Inhale, Exhale!: Downsizing

Basement of Terror

It’s time. It’s past time. It’s so past time. The time to begin downsizing is any time, but the job can be greatly affected by the volume of stuff to be sorted, the age of the sorter, and motivation.

The New Oxford American Dictionary, Oxford University Press, 2001, tells me the following:

downsize: v. make (something) smaller

In the modern day, the “something” in the parenthetical is popularly applied to corporations firing thousands of employees before moving to India, and to the inevitable task of getting rid of one’s own or a beloved relative’s stuff.

I’ve done some research

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, Margareta Magnusson: An acquaintance told me about this one. Love the title, but a reviewer of the book described it as memoir, not checklist. Save for later.

House of Havoc, Marnie Jameson: Yes, I have the messy husband, but no children and I’m not in the market for the best type of high traffic flooring.

Sell, Keep or Toss, Harry L Rinker: We possess no antiques, valuables, or much of anything worth the hassle of hauling stuff around to appraisers.

It’s All Too Much, Peter Walsh: More self-help lingo about de-cluttering one’s mind as well as one’s basement. Where’s the checklist??!!

Not helpful. Not helpful.

During my Google searching, however, I came upon a blog, The blogger’s page focused on downsizing one’s personal library – I’m talking about the paper book one, not the one stuffed into your Kindle or iPad – but the steps Annie shared could be applied to CDs, vinyl, books, dishes, and tools. We have overwhelming volumes of each. I have shared her steps below, with my own comments.

Step 1. Start early in the day.

This I heartily agree with. I am an early morning person, although not one to jump straight out of bed into running shoes. There’s coffee, email, the crossword, the morning movie. Yes, I do watch an entire movie almost every morning when I don’t have to schlep off to the day job. So, if starting by 10 am is OK, I’m good.

Step 2. Have sustenance on hand.

Food is available as my husband is the cook. He’s much happier cooking than cleaning.

This is just a fraction of our books.

Step 3. Clear out a large area on the floor.

Floor-space in our tiny house is a very small piece of real estate, occupied most of the time by two English mastiffs. The couch and dining table—with chairs–will have to do.

Step 4. Start making small book-[CD-LP-dish-tool (this last in the basement)] piles.

Another fraction of CDs and LPs. Yes, we’re old.

Absolutely necessary. I may not be a duster, but I am an organizer. Books and music by genre and author and tools by what I think my husband could keep (five pliers of the same size???). Here is where decisions of where the rejects should go are made. Books are hard to sell. Tools maybe less so, but then, there’s always GoodWill.

Annie mentions a critical preparatory element. SMALL BOXES. Moving several times with many books over the years, I learned that lesson the hard way. She also recommends giving time to items you’re not sure you want to keep. You will likely end up getting rid of them, too.

And here’s a last minute update. There IS a good book with the necessary checklist, also mentioned by the same acquaintance: Toss, Keep, Sell, (hmmm) Leah Ingram, which I just downloaded, is just the checklist-heavy book I desire. There’s a chart, too!



About Jill Zeller

Author of numerous novels and short stories, Jill Zeller is a Left Coast writer, 2nd generation Californian, retired registered nurse, and obsessed gardener. She lives in Oregon with her patient husband, 2 silly English mastiffs and 2 rescue cats—the silliest of all. Her works explore the boundaries of reality. Some may call it fantasy, but there are rarely swords and never elves. More to the point, she prefers to write as if myth, imagination and hallucination are as real as the chair she is sitting on as she writes this. Jill Zeller also writes under the pseudonym Hunter Morrison


Inhale, Exhale!: Downsizing — 5 Comments

  1. I downsized a couple of years ago to a 2 bedroom senior living. I have the 2nd bedroom with my computer, my piano keyboard, and 3 walls of books. I had to get rid of 5k books.

    The next time I downsize I will have to get rid of lots more.

    But almost all of my books that I buy now are e-books. I don’t *need* physical stuff, and I’m learning to accept that. (I suppose I don’t *need* any books, but I don’t need to accept that, and don’t).

  2. I try. I really try. But then I dive into research for the next book and hubby always has the biography in hardcover or the CD of an esoteric folk group that I must have right this minute. “See, told you we shouldn’t clear it all out.”

  3. Oh, it was easy to get rid of my CDs too, as I didn’t get rid of the music. I haven’t gotten rid of my Blu-Ray disks though, even though most of my peers have switched to Netflix.

  4. I approach downsizing in fits and starts. During the latest round, 100+ VHS movies and 60+ hcs and trades went to the local library–they sell them for a couple bucks and I get a tax write-off. Goodwill apparently takes blank VHS tapes–people still use them, but stores don’t sell them anymore. I have at least 100 of those because my Dad used to tape every WWII program that the History Channel televised. Used tapes not worth saving–like said programs–can be sent to a company in Washington State called Greendisk.

    I still have more books to get rid of–they’ll be split between the library and local used bookseller. Then there’s the furniture, tools, clothes. I freeze up when I try to sort out Toss/Sell/Recycle.

    IOW, I know what you’re going through. Looking forward to updates.

  5. The mantra I’ve used is ‘I use it, I need it, I love it’; everything else can go.

    I find that my stuff falls into thirds: definitely keep, definitely give away, and dither.
    Making decisions about the stack in the middle takes up at least 80% of sorting time and 98% of my mental energy, so if I can’t decide, I’ll put it aside and go through the stack later, which makes sorting anything much faster and much less painful.

    After six months, the ‘dither’ stack usually splits into thirds.