Sunday, January 11, 2009

Downsizing by choice: the road less traveled.

Today I am thinking about the idea of downsizing. Not the corporate kind, although perhaps today’s dismal unemployment figures indicate that corporate America is downsizing like crazy.

The downsizing I’m thinking about is the kind that happens in the rooms we inhabit, the private spaces we walk through. Google the words “clutter and human footprint-” I’ll bet not one is surprised to see the link between what/how much we consume, and how we are leaving our planet. Many people I know have been educating themselves on how to leave this world a little better.

Baby boomers – my mom’s and my generation (and the generation between us) – are thinking about footprints. I’m listening to stories these days about people my age suddenly faced with downsizing the home of an elder parent or friend. I have a client who wants to start downsizing his personal footprint so that his kids don’t have to.

My mom has been thinking about that too. She has decided to go through her entire house, room by room, and for as long as it takes, to downsize and move her unwanted stuff forward to a greater good. She asked me to help.
She was glad when we got to her home office. That beautiful space no longer worked for her. She wanted a room where she could do yoga, paint, and read her email. But the bookcases were packed tight and papers were everywhere. We opened the door, rolled up our sleeves, and dug in.

I have a recommendation for you: if you get along well with your mom, or an older friend, help them to de-clutter and organize their space.

I spent 2 days with mom. We talked about many things as we cleared her office, filling up bags and boxes of stuff, picture frames and files and old magazines. While I sorted papers I watched her hands caress books she knew she would not read again. The memories of what lie between the covers made it hard to decide if she would keep it. And so it went. I watched her go though her language tapes (she’s got such a gift!), art books (what an eye!) and her father’s gardening tips (no one has a greener thumb). I learned a lot about her that day, like what she loves and what is important to her. And I realized that she gave all of that to me – the appreciation of art and books and gardening and so much more. The gift was truly mine.

A peace-filled New Year everyone!

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