Monday, October 5, 2009

Downsizing: The saga continues...

In a previous post I suggested that each of us who wants to downsize ask ourselves, "If my place were to burn down today, could I live without this item?" I thought that if I didn't need it in daily living that it could easily be purged. I have also explained that in our choice to voluntary simplify that we don't want to feel as if we are punishing ourselves. We want some comfort, not simply the bare necessities, so downsizing turned out to be easier said than done.

Selling things was hard for me. I had my own shop tools because I really enjoy creating sculpture by welding and woodworking. These tools have been in storage for awhile because I had found shared space where someone had these tools for me to use. Now, as I sold my tools I felt as if part of my identity was being ripped away. Will I be able to find another place in Seattle where I can rent shop time like I did before the move? I hoped so and had to believe that I will. I reasoned that I will be able to buy tools again if I ever really need them.

Since Jeff was in the build space all day near the end of construction while in California, we moved all of my tools and other odds and ends from my storage unit there. He was very good at talking with people who came to look at the items after I posted them on Craigslist. It was cash only & prices were firm. I probably set the prices lower than they needed to be because we were pressured with a deadline to move to Washington very shortly. I didn't want to have to bring more things with us to sell later. I was also happy to hand over the sales task to Jeff and not to have to deal with it (the psychological discomfort) any longer.

Jeff's only big items was his mission & leather furniture. When I married him he came with a whole apartment full of well made furniture that could be handed down to another generation or two. We have lived in many apartments and houses over the years and his was the type of furniture that when people came into our space for the first time they'd say, "Wow!". It was comfortable, it was beautiful, it was sturdy. Rick was moving to Albuquirky a few weeks before our move to Seattle and he said that he wanted to buy it all. Rick got a really great deal, Jeff was pleased to see his collection stay together and that it went to a friend, and this sale saved us from writing ads, etc.

What we sold: wood/metal shop tools, apartment full of furniture.

The give away was quicker and easier than the sales were (of course). I was short on time but we lived in a large apartment complex so I took a few color pictures, made some flyers and posted them in each of the buildings lobbies early one Saturday. By 5pm all of the items had been removed from my apartment by very happy, nice people. I didn't have to post them on Craigslist or Freecycle or cart them off to Goodwill and I felt as if lightening my load had made me happier as well.

What we gave away: desk, leather computer chair, collection of masks from around the world, plants, quality queen & twin mattresses, lacquered storage chest, lamps, house wares, antique armoire, dining table, file cabinet, shelves, clothes...

Not all things went though.

What we kept: 2 folding leather chairs, 1 wooden chair, tableware and silverware for four, pans, some clothes / shoes... currently we have a large toolbox in our living room with some fabric thrown over it for use as a sofa as well as 3 other boxes of hand tools / building supplies. As construction slows these tools will go into my brother's basement. I also have 4 boxes of fabric that are currently in my mom's house and these will come to our house for storage under a real sofa once I find one that fits our odd requirements (needs to fit in the 22" wide door, needs to be shallow, but can be 7' long). What I'm thinking is 4 to 6 dining chairs attached side by side with some padding on top; a unit that will look like a Swedish settee. I do woodworking, and I can sew, so making something like this (rather than buying something from Ikea) will be easy and is much more appealing to Jeff and me.

What we bought: a really decent mattress, coir floor mats with rubber underneath them for the foyer because it's going to be wet soon and we need a place to drip while we remove our shoes when we arrive home, a small 'side table' with shoe cubbies below to sit on in the foyer while removing our shoes, 2 wire hanging baskets for fruit to free up the counter tops, screws and other stuff to finish building.

Tip: Give yourself more time to get rid of things than you think it will take. You think it will take 6 months? Give yourself a year. I feel as if I could have recovered some of the money I'd spent on the items if I'd sold them instead of given them away, or sold them at higher prices, but I simply felt rushed to sell them so they went for yard sale prices. Avoid the stress of rushing, and avoid the feeling of losing money off the good work of downsizing, by giving yourself lots of time to get comfortable with the process.


  1. Right on guys! Glad to see you've made it to Seattle and didn't find yourself with a truck full of STUFF you didn't get sold in time! It's amazing, but my <600 sq ft flat feels really BIG and empty to me without all my STUFF...I'm glad a roommate is moving in this week!

  2. This comment is for others who continue to follow your story. When designing Cricket Cottage, I mentally put everything away in the designed space: kitchen, closet, and cleaning stuff. I, too, sew. I have a large hammer dulcimer. I desk is important to me as well as shelving for books. So, I've taken all this into account. I've also planned a 2-3-foot deep, 6-foot wide, 4-foot high exterior cupboard to mount between the propane tanks on the tongue and the forward wall. It will be for hand tools and miscellany.


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