I Put the “Down” in Downsizing: Part 1

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I cannot tell a lie. *whisper voice* Sometimes. I miss my stuff.

I know it feeds all the wrong parts of my ego. I feel like I am supposed to say all the other usual downsizing things one hears vanlifers say: “It feels so good to be free of all the stuff!” “I don’t miss my stuff AT ALL!” “Stuff is just stuff.” “You can’t take it with you.” All this is true. I’ve read Mr. Money Mustache. I know the things.

And yet.

I also know I come from a long line of family memorabilia wizards (hoarders), and there have been a few times since moving into the van when I felt the gerbils in my head running and shouting, “where is that ONE VERY IMPORTANT THING?” Was it sold? In Brother’s basement? In Friend’s basement? In Other Friend’s Closet? WHERE. IS. IT???? And then I have to do some serious rodent control. Because occasionally, stuff feels like memories that give us meaning.

Most days, I sorta gaze around the van thinking it’s pretty cool I am content with less. Most days I love knowing there is a place for everything and we still HAVE EXTRA SPACE. Whaaaattttt??? Most days I enjoy window shopping knowing I am not going to buy anything. But it was both easy and hard getting here*. Freeing and panic-inducing. Teary and ragey and reliefy…why?

Well… When we learned we could do a short sale on our townhome, it considerably sped up our moving timeline. This happened at nearly the same time my mom’s cancer returned. It coincidentally ensued that I was having a garage sale one weekend and holding my dying mom’s hand the next week. It then ensued that I was listing my own furniture on Craigslist while emptying out my mom’s apartment. It was an emotional time, to say the least.

(Gotta plug some sibling love here – I am very grateful for sibling teamwork and our ability to laugh through all manor of tasks, as well as for the philosophical balance they provide regarding ALL THE THINGS. You see, Brother tends to fall on the “it’s such a cool old thing we should keep it” hoardy side of things, while Sister falls on the “it’s just stuff get rid of it” minimalist side of things. Together, they provide excellent balance for me. I can look to Brother when I want to keep the very important thing because it’s been handed down for seventy eleven generations and is very very precious yes keep the glass peacock bookends. I can alternately look to Sister when I need help prying the very important thing out of my sweaty hands because I don’t really need it it’s just stuff Meghan your memories are in your heart not your hands give me the peacocks.)

I digress; back to my emotional downsizing. Stuff-wise, my mom’s death occurred at an interesting juncture. Since we were ridding ourselves of ALL THE THINGS, my default to my mom’s things became an automatic “no” when I had always anticipated an automatic “yes.” This process was made a bit easier because Brother’s basement became the repository for SOME OF THE THINGS, like all the family photo albums that need to be digitized, and various and sundry pieces of furniture and antiques Sister and I could not take but thought needed to stay in the family. Thank you Brother. And also, sorry Sister-in-law for the state of your basement.

It was heartbreaking, this saying of the no, and relieving

Heartbreaking to see things I loved walk out the door. Heartbreaking because like my mom, there is a part of me that believes in the magic and memory of the glass peacock bookends. My mom revered ALL THE THINGS as one would cherish a family pet. I think they were her pets. But she did have the most enchanting stories about each of her treasures… one of her most alluring yet maddening qualities.

The relieving part? Well… to have less stuff for starters. Additionally, to know that some of my treasures were lovingly taken in by friends and family. I mean, if you want a happy heart, just walk into a friend’s house and see your beloved things being put to good use. Or, more so, willingly kept by them out of love because they sensed your difficulty in saying goodbye. Fills me with so much gratitude.

It is true, what people say… downsizing is like pulling off a Band-Aid. It may hurt for a minute, but then it’s over. Except when the panic gerbils visit. But that doesn’t happen very often. And, if I may say, given my upbringing, I am actually doing pretty good with the whole less-is-more concept. Now where is that ONE VERY IMPORTANT THING?

*This post is about my heart. The next post, “I Put the Down in Downsizing: Part 2,” covers the head; that is — the logistics process. The Disposal Disco. The Selling Samba. The Minimizing Mambo. Cha-Cha-Cha.

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