I have just completed my third downsizing project in the last thirteen years. And I think I finally got it right this time! At least for me.
My first two downsizing efforts came about because I was following my dreams. I had always wanted to live in a city. So when I became a personal trainer and redesigned my life, I headed into downtown Chicago. Because city space tends to be more expensive than suburban space, I chose a city loft (also part of the dream) that was smaller than my suburban townhouse. I had to get rid of things so I would fit.
Then came the opening of my personal training studio. I chose a suburban location and rented a small-ish apartment within walking distance of the studio. I was preparing myself to financially invest in my business, but I had always wanted to live within walking distance of my work. I once again reduced the amount of furniture and other possessions I owned.
In both cases, getting rid of my stuff was done with an eye of what would or would not fit in my chosen home. It was an calculation based on square footage and the amount of storage space I had available to me. The result – less stuff for me! And I enjoyed it. There was less to clean and maintain. My closets had plenty of elbow room. There was some inconvenience with how I had to store somethings. But all in all, my possessions and me fit! Life was good!
That was until my growing unrest in my apartment. I kept telling a friend of mine that I could not relax in my space. My body and my mind could not release the stress from the day. It just felt too heavy in my home. My apartment was by no means cluttered. There was plenty of elbow room. Everything had a place. It was a fine place. So what was wrong?
As I considered that question, I identified a handful of things that I wanted to change. I wanted a different layout, more privacy, a comfortable place to sit outside, and less financial overhead. I searched for new apartments but came away disappointed that nothing seemed to meet my criteria. I could not see myself living in any of the apartments on my list. Time for more reflection.
It was then I heard that inner voice calling out to me, “Less, you want less.” Yes, that was it. I wanted to be living with less stuff. I surveyed my belongings one night and saw that there were many pieces of furniture I no longer wanted and numerous belongings that no longer served a purpose. I could be living (and wanted to be living) with just those possessions that were truly functional and that I loved having.
With this new view of my needs, it scared me when I realized which apartment I would be living in. It was a model I had seen in my current apartment building. I had given it absolutely no consideration when I looked at it. In fact, I looked at it as only a means of getting a sense of what a larger apartment of a similar floor plan would be like. But this apartment popped into my mind as soon as I made my short list of the possessions I wanted to keep. And my body instantly relaxed. I knew the decision was right!
I am now living in less than 800 square feet. It’s the perfect space for me. And the downsizing of my belongings this third time around was much easier. Certainly there was hard work in making the arrangements to get rid of things and in all of the lugging and carting things to donation centers.
There was a lot of emotional work to be done as well. I wrestled with my ego when I decided to pay someone to come take away some significant pieces of furniture. My ego did not like the fact that “I Got Junk” was now the owner of a piece of furniture that had been a big investment for me at one time. I had several tender, memory-filled moments as I dealt with things from my childhood home and things that had been in the family for many years. And I had to contend with second-guessing my choices. I did wonder if I wasn’t going through a phase. But there was joy in what I was doing. I was creating a home that was a perfect fit! I was right-sizing my life.
I am almost settled in my new place. But the right-sizing has continued in many other aspects of my life. At work, I whittled my to do list down to only the essential tasks. I gave up some of my internal beliefs that were causing me stress and bringing me a lot of unnecessary work.
I now evaluate how I spend my time and talent based upon what is functional and what I truly love. It has to be both; not one or the other. Function and joy are the starting points for evaluating anything I do with my physical, mental, and emotional energy. If both those are not present, I move on – guilt-free!
I have found that having “function and joy” as the starting point rather than the desired outcome gives me more energy to concentrate on what really matters to me. I am focusing my attention on what truly matters to me, and I feel more rested, more calm, and certainly more productive. I also believe I freed up tasks and activities that would be better accomplished through another’s time and talent (not mine). Particularly at work, the output is of higher quality. I am taking better care of myself. And, most importantly, I feel that I am making a more impactful contribution to life.
As I culled my bookshelves for the books I was going to keep, I was reminded of a book I had read years ago. The book is Essentialism: A Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. The minute it was in my hand, I knew my renewed path was similar to its thesis. The book gave a label to the way I now want to live – Essentialism. Here is an excerpt from the book that gives purpose to this way of living, working, and thinking.
“The Way of the Essentialist isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done. It is not a time management strategy, or a productivity technique. It is a systematic discipline for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution towards the things that really matter.”
If you are ready to make fitness and health an essential part of your life, please give us a call. Our complimentary fitness consultation will help you focus on what is most important for your success!