Downsizing

We just moved across town.  This is our 3rd home in 2 years.  We went from a 4 bedroom 2000sq ft home sitting on nearly an acre in Grand Rapids, Michigan to a 1500 sq ft, 3 bedroom home on a tiny lot in Vancouver, Washington.  And now, to a townhouse in an apartment complex that allows us just over 1300sq ft of living space, gratefully with an attached single car garage, in Beaverton, Oregon.

In the process we have said good-bye to many possessions.  As we have sorted and agonized it has been wonderfully clarifying to see what we truly value, and to watch our home become less about things and more about people.  It is also clear to us that we are well blessed beyond our net worth, as seen in the amount of things we’ve possessed, most of which was gifted to us. Taking moments to let this revelation sink in and to enjoy the love that has been shown us through these gifts has been a gift in itself.

We still have plenty of stuff, and could probably stand to say good-bye to another 3rd of what we currently house without a problem or inconvenience.  And there have been some surprising challenges pop up in this process. Guilt over letting go of Grandma’s tea cup, sadness in saying goodbye to baby blankets we haven’t used for nearly a year, and fear of what So-and-so might think of us giving up such-and-such.  Then, there is the challenge of well intentioned family and friends offering new treasures as they hear tale of our children’s woes over the loss of broken Mc Donald’s toys… And, of course, what to do about birthdays and holidays that traditionally celebrate with the exchange of gifts.

Realizing that we don’t need things to remember that we are loved, that the gifts we are given are not the true present, but that the love we are shown by the expression of these gifts is what we need to hold on to and remind each other of; this is a new family goal we have set for ourselves.  Remembering that things have a place and are ment to be enjoyed, but can also be let go of or passed on for others’ enjoyment is a new mindset we are wriggling into.  Weighing the emotion of the moment against the overall longer-term outcome is something we are practicing.  Letting go of guilt over how others feel about our choices is something we are learning to free ourselves with.  We are gradually working toward attaching the sentiments to people instead of items.

There are benefits in ways we didn’t expect as well.  As we have downsized to a point where everything has a place we are seeing our budget loosening a bit.  We haven’t lost things or needed to replace things.  As we enjoy everything in its place we are experiencing a new kind of contentment.  The pain of sorting and making decisions is a deterrent to bringing new things into the house to replace something that has already carefully been assigned a spot.  Even my children’s insistence that they “need” something they saw in a store or on TV has decreased.  Playtime has become more enjoyable because we know where all the pieces are.  And I overhear my son saying, “No, we can’t do that until we put this away,” music to my ears!

As challenging and even painful as this process has been I am grateful for this season of downsizing.  It has been as refreshing and uplifting as it has been humbling and hard.  There is so much freedom in living more simply and maintaining only what we need and what we take joy in.

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6 thoughts on “Downsizing

  1. I LOVE this post. Stuff is my most frustrating thing to deal with. You are inspiring me! How did you explain to your kids about saying good bye their stuff? That’s where we would have the worst struggles–especially since we aren’t being “forced” to do it.

  2. Jessica, a lot of prayer in preparation. We are so blessed in the matter of provision, and we truly haven’t been forced into downsizing. We have chosen to relocate and live within smaller means in order to achieve goals God laid on our hearts over the years, and to correct poor choices that are the results of habits going unchecked because of freedoms we do have. We spent time putting our purpose statement on paper, and realized that we are our biggest hindrance to what God has impassioned us to do. Putting some physical limitations around us provides us with the imposed discipline we don’t have the strength to impose on ourselves, but need if we want to be more than we have been. We spent time sharing this (in much simpler terms) with the kids, and explained all the benefits we would be enjoying.
    Practically speaking, there were time we gave them specific instructions, “you may choose five of these, the rest will go to help your cousin come home from China.” (using Bryce’s brother’s adoption cause gave them a purpose for letting go of their things). We also used our organization tools (my parents gave the kids Ikea shelving/bins) and told them everything has to have a place, they get to decide what they keep as long as it fits within the bins provided. Elie needed a lot of help. Jadon was very decisive all on his own.
    It helped them a lot to see that Mommy and Daddy were doing the exact same thing with our stuff, and to be part of taking loads to their Aunt and Uncle’s garage sale site, knowing it was going to help pay for their China cousin to come home.
    We are finally celebrating tonight, with a family sleepover in the living room. It’s been an long process (I think it’s been 6 weeks?), and they have done so well hanging in there with us!

  3. I don’t think I’ve ever told you that I love your writing. When I read a friend’s blog I am certainly interested, but usually not engrossed. I find myself totally engrossed in yours. You are a good storyteller. Having just read your post about your trip to Port Townsend, I feel like my mind and soul just took a mini vacation right along with you.

    And I can definitely relate to this post! When we moved out here we took only what fit inside and on top of a two-door Hyundai Accent (including two cats!). We were able to leave some things in Portland, though that was mostly what fit into a 2×8 closet. I remember well the “fear of what So-and-so might think of us giving up such-and-such.” In the whirlwind of our sudden move, I couldn’t take much time to ponder, but I do recall taking a moment to be thankful when I came across those items. My very favorite part of this post is the comment about “gradually working toward attaching the sentiments to people instead of items.” Absolutely brilliant, Lindsey! We really do focus on the item more than the person, don’t we?

    Thank you for sharing your gift and your story here. *hugs*

    • Thanks Steph! You are very encouraging. It is amazing what we can do when pressed to do it, and how our true values rise to the surface in what we possess. My cousin is packing up her family of four into ten boxes. That’s it! I am impressed and in awe with her. They are moving to Kenya, where her husband will teach at the school she grew up attending. Not only downsizing but packing up one way of life to live another… I wonder if I could do it as well as she has, ya know? God is good!!

  4. Wow! That is really awesome. I will be praying for them! Do you know where in Kenya? My mother-in-law (who is a teacher) is going there next month for the second year in a row to the Kibera slum (just outside of Nairobi). I believe it’s the third largest slum in the world. Since the children in the slum can’t afford to go to school, various women in the slum have taken it upon themselves to teach nearby children. There are also many women who teach what they call Bible clubs, and also Sunday school. Naturally, these women have no formal training. So the team my mother-in-law goes with brings supplies and provides training to these teachers. As I pray for her and that group, it will be easy to remember to pray for your cousin and her family as well!

  5. They are going to be just outside of Nairobi Proper, at a school… Rossalin… Academy? How cool that your mil is doing that!! My grandparents did medical trips similarly for about 10 years after they retired. Training doc’s and nurses. My cousin is a mid-wife, and will be able to offer her services free of charge when her girls are in school, Lord willing. It is such a huge need – for training of teachers and other services there. Thank you for your prayers for my family – I will be sure to be praying for your mother-in-law too.

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