I don’t think I really approached my downsizing with the normal mental state that most folks have when they downsize. For me it was almost an out of body experience: I unexpectedly found that I wasn’t really tied to my “things,” and I had virtually no problems selling, donating, or just giving away just about everything. It was very odd. It should have been disconcerting, but it wasn’t. When I look back at everything I did during the last quarter of 2012, it’s still as though I am standing across the street, watching it all happen. No, I mean, really—in my mind I can see myself standing across the street and down one house. Watching. It’s so bizarre.

My Method, Experience & Advice

First, I set a deadline. In late summer 2012, I told myself that by the time I flew home to my parents’ for Christmas, I would have sold my stuff, sold my house, and be moved into some temporary lease space. I owned a 1929 Tudor in a historic district of old East Dallas that I had been in for 3.5 years. I didn’t think of myself as a pack rat, but I recognized that I was a full-time project person. In fact, on my previous blog, my moniker was “Project Girl.” I had a workshop in the backyard and a closet of crafting supplies—both of these got heavy use.

Once my deadline was set, things began to fly out the door. And the more things that went, the faster additional things flew. I started by simply asking friends and neighbors if they had an interest in any particular items. I sold a few things. When friends came over, if they happened to mention that they liked something, they often went home with it! That sort of became the running joke, but in all seriousness, it was a big part of what got me to where I am.

Next, I found a duo of amazing realtors, Bryan & Amanda Crawford of Crawford Residential  and they walked through my house and tagged the items they wanted to remain in the house for staging. Most everything else was slated to be sold.

My Criteria for Choosing What to Keep and What to Sell

Does it fit? Does it look good on me? Do I wear it? If I couldn’t say yes to all three questions, it went.
Household items:
Does it have a real purpose? Or, do I really love it? If I couldn’t answer at least one of these questions, without hesitation, it went.  Also, if when my gaze fell upon an item in my house my first thought was anything less than positive or joyful, it had to go.  I have removed any item that has a negative connotation, making my home a place of sheer joy.

I held my sale in November. I enlisted the help of friends to help me get things sorted and priced. I borrowed tables from neighbors, friends, and my neighborhood association. I lined up friends to act as room monitors, cashiers, and to put out signs on street corners the day of the sale. I put an ad in the Dallas Morning News and on Craigslist. Finally, I flew a sister in from San Diego for help and much needed moral support, and we got to it.

The sale was a success, I’d say. I had more things than I thought, and in retrospect I should have priced things lower. At the end of the day, friends helped me load up three huge SUVs full of what was left, and we took it to Goodwill. There was no looking back, no second guessing if I should keep things—we loaded it up and off it went. My sister and I did a quick clean of the house, showered, and went to dinner. We toasted our success and fell into bed.

Purpose in Possession: Tips & Tricks

I have pared down my possessions to where I can tell you where everything came from, and if it is handmade, who made it. I have very few knick-knacks that just sit around and look cute. This is because:

  1. I am too lazy to dust; and
  2. I simply don’t want to allocate space to items that don’t have a purpose.

To keep my total inventory down, I follow a simple rule. When I bring a new clothing item into the house, I must get rid of two items. This allows me to continue to revamp my wardrobe with an eye toward my new life and still continue reducing the number of items I own.

Paring down isn’t hard if mentally you can “see” the freedom on the other side. If you want to, but you are having trouble getting started, enlist a trusted friend to help you with a kick-start. Choose one room, one closet, or even just one drawer. Make a pact with yourself to tackle one category a week, and to make one donation drop off a week. Keep your receipts for taxes!

Most of my decorative or sentimental items are suspended from the ceiling.  That may sound odd, but you’d need to see them to understand (I frequently hold open houses!)  I purposely do not have a lot of surfaces that require dusting, so I hang a lot of stuff.

The bottom line to remember is that extreme downsizing of possessions is a process, and it happens in layers.  Be kind to yourself.  The purpose is to feel better, not have speed and regrets.  Be thoughtful about your paring down; it isn’t a race.

In December 2012, I accepted a full-price offer on my Dallas home and signed a 12-month lease for a nearby apartment.  One woman looked at my house and wrote me a check.  Eeeeeeee!  Validation.