The Upside Of Downsizing

Published in The Ferndale Record, September 26, 2012

I’ve recently become an apartment dweller, and please excuse my bold assertion, but I think it looks pretty good on me. After gradually letting go of things both tangible and not, my pared belongings and I reside under a much tinier roof. Someone else takes care of the maintenance, and life is simpler. Living lean has considerable advantages.

The move from big house to small-ish digs, and everything that came with it has become a metaphor for my life. The shedding involved was cleansing, even purifying.

I reveled in all my stuff. It represented my history and I felt a level of comfort surrounded by it. My desire was to maintain a large enough home where children and grandchildren could gather, spend holidays, and comfortably stay for days at a time, and I, of course, would be the unchanging hub of this universe, doling out nourishment in the form of food, love, acceptance, support and clean sheets. I would be there for them.

So, even though selling my home and donating items was cathartic, it also stung a little. Because of the downsizing, things would not turn out like I’d hoped. But in the process, I stumbled on what I value most.

I get to keep the memories. Like the time my former husband and I bought a behemoth, oak roll-top desk so I would have a place to write. We spent more on it than any piece of furniture we owned. I adored that desk, the way it looked, smelled, functioned and held my stuff. But it was just that—a ‘stuff’ holder. It went to the kindest of friends, who, because she’d done some research and loved me, insisted upon paying twice what I was asking for it.

A lot of the shedding wasn’t so obvious. Somewhere along the way I also let go of the need to be right all the time, and to check my whining when things don’t turn out like I want.

I saw myself become more patient, ditching the need for a quick fix, learning how to wait. Expectations fell away and outcomes, as unexpected as they may be, were seen for what they are—blessings. I fret less about everything in general, and many things specific.

As a little girl I had a Magic 8 Ball, and by the way, who didn’t? I asked it lots of questions, usually concerning boys I liked or what we were having for dinner. Not approving of its answer simply meant giving it a good shake, trying the same question and hoping for the mystical, floating triangle in the inky substance to show up in the bottom window and tell me what I wanted to hear.

Back then the questions were simpler, and I could pretend. Among other things, not pretending anymore means opening up to what could be, not just what I think I want or need.

All things considered, my singular apartment life is not awful. In fact, it’s quite lovely. And I’m learning that being there for my family has nothing to do with a big house. It has to do with my heart, which made the move with me.