Or so Amy Poehler tells me…
By Chris Goff
This has been a year of downsizing. It’s not for the faint of heart.
Where it began.
Five years ago we went from 4,000 square feet to 1,750 square feet. Talk about downsizing. We sorted through our life’s accumulation, getting rid of things we could bear parting with, taking things we couldn’t live without, and storing the rest in a 20×20 Public Storage unit.
I read a lot of books on the subject, starting with The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Great advice. If something brings you joy, keep it. It it doesn’t, get rid of it. I kept everything and joyfully didn’t feel guilty for getting rid of something my grandmother, my mother, father or mother-in-law loved.
At last, one of my daughters convinced me that I had to let some things go. Take a picture. Per her advice, I am now the proud owner of a private Instagram page called Virtual Nostalgia, where I can go and look at photos of things I parted with. Some items I still mourn, while others… Let’s just say, I no longer feel defined by dead people.
My favorite book, Clearing the Clutter by Mary Lambert, taught me feng shui. To keep Chi moving through my rooms, I was forced to wrangle the clutter. That required me to clean up my act—clearing countertops, shoveling out from under the beds, wrangling the tchotchkes. Bath towels were rolled up and stuffed into baskets. Dishes, glasses and special items were artfully curated into the cupboards. Baubles were sealed behind glass. Joyfully, it cut way down on the dusting!
We tried giving stuff away.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered my children didn’t want a lot of our stuff. Suffice it to say, they know what works for them, and they’re all way smarter than I.
I am the only child of an only child, and my husband is an accumulator. We honestly come by some amazing things. Unfortunately, they are things that don’t necessarily fit into the modern lifestyle. Beautiful sets of gold-leafed China that must be handwashed. Gorgeous bed frames for double beds in a queen-sized—or even king-sized—world. A kerosene-powered fan and hall lamp. A boiled Cyprus knee statue. Hand painted duck decoys. A myriad of artistic works from bronze statues to watercolors to contemporary art. And thousands of books. Books that take up walls of space.
Cut to the present.
Our new home, just remodeled, is 2,078 square feet. We’re upsizing! But we are also determined to empty the storage unit. After all, 5 years at nearly $200 a month adds up to $12,000. Enough to go on a really nice trip somewhere.
Enter Amy Poehler and her new reality TV show.
Inspired by Margareta Magnusson’s bestselling book, The Gentle Art of Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter, the series offers eight different people at different stages of their lives a chance to sort out their home, life, and relationships before it’s too late. Based on a Swedish process called döstådning—death cleaning, it describes the act of doing a thorough cleaning and getting rid of things to make life easier. It’s something we all need to do so we don’t burden those we leave behind someday with the overwhelming task of sorting through our crap.
The first thing we did was send the box taped with a seal marked July 1971 to Goodwill. We didn’t open it. If we hadn’t needed what was in there in 52 years, we decided we didn’t need it. I hope some garage sale treasure hunter has a great find when they open our time capsule. My guess is, it’s a box of rocks. We moved a number of those!
Bottom line, we own a mishmash of stuff. We have contemporary furniture and 200-year-old antiques. And while our living space is coming together, our basement hosts several rock collections, a box collection and two seashell collections. We have cartons of things that belonged to my grandfather, grandmother, mother, and in-laws. Boxes of kids’ things, kids’ clothes, and one large box of Beanie babies. We have an old wooden steamer trunk that carried my ancestors’ possessions from Sweden to the U.S. in 1888. At least twenty plastic goose decoys and a box of old VCR tapes and DVDs—no doubt some rare collectibles.
Bottom line, where’s Amy Poehler when you need her?
Dear reader, where do you come down on this whole downsizing idea? Tips are welcome!