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Downsizing during retirementHappy New Year! After weeks of packing, unpacking, moving furniture around several times a day, tossing, and donating, I feel like these two REDs* are happily settled in our cozy condo on Lake Murray.

New Year’s resolutions? I gave them up years ago. I’d make lists, and then forget where I placed them. However, I can manage a one-word-theme for the year. My one-word-theme for 2019 is Simplify. Simple life. Less clutter. Less cares.

Moving forces us to simplify. When we moved to Sweden for a year to attend Bible school we had garage sales, loaned our furniture out, and gave the rest away. We repeated the process when we left to live on a WWII ship for fourteen months. Then there was our great move from California to South Carolina twelve years ago. Two months ago downsizing came around once more when we moved to a 1,250 square-foot condo with no garage. Rob: “I’ll never be without a garage.”  Me: “Never say never.”

Tinier cupboards. Smaller closets. Smaller everything. No rental storage unit allowed for what couldn’t fit. Why? Because we knew if we stored boxes into a storage unit we’d probably never see them again. The out-of-sight-out-of-mind syndrome. What now? For inside products I use clear plastic storage containers underneath our beds. Rob’s precious tools and objects fit cozily in an outside storage closet on our patio. On a lighter note, our condo does have high ceilings and a fireplace. Downsizing is worth all the effort to have the lake right outside our back door.

Downsizing. When and where do you start? No matter whether you’re in your 30s or your 60s, if you’re retired or still working, there is a freedom that comes with de-cluttering. I know, it’s a hard task, but you will survive. I promise, because I did.

When Rob and I lived in Sweden for a year, I was impressed with the simple way the Swedes lived.  Everything in their homes had a purpose.  The Swedes have a saying called dostadning (two dots over the ¨o).  do = death + stadning = cleaning.  English translation:  death cleaning. Sounds depressing, but here is the Swedish definition:

  • A charming, practical and unsentimental approach to putting a home in order while reflecting on the tiny joys that makes up a long life.
  • The surprising and invigorating process of clearing out unnecessary belongings that can be undertaken at any age or life stage but should be done sooner rather than later, before others have to do it for you.

Since I recently experienced this sometimes heart-wrenching, death-cleaning experience—hopefully for the last time—I can give you a few tips. Google is loaded with topics pertaining to downsizing, organizing, and even selling furniture online on e-bay, so I’ll share a few simple facts.

Two suggestions: (1) Tackle one project at a time. (2) Take time to stop for those much-needed coffee breaks.  In Sweden such coffee breaks are called Fika, taken at 10am and a 3pm. I am a true believer in Fika!

  • Begin with clothing:  If you haven’t worn it in a year, toss it. If you’re saving that special red-hot dress for the day you lose ten pounds, toss it. When you finally lose those pounds, you deserve to go out and buy yourself a new red-hot dress! Once you get in the groove, you’ll be tossing right and left. I gathered my piles of hot dresses of many colors and threw them in a large green garbage bag. And please, toss your old underwear in the trash (no further comment).
    NOTE:  Do NOT begin with photo albums, pictures and objects that are filled with memories. Save them until last or else you’ll get stuck for hours reminiscing—and crying—over years gone by. I made this mistake every time I downsized.
  • Kitchen:  I tossed and donated items that were gathering dust in my cupboards.  How many cups and glasses does one couple need anyway? I’m a firm believer in paper plates, cups and napkins for casual and/or every-day occasions.
  • Linens:  How many towels, sheets, and tablecloths do you really need? Two towels each, and two for guests. They’re only staying for two nights anyway, right? Well, you hope. I donated piles of old washcloths, towels, and kitchen towels into our rag collection, and tossed hundreds of older rags into the trash.
  • Pantry:  This is a perfect time to throw those old cans of black-eyed peas, gravy mix, cream corn—in the trash. Rob’s mother lived with us for a season and she brought boxes of her canned goods from California. You can imagine the expiration dates on those Campbell soup cans.
  • Oh, yes—the junk drawers:  We all have them … in the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, and/or laundry room. Save this project for when you’re tired and need to sit a spell. Have a trashcan at hand. Separate rubber bands, pencils, scissors, tapes of all kinds, nails, nail files, matches, that diamond ring you lost two years ago. You name it, you’ll find it in your junk drawers. I found two of my New Year’s resolutions lists in one of my junk drawers.
  • A box labeled THROW AWAY: This special box is for personal items that you cannot part with now, but do not want anyone else to go through. Example: old love letters, photos of old lovers, personal journals, diaries about old lovers. My THROW AWAY box is Xtra-large.

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