move back to TX (grandkids had shown up in my life). Once again I downsized. As an artist and craftsman I have boxes and bins of “stuff” to make things with. I can honestly say I went through absolutely everything I own! I got another cabin in the woods in TX but it is bigger than my AR cabin and I have 2 storage sheds. However…I have decided that van life is for me in this stage of my life so I am downsizing once again. Mostly all I have to downsize now is the art and craft stuff. My wardrobe now fits in a small closet (about the size of an RV closet) and a couple of drawers. I figure it will be a couple of years before I sell this place and convert a van (I’m 69) but I’m taking a box or 2 a day and determining if it really will be useful. Daily I formulate how to create space for creating in my van and imagine me, my dogs, and my things will transition into van life.

My web site is under construction. I’m hoping to sell my wares online and at events.


you’re an inspiration. i’m in a place of ‘what do i want to do’ — art and school are frontrunners. but YOU! you’re amazing. thank you for sharing!


After 64 years of accumulating stuff including my baby book that my Mom saved for me (I did keep that one!), I gave away almost everything or shredded the paper work or in the garbage!! Stained baby clothes, letters, correspondence, cards, outdated clothes and shoes and lots of kids stuff that were still in my cupboards. Sadly, most of our kids use Mom and Dad’s place for storage because they don’t have space!! It was liberating!! You need a good friend to help you because I did it in stages. One friend helped me tackle my closet and she was stronger than I but I did it! And you are right, you need lots of courage!!!


so much stuff and being busy taking care of others and stuff is a distraction from ourselves. Focusing on others and the world’s problems is also a way to avoid ourselves. Most people can’t speak in I language for this reason, they only know how they feel about everyone & everything other than themselves. The hardest work for humans is to be okay within themselves and stop thinking every trip or next purchase or something outside ourselves is ever going to make us happy.


My sister in law hoards things, I think it may come from growing up without having much and not knowing her father.

She has sadly dragged my brother down with this as she won’t get rid of anything. She even has a trunk in the attic with clothes from the 70s, despite being 5 dress sizes bigger now. If I visit I have to move something to sit down an there is no real room to clean. Piles of things just get moved round and end up in the attic and garage when the house has no more room.

It saddens me as it has had the effect of blocking both her and my brother mentally for years. They are 73 and you would honestly think they are 10 years older.

The Author

Margaret Manning is the founder of Sixty and Me. She is an entrepreneur, author and speaker. Margaret is passionate about building dynamic and engaged communities that improve lives and change perceptions. Margaret can be contacted at

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