No Way, Maybe, Gone

de-clutter_mind_map-copy1If I learned nothing else over the last few years, it’s that downsizing and decluttering takes time. No matter what you want or need to get rid of, whether it’s things or debt or activities, downsizing doesn’t happen quickly, because it’s both a process and an attitude adjustment. Three or six months or longer after you’ve sworn you couldn’t live without something, or think you have to have it or do it, you may realize that you actually no longer need that thing any more. So, out it goes, or you at least get yourself on a path toward getting rid of it, or changing things.

Our wakeup call came in 2005 when we moved from the house we had lived in for 10 years to a new house across town, one that was closer to the girls’ elementary school (and had more than one bathroom). As we begin to pack our stuff up for the move we were appalled at how much we had accumulated over those 10 years. It was the longest we’d ever lived in one house, and even after holding a few yard sales and making several donations we apparently still owned an awful lot of stuff. The move was a near disaster when, at the last minute, the buyers changed their minds and wanted us out of the house in 24 hours after closing versus the seven days they had initially agreed to, giving us no time to finish getting all our stuff packed up and out. We were somehow able to find a moving crew at the last minute to help, and just barely got everything out of the old house on time, but it wasn’t pretty.

Never wanting to go through that experience ever again, our downsizing journey began from that day forward. First it was just stuff we started getting rid of, but at the end of 2009, after a financially disastrous year following a reduction in Brett’s salary (it was that or being laid off), we decided we’d had enough of debt and began a three year journey to rid ourselves of that as well. Combining debt reduction with downsizing put us on the path to retirement and relocation to Hawai’i.

Along the way we used things up, we went without, we mended, we saved, we purged and completely revamped how we lived. We shredded, we donated, we recycled and we threw things away. We learned that we could easily live without lots of things we thought we couldn’t, that we didn’t need those things to have a satisfying life. We also figured out that although we didn’t have to give some things up, we could live without them if necessary. And, we realized what things we absolutely would not give up or go without.

Coming up with a personal list of “No Way, Maybe, Gone (for good)” took me a few days. I’d think of something, put it on a list and then change my mind or move it to another part of the list (“I could actually go without that if I had to”). The list surprises me in some ways, most especially because other than coffee, it’s definitely not the same list I would have come up with 10 years ago, or even five years ago.

Here are seven things I cannot imagine doing without:

  • Good coffee
  • My MacBook & iPhone along with high speed wireless internet when I’m at home
  • Travel
  • Sharp, quality knives for cooking
  • A slow cooker & rice cooker
  • Organic whole-grain bread
  • My library card

Seven things I could do without if I had to:

  • A gas stove – I hope I never have to go back to electric
  • A washer and dryer (this one is this close to being on the ‘no way’ list)
  • Wine, or gin & tonics
  • Shoes. I could happily wear flip flops or sandals for the rest of my life.
  • Eating out
  • Occasionally buying books for my Kindle
  • Other than the slow cooker & rice cooker, most of my other small kitchen appliances, including my KitchenAid stand mixer.

Seven things I (we) have given up that aren’t coming back:

  • A second car
  • Magazine subscriptions. Brett gets one as a gift, but that’s it.
  • Dieting
  • Cable TV
  • Land line telephone
  • Trader Joe’s (SOB!)
  • A full size suitcase. Carry-on only for me these days

Finally, there’s one thing I currently don’t have any more but wish I did at times: A dishwasher! Most of the time I don’t mind washing dishes, but there are those days when I would give just about anything to have a dishwasher again.

What about you? What things do you have to have? What things could you do without? And what things are gone and never coming back?

10 thoughts on “No Way, Maybe, Gone

  1. I have learned a lot from your decluttering over the years. I remember being slightly horrified when you were having the girls scan all of your photos and tossed the paper copies! But, then, my sit in boxes in the garage and would probably be looked at more frequently if they were available on my MacBook, so I get it now.


    1. I greatly enjoy having all the photos stored on my MacBook now. Like you, mine were stacked in boxes and really didn’t get looked at. I go to them far more frequently these days. With less stuff around, I appreciate the thing we do have so much more!


  2. This is very interesting, and it’s taking some thought! I am going to start downsizing / minimizing both at home and at work. I’m one of those people that ascribes sentimental meanings to EVERYTHING, so this is going to take some work. Interestingly, I receive a weekly e-mail from Becoming Minimalist, and this blog post caught my eye – I thought you’d like it:

    P.S. I have a dishwasher and I NEVER use it!


    1. Sentimental stuff is the most difficult to get rid of, and it took me a long while to realize that the sentimental items were in the end still just things. They weren’t the person who gave them to me, they weren’t the memory I had of that person. I took lots of pictures though of sentimental items before I let them go. I wanted them to go to others who would use them and enjoy them, and make their own memories with them versus than just sitting around in our house. Again, it’s not easy to let the stuff go, but takes constant re-evaluation. You could start by asking yourself if you want to PAY to move it to Kaua’i. That was a deal-breaker for many, many things and gave us a new way of looking at what to keep and what to let go. Less really is more here.

      I’m definitely NOT a minimalist, but I do love, love, love having less stuff. I read minimalist blogs all the time though to glean new ideas or ways of thinking about things.

      99 times out of 100, I don’t mind doing the dishes, but then there’s that one day . . . .


  3. It really is a process as you say. I started my minimalist journey @ 3 years ago. Before that I was inspired by Flylady and still do her weekly zones. I certainly discovered less is more. It takes very little time for me to tidy the house and do daily chores. I didn’t really get into selling much as it was too much trouble overall. But I loved giving collections of things to friends so they could enjoy them. I still am re-evaluating things, daily. I love loading my old van and heading to the Goodwill express drop off. I still have some areas that are hot spots but I work on those and find if I put things away immediately, then it stays clutter free. Something that has helped me is to keep like with like instead of in different areas. This has helped to evaluate whether one area has too much stuff. I have very few books anymore, less dishes, only white bath towels and then only 4. So, it is a process but feels great to do it.


    1. We only got into selling things because we had so much to get rid of before we moved, and the $$$ earned helped to pay for the move. I hated dealing with Craigslist, and eBay wasn’t much better. But, at the end we had very little left and we donated that to a organization in Portland that helps battered women and the homeless set up a new house.

      LOL – We are doing the minimal white towel thing too. So much easier. Sometimes I still look around though and think we still have too much, but these days I’m not sure what I would give up.


  4. I have been doing this for several years now. During the next 2 years before Jeanne and Luke go off to college, we will be renovating and downsizing…for the final push. It took a lot to go through the first 23 years of marriage…but so much easier now. I like the idea of scanning photos. Will start on the basement…I have eliminated over 25 large boxes…but so much more to go…


    1. Brett and I gave ourselves one task a month to complete – if we did more than that, great, but at least we got one major area done. One month it was to clear off a shelf in the garage (and then sell the shelving), the next month might be to go through a closet. Slow but steady wins the race! The girls are horrible packrats, but they are getting better.


  5. Great post! I have moved out a lot of sentimental items and took photos of them…which I then never felt the need to look at. This year my kid, Link, said they weren’t interested in looking through photo albums but would be more interested if the pix were digitized and could be seen in a slide show – how’s that for motivation to get the job done!


    1. We paid our oldest daughter to scan all of our photos, to earn a little money for college. She did the job while she watched TV in the evenings. It took her almost a whole summer to finish the job, but I feel they are safer now than they were, and they’re much easier to access.

      Sentimental things can be very hard to let go of, but I tried to let them go to people who might enjoy them more than I did, and take a picture first. We often found that some things we actually didn’t care as much about as we thought we did.


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