Downsizing

I struggle to throw things away, but the prospect of downsizing (again) concentrates the thinking.

We live in the Cambridgeshire fens with a large garden that includes two fishponds, hedges that need trimming, sheds and decking that need regular preservative. There will come a time (I see it on the horizon…) when maintenance here gets too much for us.

When I married my present husband, I was still working in London and living in the suburbs during the week. Retirement brought me to the fens full-time but, since most of our collective offspring live and work in and around London, I traded my home for a small mortgage-free ground floor maisonette to give us a base near the families. It has a a small, manageable garden. When we can no longer cope with this one, we will move to the maisonette (no stairs!) but it will involve a serious cull of our belongings.

The suits I once wore for work and to interviews all went to charity shops soon after retirement, but that still leaves a stuffed wardrobe. I have outfits I’ve hardly worn suitable for the kind of event we don’t go out to any more.

But, what if we should suddenly get such an invite? I can never find anything I like if I have to go shopping for clothes.

Most of these outfits probably don’t fit me now, if they ever did. I am slowly working my way through, trying things on, but it can make for a depressing half-hour. (Or, sometimes, half an hour of hilarity.) I was always on the cusp of losing just that last ten pounds and tended to buy clothes in a spirit of optimism, believing that this purchase would provide the extra incentive I needed.

I know myself better now.

Then there are those jeans I love but pass over every time because they’re getting uncomfortable. (It’s as if there’s some kind of body valve – only a couple of pounds each year, but the weight only goes in one direction.) And that top I bought in the sale that somehow is never quite right for what I want it to go with.

My husband even worse than I am. He has never thrown out any clothes since we moved in, even though he is now a shadow of his former self; I’ll swear some suits would wrap around him twice.

Don’t get me started on his ties which would fill a small suitcase on their own.

It isn’t only clothes we have in abundance. We both moved out of larger family homes so there is no shortage of furniture, some of which has moved between premises. And sometimes back again.

Something in the maisonette would have to go for each item from here that I want to keep if/when we downsize. Like the bedroom furniture in the spare room that my youngest daughter and I assembled together when she came back from university to my first downsized home. It was designed for the smaller bedroom, but the maisonette is extremely bijoux (see how I’ve picked up estate-agent-speak).

And, of course, each home has cutlery, cooking pots, crockery and gadgets (I love gadgets) from our respective family homes. (His ex maxed out his credit cards equipping her new home before she left, and my ex moved in to his girlfriend’s home, so we have almost all of it). Our various offspring have long since set up their own homes and no longer need our handouts to equip them.

I’ve been able to put off the cull for twelve years by squirrelling possessions between two homes, to make me seem less of a hoarder. But, with the prospect getting nearer, I am getting better at letting go (I tell myself).

But hubby has a way to go yet.

The real challenge will be his garage and workshop. When he moved in here, his youngest son helped us unpack, consigning old bits of wood and suchlike to the skip left by the former owner that was still awaiting collection. My husband rescued every one, in case “they might come in useful”, transporting them to a shed. Most of it is still there.

Perhaps we need a course in feng shui to introduce a more minimalist philosophy to our life.

Old Woman's shoe

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How do I make the transition from hoarder to minimalist?

What do you hate to throw out?

21 thoughts on “Downsizing

    1. I’m starting to worry, were we twins separated at birth? Everytime I read your blog it could be about me. I recognise myself in every line. Or is it an age thing, being brought up with the idea of make do and mend, re use, re paint share amongst family who might need it. My wardrobe definitely needs a shake up too. Maybe this is the spur I need or then again, maybe not. Thank you Cathy I will certainly think about it.
      Regards Jane x

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      1. I just hate to throw anything away. It’s like in the supermarket, if there’s a really good bargain i don’t like to leave it on the shelves, even though I’m not feeding six any more (and their school friends). I think it comes from the days when we were paying 15% interest on a mortgage we couldn’t afford in the first place on only one income.

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  1. You are talking my language. We have Vince’s sister, Cindy’s garage half full of stuff we couldn’t part with when we moved. Now we have new stuff. I have thrown out most of my old clothes, but I still have full closets and drawers! I love this post!

