Downsizing – Part 1, purging

1 bedroom < 2 bedroom < 3 bedroom < 4 bedroom > back to 1 bedroom…

It is amazing how life runs in circles. After college, my past homes include several 1 bedroom apartments, followed by homes with 2 bedrooms, then 3 bedrooms, and then 4 bedrooms. Moving from a small space to a bigger space from suburb to suburb means you can just pack up everything and move. No need to actively purge the baby clothes, toys,  kid’s school work from kindergarten through high school, 6 frying pans, 12 CorningWare bowls, and coats that are 10 years old. Just cram everything into moving trucks that can easily be parked in driveways and unload them with excitement of new closets and extra bedrooms.

But my eventual return to living in a 1-bedroom apartment required a much different strategy. I had to get rid of so many of life scraps collected over 30 years. In the beginning, I was so overwhelmed that I sometimes just sat down and cried in my people-empty, 4-bedroom house with a large backyard. I wasn’t ready to let go.  So I started with the easy tosses: books from my college days, video cassettes (some still in plastic wrap – God forbid I miss recording an episode of ER!), sheets and towels that were more than 20 years old, bathing suits that sadly no longer fit, stirrup pants (remember those?), and half used spiral notebooks and other school supplies that no longer make sense in the computer age. I actually had assignment calendars for 2001 long buried under reams of 3 holed notebook paper.

Thankfully I did get help from my ex, my kids, and some friends, but it was still excruciating painful to sort through what to toss, try and sell, and give to charity.  For obvious reasons, most of the big furniture had to go and I did not have the time or energy to sell, so a big shout out to The Brown Elephant – a wonderful charity resale store in Chicago.  They came with movers and a big truck and carted away my formal living room, couches from the basement, large oak bookshelves, and more. I thought I would be sad to see it go – but really, who needs a formal living room anymore?

In the end, I was ready with each box and piece of furniture color-coded as to its next destination – a method I highly recommend. Keeping organized can keep you sane as you unravel your life. Some of the stuff went to my ex, some to storage, and some to my interim home in a friend’s basement. After the last box was unloaded from the truck, whether it was from pure exhaustion or just relief that I was finally was moving on. I was able to quickly fall asleep in an unfamiliar space without any hint of remorse and a bit of excitement of what lies ahead.

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