SLR 063: Reclaim Downsizing as a Powerful Tool for Positive Life Change

Simple Life RebootIt’ s time to reclaim downsizing as an empowering  practice.  For far too long,  downsizing has been understood to be a process of decline whereby individuals were forced to make undesirable lifestyle changes due to the loss of  employment, relationship or health.

While the initial  impetus may be an involuntary loss,  “downsizing” itself,   if done mindfully,  is a positive.  In fact, if  done well, downsizing is one of the most powerful tools we have for making positive life changes.

Downsizing for New Life

The starting point is to recognize that downsizing is life-affirming.   The natural world is full of examples.  A mammal goes into a den to give birth.   A snake slithers through a small space to shed a dead skin.   A caterpillar forms a cocoon to transition into a butterfly.

In the human context,  positive  life changes often involve downsizing.    For example, many children start sharing a bedroom when a new brother or sister arrives.   A college student moves  into a dorm room to obtain an education.   A grandparent moves to a smaller home to be near the grandchildren.  Downsizing is not a punishment or a failing,  but rather an intentional accommodation for something or someone more important.

Downsizing to Focus on the Essentials

In a sports context,  an athlete wanting to advance to the next level will periodically limit his or her training to the sport’s fundamentals.  Focusing on the essentials permits the athlete to perfect skills.  Improvement from minor tweaks at the basic level are then multiplied in the more complex skills.

Strategic downsizing gives us a similar opportunity to revisit the most important elements of our lives.  It helps us sort the essential from the chaff.  It helps us to leverage that which provides the most benefit.

Downsizing for New Opportunities

For many,  the hurdle to downsizing is the reluctance to let go of possessions.  Perhaps the process is more palatable if we remember that we are editing items that detract from our new life.  Ancient Latin speakers had it right when they described such property as “impedimenta”,  which loosely translated,  means property which impedes one’s progress.

Opportunities abound for those willing to downsize.  Downsizing frees up time and resources. You can accept that dream urban  job if  you are willing to live in a smaller space.  You can dramatically improve your finances if you spend less on housing, utilities, repairs, and furnishings with the smaller space.  You can travel if you were not overwhelmed by a mortgage payment. You will have more time, resources and energy for family, fitness, entrepreneurial, creative and fun endeavors if  you decrease that spent on a larger space.

Instead of lamenting the sunk costs associated with letting go of the  “old”  in order to downsize,   we should focus on the incredible opportunities we will miss if we do not downsize.

The tool is as powerful and positive as we choose to make it.   Consider if downsizing makes sense for you.   Please share your thoughts in the Simple Life Reboot comments section.


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6 thoughts on “SLR 063: Reclaim Downsizing as a Powerful Tool for Positive Life Change

  1. You points are very succinct; I especially enjoy your insight that downsizing is not negative, it actually opens up new opportunities. I certainly discovered that in my life; it was initially hard to let stuff go but the more I did it, the better it felt. I didn’t need it after all and the lightness helped me to focus on what is really important.

  2. What a great blog and podcast. Your explanations and examples really help one to better understand down sizing. Thank you for giving me an explanation that makes the choice of reducing possessions as a good, non punitive choice. One that truly is liberating not shameful. Look forward to your next week’s comments!

  3. I just read this after having done an involuntary downsizing. Initially I thought the process would be freeing and I was looking forward to all that you’ve written about. Perhaps downsizing isn’t for everyone. After two weeks into my moving into a much smaller apartment, I find it painful to be there. I miss my things. I feel like I might be going into a depression. I hired a personal organiser to help me unpack and sort things in the living room. While it looks great, I keep thinking about what isnt there.

    • Lin, thank you for response and for your willingness to candidly share your experience. Such benefits our community and allows us to encourage and support one another. Involuntary downsizing, which can occur for any number of reasons beyond our control, can be a very painful process. It could not have been very pleasurable for you to read about the joys of downsizing at such a time.
      Please know that our hearts, and likely the hearts of others, go out to you. Please let us know how we might be of assistance by emailing us at Warm regards, Sheryl

      • Thanks for your reply. I think I was looking for some reading material that addresses the stages one might go through purging material items. but it might be that stages only apply during an involuntary downsizing. Most articles allude to a sense of freedom, and the suggestion is that this happens instantly….almost as fast as dumping that last bag of trash or donations. I see my purging as a great loss, and that naturally a grieving process might follow, just like in any loss. I can’t seem to find anything that speaks to that. It wasn’t pleasureable reading about the joys, but I wondered more why I wasn’t feeling those.

        Most situations beyond our control are probably not comfortable. Maybe the lows come before the feelings of freedom for me? I sure hope so. I like your quote “making room for that which matters most”. I find it helpful. Thank you Sheryl.