Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Downside to Downsizing

Not much happens from start to finish instantaneously. There was a distinct moment when the universe was born, but we didn't go from stardust to smartphones at the snap of a finger.

We've been here in Keene, in our beautifully small house, for almost two weeks. I am happy to say that I can sit on the couch and find the dishes without a lot of hassle.

The rest is a work in progress.

It turns out we have too many:
- coffee mugs,
- blankets,
and too much artwork to fit in this house.

Among many other things. (We've already collected 5 bags of stuff I just donated.)

The artwork we can store and rotate. The coffee mugs are just going to have to go. The blankets I'm not sure about.... If we have another winter of -25F we might need them!

By the way, for anyone downsizing or just streamlining belongings, find stackable coffee cups. Why in the world does anyone in their right mind make a set of coffee cups that do not stack nicely without tipping over, falling out of the cabinet onto your head and ending up as a pile of ugly mosaic tiles? And thank you, Ikea, for raising the bar!

I was discouraged at first. This is not the vision I have for our small house. This is not exactly what I've been working so hard for the past year to accomplish. I can't find my stuff, I'm tripping over boxes, and the house is pretty much a mess of stuff and nowhere to put it away. And these are the things I complain about most in my life - clutter, disorganization, and missing a goal.

So I remember process. Dialectic. The struggle between two opposing ideas: our last home, and this new one.

It looks like it's going to be a struggle for some time. Please, everyone (and especially those of you who come to visit!) be patient with us and our home and enjoy this crazy downsizing process with us. And some days you might have to help us enjoy it too!

Regardless of where we are in this continuum, we will always have good tea, a warm fire and our lives to share.
Real life in a small house

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Look at What We've Started

Our downsizing journey began with a lot more than just wanting to live with less.

My husband and I don't always have the same ideas. We're not the kind of couple that finishes each other's sentences (because, when we do, we're usually wrong. We did it once and I still remember that moment!). We think differently, we look at the world differently, we have distinctly different personalities and we don't always see eye-to-eye.

But one thing we did agree on, long before we got married, was what we wanted to do with our life together. And we both want to run a bed and breakfast. I thought, "Some day..." and he thought, "Why not now?" So, when we got engaged, we started looking for a suitable house.

All our talk about running our own business helped my husband explore the idea of running his own business as a rock and ice climbing guide. He's guided for over 7 years and really finds himself in the work. He loves the Adirondacks and he really wants to share the wildness of this wilderness that he loves SO much, we packed up and moved here.

So, last week, in the middle of our downsizing exercise and in the middle of packing for our move, we launched John Mackey Climbing (now Tamarack Mountain Guiding, Inc.). If you get a moment, check it out and let me know what you think.

Any new business is a labor of love. We love the Adirondacks and climbing so much that we gave up half our stuff, a third of our space, and all of our closets to make this work. This is where our downsizing vision began: as a means to a much more wonderful end.

I'm watching the clouds rush by in the gusting winds the weather forecasts accurately predicted. I saw the mountain tops shrouded all day long, but I still knew they were there. I could draw their peaks in the air for you if you asked. They're never gone for too long. They were here yesterday:


and they'll be back tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Today is the First Day of the Rest of My Downsizing.

So today is the day. Truck is rented. (Some) boxes are packed. The move begins!

We had another yard sale on Sunday. Except for two or three big items, everything was $1 or less. We gave out free coffee to anyone who made a purchase. More than 70 items that gathered dust in our house or got a quick glance once in a while went to live with someone else. May their next life be more productive!

My goal for this move is for each of us to have 5 boxes: 5 boxes for my husband, 5 boxes for me, 5 boxes for the living room, 5 for the kitchen... I'm a math nerd, so quantifying ideas is really important for me. And 5 sounded like a good number! And maybe it would all fit in a 10 foot truck...

We're not done packing yet, but we'll end up with 10 boxes for the kitchen, 3 for the bathroom, 5 for my daughter, 3 for me, my husband hasn't packed any of his stuff, and 6 for the living room. It still seems like an awful, terrible, gigantic amount of stuff. Blah.

I don't know where it's all going to fit when we get there! I had been feeling a little guilty about making such a big deal about us downsizing. I mean, we get 900 square feet! That's not a tiny house. That's not 300 or 200 or 84 square feet. But as far as possessions go, we have to live like we're in a tiny house, thanks to our house having only one closet (that is not yet built). It's like tiny house + enough open space for all three of us to do yoga at the same time.

It seems like - and I was trying to avoid this, but oh well - we are going to get all this stuff into the new house and then figure out what fits, what we really, really need and what we can live without. We will go through the downsizing process yet once more. At least once.