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  2. I too have experienced this, moving from a five bedroomed house to a one bedroom flat. However, my daughter and son in law bought the old family home, and I am reliably informed that some of my old stuff is still in the loft! (I’m hoping that includes my two Sunday school stamp books from when I was aged 3) And I often muse over the family sized pots and pans she uses, sitting round my old dining room table. I lived with them for three years, so we did actually have to get rid of many large pieces of furniture, as well as all the stuff from our 2 caravans. Clothing??Well, we all love clothing and I try to regularly move on garments to charity shops if I buy more. We love charity shop trawling. My youngest daughter was only lamenting last night she needs to cull many favourite pieces of clothing as finally, she no longer fits into the tiny teen outfits she loved, as she packs up to move.

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    1. One always hopes to get into them again… 😦
      The problem with taking stuff to charity shops is that I usually come home with more items.
      You are lucky to still have the family home in the family. I loved that house (although I wouldn’t want to be responsible for its maintenance now).
      We struggle now to find somewhere we can all fit in for Christmas!

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  3. I am pretty good at keeping a minimal amount of clothers, but I have trouble getting rid of things that are sentimental, like our kid’s art projects from 30 years ago… Maybe I should get advice from Marie Kondo…

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  4. There are things that you want to hang on to, whatever.
    Mine are certain childhood photos and prints from the family home that I really don’t have the space to hang any more.
    And occasional bits of furniture – that is more tricky 😦

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  5. Over the 28 or so moves I’ve made in my life, 15 of them have been through two marriages, on the way having acquired furniture from my grandparents, mother, father and stepmother, and lived in everything from a static mobile home (why ever do they call them ‘mobile’ as once they are in place, generally they are not!) to a 16 roomed house. Downsizing from that via a couple of 3- bedroomed houses to a two bedroomed bungalow has been exercising to say the least. Then there’s the question of what to do with the box of photos just down from the loft which has some of my mother’s photos going back to the 1930s. It isn’t my favourite pastime, but I am determined not to hand my son the onerous task that I had with my mother’s place. It took me 6 weeks to sort her house out as she was definitely a hoarder. And after that, we had to redecorate before handing it back to the council!

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  6. 16 rooms!
    I thought ours was bad enough at 12 rooms (and two lofts, a cellar, three sheds and a summerhouse).
    I had assumed I’d be there till I popped my clogs so had made no attempt to restrain our hoarding. My ex-husband made no attempt to help me with clearing the house, having already removed what he wanted.
    Now, I’m working on my squirrelling tendencies. Sadly, I’m not getting through to hubby though. His wardrobe bulges while he wears the same frayed rugby shirts (I may ‘lose’ some of those…) and I don’t envy his sons when they have to work their way through his garage… If I’m still around at that point I’ll be high-tailing it to the flat.

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  7. Definitely not alone. I seem to have a tendency to throw out stuff only to need it not too long afterwards. Funny thing is, it can sit there for years untouched then I throw it out and then I suddenly need it. Its a problem. Great write!

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  8. Exactly!
    And I know if we’re successful in ever throwing out any of my husband’s hoarded old wood, I’ll ask him to mend something and he’ll say… “I had just the bit for this in my shed. Now if you hadn’t thrown out all that wood…”

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  9. I am in the same boat as you are Cathy. I have started to downsize and can’t seem to find time to continue. When babysitting the grandkids slows down (6 days a week now) I want to resume my work. When I want to get rid of something and am afraid I may need it again, I tell myself I will buy a new one if I need it again bad enough. Even if I throw out 10 things but need to buy one back, I still downsized right?

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  10. As you know from my recent posts I have been undertaking the same process. My husband has clothes from 30 years ago, but he is still the same size and can’t see why he doesn’t need them. As for the outside–it is filled with ‘I might need it some day” stuff of his.

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    1. It’s a hard habot tp break. Especially if we’ve been hard-up in the past and had to hang on to anything that still had any service left in it. (And then there were those boots I loved as a teenager which DID come back into fashion eventually.)

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