Gramz's Blog

Musings of a crazy quilter


It's much harder to downsize than I thought.

I had good intentions. I even had a good plan. But this is harder than I thought.

I have experience with moving. In 26 years of marriage, my husband and I have lived in eight homes. I did the math. I averaged a 3.71 year stay in each of the previous seven houses. As a result, I consider myself pretty much a pro at packing and moving. I also think I am pretty darn good at setting up a new household which means, more often than not, making do.

Moving a lot also means one learns a good deal about one's spouse. In my case, this specialized knowledge developed an extraordinary skill set and triggered some interesting behaviors. I learned to pack the most important items first since anything that doesn't fit might be left at the curb as the truck pulls away. I learned to fight for a place for any furniture which is designed for organization. I discovered a need to look over hubby's shoulder as he hauled boxes from sheds, attics, and basements to make sure they make it to my packing area or he might decide they are worthless and drop them in a dumpster. I found it is important to take the non-perishable foods as well as inexpensive and easily replaced items (even if he insists we can buy new ones after we relocate) because there is never enough money after the move to replace them right away. I learned some items are not so important after I had to move them so many times. I also became more organized and self-reliant because I learned first hand what a move is like when you live with someone who is not so organized and is seemingly disinterested in the process until the very last minute when it is time to gas up the vehicle and cram miscellaneous items wherever they might fit.

When we returned to Indiana last year, we had already significantly downsized the amount of things we had, keeping in mind that everything we were taking with us had to fit in a 26 foot moving truck and our two vehicles. Before the move we had a 2000+ square foot home with literally tons of stuff stored in the 2-1/2 car garage, attic, and huge crawl space. We left behind two grown daughters in Missouri and we passed many things on to them. We gave away stuff. We donated stuff. We sold stuff. We discarded stuff. And, ultimately, we rented a dumpster and had stuff hauled away. It was embarrassing, really. I hadn't realized we had accumulated so much. It was freeing to let all that stuff go.

We moved the remainder of our stuff into the little rental house in our new hometown. After we had lived in the rental for six months and had become familiar with our little town, I began the search for a house to purchase. We enjoy the fun and responsibility that comes with home ownership. Before the first anniversary of our return to Indiana we found our new home, a little bungalow. The difficulty was the house was in bad shape and our lease was up, so all our stuff went into storage.

We tried living in the roomy, finished basement of my husband's brother. The house was comfortable and we felt welcomed there; they even designated the basement bathroom for use only by the three of us. But it was inconvenient to get our son to and from school every day. Traveling between our town and my brother-in-law's town was getting old. Were quickly tired of eating out. And we missed our stuff. So we rushed to get one tiny bedroom and the closed in porch in livable condition. As soon as those two areas were clean and we had hot water for the new bathtub, we moved our beds, a loveseat, and a television into the bungalow.

It has been several months since we first made our bedroom on the enclosed porch. Thankfully, our bedroom was livable before the weather turned cold. Our little house is coming along nicely. Except for minor inconveniences, we are quite comfortable. But I still miss my stuff.

Except for the living room and my son's bedroom, every room has been organized, renovated, and reorganized until it contains all it can hold and still be attractive and functional. Yet, the storage unit is still full of stuff.

Each trip from the storage unit must be planned with great effort because there simply is no more room in the house. For example, I completely emptied the porch (which has become the staging area for every project) to make room for the Christmas decorations and my sewing things so I could make room for them in the house. To accomplish this I had to empty, paint, install flooring and shelving in the closet in my son's room so there would be room for our hanging clothes, add a cabinet and reorganize the pantry in the kitchen to make room for fabric, find a place for the box of autumn decorations, and donate another minivan full of stuff to the town resale shop. All this took a matter of weeks. You wouldn't think it would be such a big deal, but I have never lived in a house before that did not have usable space in a basement, attic, or garage: this house has none of those. So every item that comes in the house means that something else has to go out.

