Downsizing, the Art of Letting Go

Posted By Tim on Dec 6, 2018 |


I recently moved. I was going from a 2600 square foot house on two acres in the jungle to a 1460 square foot condo with a lanai in town–from a house of grand proportions full of collectibles and oversized furniture to a modern, clean-lined condominium. I knew I had to downsize and let go of things, but I wanted to do so in a way that left me not missing anything. How did I do this?

  1. It started with the clothes. I had worked for Ralph Lauren for 23 years and during that time I’d collected a fair amount of very nice clothing. But some of it had to go – actually, a lot of it had to go. I went through my closet and asked, “What have I not worn in two years?” If I hadn’t worn it in two years, what is the chance that I would ever wear it again? It was hard not to be too nostalgic during this process. Some of these things held a special meaning to me, but I reminded myself that it was the memory that was important, not the article of clothing. Once I made the first pass, I then looked at what remained and assessed which items really sparked joy in me. Some of my clothing really made me feel special; others, not so much. There would be no room for “not so much” in my new condo, so out they went. This sorting process also included shoes. While I honestly don’t wear ‘proper’ shoes so much here in Hawaii, I do travel extensively and often, and thus a few nice pair of shoes are essential – but did I really need 20 + pair of dress shoes? No.When I was done, over a dozen garbage bags full of clothes and shoes were donated to a local charity. I then gave another dozen bags full of clothes and shoes to friends. Moving to a smaller space was making me ruthless!
  2. Next came the books. Though it felt sacrilegious to consider getting rid of any of my books, as I looked over my collection, I realized I had been literally transporting scores of books around the world for the past 25 years – many of which had never been cracked open. While there is something deeply satisfying about holding a bound copy of a book in one’s hands, I also realized that if I really wanted to read any of these books, I could get them on Kindle or simply check them out of the library. To that end, more than 20 boxes of books were donated to the local library.
  3. The kitchen was the next project. Since the kitchen was large in my house, I had collected all sort of dishes, utensils, and all manner of gadgets, many that I rarely used. It’s easy to buy something that would be “perfect” for preparing a special dish, or finding a serving platter in Barcelona or Osaka, but my new kitchen could never absorb all of the things I had accumulated over the years. I used the same mental process: what do I use, what do I love, and the rest gets donated.
  4. Tchotchkes. Those little trinkets that sit around and collect dust. They may be lovely, but you can have too much of a good thing. There were some things that I truly treasured. Memories from my years in Italy and other special events, but much of it was truly just collecting dust. Something to move when cleaning the house. Off they went to the donation pile.
  5. Finally, the big stuff, the furniture. My house was large and spacious. As such, I had large, bulky furniture, including a grand piano. Did I love my grand piano? Of course. It was still as beautiful as when I bought it at a piano auction 18 years ago. I had shipped it to Hawaii from the East Coast – meaning I had money invested in it. However, the truth was, the past many years I only sat down to play it about once a year. Fortunately, good friends happened to be looking for a black baby grand and they bought it. Further, since they entertain in their home multiple times a year, I get to see my old piano every time I go to their home, which allows me the ability to constantly ‘keep tabs’ on it. The new condo was going to be sleek, modern, and urban; my house was warm, tropical, and rural – the two simply did not line up. A few pieces made the transition, specifically my art, rugs, and lamps, most of which were made by local artisans. Fortunately the people who bought my house wanted all the old furniture, which was perfect since that meant I could get (and design) all new furniture to go with the new place.

Fast forward to today: I have just completed my new condo renovation and moved in. The new furniture is clean in line and silhouette. There are fewer tchotchkes sitting around, the look is simpler and more modern. The closets are more spacious and have breathing room. There is a sense of space, and dare I say it, freedom.

Now that I am settled into the new space, I must admit, I don’t miss a thing I gave away or sold. Nothing. Not a shirt, not a dish, not even that beautiful matte black piano. The whole experience, while difficult at times, was cathartic and liberating. It really is impossible to move forward while holding onto the past. Though I enjoyed my time with all those ‘things’ through the years, it was time to let them go and start a new chapter.

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