I’m sure many of us have had the same life experience; we spend the first half of our lives acquiring stuff and the second half getting rid of a lot of it.
Just watching wild birds gives us a perfect microcosm of our own lives. Like the birds in spring, we work like the devil to build a nest, fill it with young ones, run ourselves ragged feeding and educating them and see them leave with regret tinged with relief. It’s nature’s blueprint for life. Eventually we, like the birds, are left with an empty nest, full of memories but not family, too big for two.
Last spring I watched some hooligan sparrows (a new genus I made up) go through the whole process twice in one season. Suckers for punishment.
Far back in history, some of us had ancestors who were settled people planting crops and sticking around to harvest them while others came from nomads who drifted across the landscape foraging for food. I think that’s why some of us move frequently and downsize quite easily while others tend to stay put and downsize painfully and reluctantly. It’s in our genes.
Looking back, K.P. and I were lucky (even if we didn’t know it) to downsize twice, once moving west and once coming to the Island. It was a more gradual transition for us, not a huge overnight change. The first time we shed big items like sofas, beds, tables, sideboards, etc. The second time we culled the smaller knick knacks, pictures, vases, stuff we had accumulated after we had the basics. The hardest thing I had to do was prune my book collection. Calling it a library is too grand a description, nevertheless, many of these were old friends and companions I hated to part with. Some went to friends, some to community libraries, some regrettably to landfills.
It’s a common error to think that this favourite old mirror or that easy chair should be kept and passed on to the kids because more often than not, our treasures are considered by them as old fashioned or too bulky or just plain junk. Sad but true. If you truly love a piece then keep it and plan your room around it. Otherwise, out, out, out.
When downsizing, it’s vital to recognize that we are downsizing things, not interests and lifestyles. If painting is your hobby, make sure you have a place to paint. If you’re a handyman (aw geez, handyperson) keep an area for your workshop. Getting used to new smaller spaces is hard enough without abandoning an important part of your life as well. And in the same vein, we all need our space unless we are clinging vines, so make sure you can each have a hideaway where you can be as quiet and solitary as you want once in a while. One of our sons calls his basement his man cave.
There can be a lot of pleasure in a smaller, more manageable garden, in many fewer household chores, in not heating vast empty spaces at exorbitant expense. Yep, along with less comes more, more free time, more relaxed do-nothing days, more golf if that is your vice.
One must realize that downsizing a house does not necessarily mean downsizing our lives, just our responsibilities. I think the most important thing is not to downsize our own hearts.
As for me I have one more bit of downsizing to do; I want to lose two or three inches off my waist.
— Harvey Dorval is a regular News columnist.