My downsizing journey was not something I had planned. It wasn't even something I wanted to do—the adventure began out of necessity.
We found ourselves in the middle of a difficult financial season. At the time, my family of four occupied 1000 square feet. It was during this time that my thinking began to shift.
Back then, my part-time job involved working with aging seniors who were facing the sale of their homes and entering apartment living in an assisted living complex. The show suite through which I toured guests was compact and small but carefully and beautifully appointed.
I observed how some seniors were so ready to make the change while others quietly (and some NOT so quietly) resisted.
It was during this season that the powerful revelation hit me: We spend so much of our lives accumulating possessions, only to spend more time disposing of things when life’s changes demand it.
It was a light bulb moment for me and I resolved that I would purpose to travel lighter.
ENTER MODIFIED MINIMALISM
Nothing much changed in my visible surroundings, but something was stirring in my soul. I was introduced to Joshua Becker's blog Becoming Minimalist a number of years ago. I found the contents of his writing resonated with what I was processing in my heart.
I recall going into my closet one morning. I owned LOTS of clothes. Anyone else would have said my wardrobe wasn't lacking and yet there I was, standing in my closet feeling discontent. It was troubling!
It troubled me to the point that I realized I needed to do something about it. While it sounds a bit extreme, I decided that I would go a whole year without purchasing anything for my home or wardrobe. To be honest, I wondered if I would be able to do it. Would I fall flat on my face and just end up back where I was?
Truth be told, it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it was going to be. I felt empowered to say no to myself. I discovered new combinations in my closet and experimented with accessories. I began to grow in contentment.
Even more importantly, I found a new freedom: a freedom and courage to be myself and to no longer allow what I wore to define me. I liked how that felt. I didn’t want it to change. Marilee would no longer be dependent on a label, price tag, or fashion fad to feel valuable or beautiful. It was life altering.
PARING DOWN WITH PROJECT 333
And then I remember Joshua sharing the concept of Project 333 on his blog. It was a guest post by Courtney Carver and it captured my attention. I wondered whether I could actually do what she was suggesting: keeping only 33 pieces of clothing in your wardrobe and wearing them for 3 months.
I cleaned everything out of my closet and lay it on the bed. I studied each garment and put back only the versatile pieces I knew would serve me well.
I'm happy to report that I did it! And at the end of three months, I assessed which items of those 33 had not been worn. The clothes that did not serve me well went out the door to bless someone else. It was liberating.
BEYOND THE CLOSET
Slowly I found that more and more my heart was drawn to the simplicity and freedom of owning less. I saw my entire home through a new lens.
I began editing linen closets and bathroom vanities. I looked at each shelf in my kitchen and took out anything that was no longer useful. I walked from room to room, assessing which accessories spoke to me. I purged my china pantry, dining room buffet, and living room wall unit. I moved out unused table accessories and duplicate vases. I edited my Christmas decor and gave away things to a new young friend who was delighted to have them.
A SHIFT IN INTERIOR DESIGN
Eventually this new passion spilled over into my approach helping clients in my design work. I felt there was integrity in honoring people’s possessions, honoring their unique stories and the colorful narratives of their lives. I was convinced that giving careful thought to balance, proportion and placement were key principles, regardless of whether the contents of a room were seasoned or new.
I discovered the utmost joy when I was asked to assist children as they journeyed alongside their aging parents in the process of changing homes. In each case the clients expressed a desire to use as much of what they had as possible. And that is exactly what we did.
Chairs that were covered in a garish mustard yellow fabric, but that had a magnificent shape, were recovered and reused. Sofas were creatively altered, dated details were eliminated, and what emerged was fresh and attractive.
Accessories and art were carefully considered. Only the best made the cut. New lamps were purchased to bring things up to date and to address the need for task lighting. The new spaces still felt like theirs...but with tasteful enhancement.
And now the art of helping people pare down beautifully has become my primary focus. UPSCALE Downsizing is the rebirth of my design business.
Downsizing, whether it be an intentional choice to move to a smaller space, or whether it is the choice to edit and streamline a current home, is about embracing peace, simplicity, serenity, joy and order. It's a paradigm shift that elects to live with the best. It is having only those things around us that give our eyes delight and our spirits joy.
Downsizing means less to clean, less to organize, less to maintain. And it means more - more freedom, more mental space, more refined beauty, more of what we absolutely love, and more clarity to choose what’s truly important to us.
When it comes to downsizing a home, I am not suggesting a one-look-fits-all spartan living space devoid of all accessories and adornments. Rather, I am suggesting my clients thoughtfully consider eliminating that which does not bring them joy or prove useful. The choice to move toward minimalism is a personal one. It looks different for everyone.
My Downsizing-in-a-Day services offer clients a professional assessment of their lifestyle goals and existing spaces. Each project is an opportunity to rethink one’s possessions, address form and function, and seek professional advice. It’s an opportunity to study and learn too and the best part is that clients can opt to do one room at a time.
And should the downsizing exercise mean a complete relocation, the journey can ultimately end with a meticulously chosen living space that reflects the owner's’ taste and ushers in a new chapter of life. Let the journey begin...