If 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
- 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.
- 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?