Ugh. I'm in a mood to get settled in, not go through this questioning process again. But - what is "settled"? It's rigid and done and boring. It's finding comfort in a place or a thing, when really we should be finding our home with each other and with our selves.

So, good-bye, house that has been my first real home as an adult. Good-bye for now, Kingston. Good-bye for now to my wonderful, supportive, fun, intelligent and interesting friends who have all made living in this city a blast! Now that we have downsized, you can all fit for a visit in our small house.

Well, maybe not all at once.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

So Just So You Know

This is what downsizing looks like in process...

It doesn't look very productive and it sure does make a mess!

I'm reminded of the synchronicity, the dialectic in the universe between Order and Chaos. As much as I would like it, I can't have order without chaos. Sometimes I find what I'm looking for in the midst of this mess.

Over the past few years, I've been learning to live this way in large part thanks to my husband's job. He works with Mike + Doug Starn and Big Bambu travelling around the world to build these amazing art sculptures out of bamboo and cord. (In fact, you'll see him on the landing page of their website! Handsome devil.) Their art showcases the connection between order and chaos, Yuval Saar says it much better than I do, summarizing the Starn brothers:
"...[the sculpture] takes its form from the dynamics that develop in the course of the construction process, embodying the tension between order and chaos." Haaretz article

I have gotten to travel with the building crew and watch the birth and creation of these incredible artworks. It generally starts with a simple structure of two or three poles strategically placed in a neat configuration, and then - kapow! - within a day or two, poles are everywhere in an explosion of bamboo. And then, with each passing day, I see the shape of the piece come forth and fill in and become itself.

This is how life happens. A calculated flow between simplicity and complexity.

As I write this, I'm surrounded by chaos. Not just the mess in the living room (and the bedrooms and the kitchen), but my husband is cooking breakfast and chatting with me and my daughter is next to me learning to wash dishes.

It's okay. This is my life. The chaos is necessary, and I'm just going to let it be. The order will come.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Letting Go

I've been putting off my post on this subject for awhile, but I just can't any longer. It's time.

I doubt my experience is unique or unusual. In fact, this is exactly why I have to write about it. Because it's something we all have to do at one point in our lives or another. Or many.

I'm admittedly very bad about letting go. I've had a hard time letting go of expectations, of emotions, of situations, of people. You name it, I hold onto it. It's something I've spent the last few years working on, and some days I'm better at it and other days I'm just not.

I've written a bit already about letting go of my stuff as my family goes through this downsizing process. Let me tell you, that's actually been the easy part. When it comes down to it, it's the people we are leaving in this move that make me want to stay.

But before I go into my little place of sorrow and grief and joy and memories with all the wonderful friends we have in this area, I want to put my life in perspective.

I've been preparing for this move, this change, for quite some time. Our plans have materialized over the past year and solidified in the last few months. I have time to go through my things and choose what I keep, what I give away, what I treasure. I get to choose where I live and how.

I've been thinking about people who do not have this advantage. People who have to pack up their homes on short notice. People who don't get to choose where they live. People who have to leave behind their treasures, their homes, their families.

I started by thinking about the dust bowl migrants of the 1930s. Many were forced to leave behind their established homes and bring with them only what they could carry. They moved to new places where they weren't always welcomed and didn't feel at home. They faced hardships, troubles and persecution that I've only read about.

Then I was reminded of some of the regrettable horrors in the modern world. Peter Ford works on Christian-Muslim relations in Lebanon and spoke in my area yesterday. He mentioned two of his students whose families were forced out of their towns by Syrian rebels. After the rebels took over, the government bombed the town in an effort to reclaim the area. The families returned to nothing: their homes were demolished, their possessions destroyed, their town forever changed.

There are so, so many people around the world in awful situations like these. Their choice of life and home and belongings is ripped from their grasp.

Keeping this in mind, I can cherish my friends, my family, the house I'm leaving, the belongings I'm selling and giving away and hold them all in highest esteem. I can be brave enough to open my heart to a new house, fewer things, a new town, and new friends.

I can learn to let go.

The big question is, what can I do to help those who are in horrible situations? I can give financially to relief organizations in war-torn countries like Syria. I can send school supplies or medical supplies when they are collected.

But I can also start here and now, every day, by showing kindness to my immigrant neighbors. I can smile at and accept those who think, worship or dress differently than I do. It's not "Go big or go home". I don't have to donate a million dollars or quit my day job. It's the "little" things that can also make a difference.

If you have something to let go, take a deep breath and go ahead. And then show a little kindness to those around you who may not be so fortunate.

Here's to letting go!