I do have plans for getting all our treasures out of the storage unit, but it is going to take much longer than I had planned. Since my husband has had periods of illness ans injury in recent months, he has been unable to assist with lifting heavy items. So the bookcases, for which I have big plans, remain in the storage unit along with the big dining table and chairs and the couch. So this week I came to the conclusion that our storage unit is going to serve as our attic/garage/basement storage until we can figure out a more permanent fix. And if that permanent fix means more stuff gets sold, tossed, or donated, then at least I will have more time to determine which stuff goes and which stuff stays.

You might think I sound like a hoarder; in fact, my husband called me that the other day and since I have seen those television shows about hoarders I'll admit I did not respond well to being called one. I am not a hoarder. In fact, it is more important to me that my home look attractive than that I keep all the stuff I have had in my possession over the years. I do hold tightly to some things, but only until I determine whether there is a need for it; f I decide we don't need it I am happy to see it go to another home, but I get pretty ticked off when perfectly good stuff gets thrown in the trash. Just the other day my husband decided there wasn't enough room in the closet so he threw ALL his dress clothes in the trash and said he only needs work clothes. I was horrified when I learned of it, but I try not to meddle when it is his stuff. I had made plenty of room in the closet for his belongings, but at the very least I thought they should have been given to someone who would use them rather than throwing them in the garbage. I think that is why it may seem I keep a death grip on my stuff.

Give me time to let it go, and I will. In the meantime, I'll keep sorting my stuff when I visit it at the storage unit. Eventually, I'll have only the best stuff and the most practical stuff that actually fits in this little space. And I'll make do until it all works out.


Published Sat, Nov 26 2011 5:02 PM by Gramz Quilts
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# re: Downsizing@ Saturday, November 26, 2011 7:18 PM

Well we are in the same boat.  We are downsizing and it does feel good to get rid of stuff, tho material wasn't one of the things.  My husband has urged me to keep most of my sewing stuff, thank goodness. We will be living in a motorhome for a while after the place sells till we decided where and how we are going to live.  That should be an experience as we will have quite the menagarie with us.  I plan on doing lots of handwork during that time.  So it was good to hear your story.  Much of what is already packed wouldn't be missed and i could sort again.  Amazing what you really need and what you want or have.

# re: Downsizing@ Saturday, November 26, 2011 8:14 PM

When I bought my house last summer,I sorted and resorted and then resorted the resorted. Afterwards had a huge garage sale. What didn't sell, was donated to two different charities. And amazingly enough, not one thing came back into the house from the garage sale. I did sell some items on Craig's list and ebay that did not sell in the garage sale. They were bigger priced items. All of this stuff just didn't fit in my new home and I hadn't used it in forever so why keep it? Haven't missed any of it either. However, I have bought other stuff for my new home. So I have replaced stuff with other stuff. Can't win!!


by Linda

# re: Downsizing@ Saturday, November 26, 2011 8:19 PM

it was hard the first time we downsized from a house to a small condo.   then we had to downsize further from two condos, one in idaho and one in seattle, to one small condo in idaho.   that second time, it was a lot easier getting rid of stuff.   it all went to our oldest daughter.   she was the only one that showed up on the last chance day, with a u-haul.   she stuffed everything in the u-haul and the things she didn't want went into a huge yard sale.    she made a lot of money that day.   i was happy to be rid of the stuff and glad that the money went to my daughter.

it really is amazing how much stuff you can accumulate.

by gini

# re: Downsizing@ Sunday, November 27, 2011 8:29 AM

I do know what you mean. We had our home for sale a while back thinking to downsize. The nightmares I had about all the stuff in the basement! We sold a commercial property in Florida we had on the market for several years so we took our home off the market. I'm glad I don't have to make decisions about what to get rid of. God willing, my sons can decide that after we die! lol

# re: Downsizing@ Sunday, November 27, 2011 8:30 AM

By the way, nursediana...East Tennessee is beautiful and less expensive. Drive on over and check us out. You can plug into our house while you look! lol

# re: Downsizing@ Monday, November 28, 2011 11:37 AM

I really do relish the idea of being free of all the stuff, but I want to hold on to some special pieces for just a bit longer. lol

All, so nice to hear your stories. Thanks so much for your comments.