We have come to the 10th and final commandment. This is the one we have been working hard to achieve as we struggled through all the others. This is the commandment that marks the end of one phase and the beginning of the next, no matter where you are in your biological life or environment.
Quite simply, now that you are shedding all the layers and skins and trappings of many former lives, ages and stages it is time to build new memories, to take the best of your former life to build upon. This is the tenth commandment – Make new memories.
It is hard to start fresh when you are surrounded, and often shackled by, the responsibilities and trappings of previous stages in your life, well and truly lived or perhaps tinged with sadness and loss. We all have our share. There is never a better time to take a deep breath, acknowledge the good times and experiences, the lessons you have learned, the places you have been and the people who have filled your time and thoughts, both at work, at play and at home. You have honored them all in passing through the stages of the previous 9 commandments. Now you can move ahead and discover what fresh opportunities, people, experiences will be created since you are no longer so encumbered by the past.
It is an incredibly freeing sensation. You may be surprised how light and energized you feel. If you allow yourself to be honest, you will feel relieved at all the tough decisions you made and the lives you enriched with your generosity.
This is the time of congratulations – for yourself and all those who helped you in your journey. Enjoy this renewal, able to look back with satisfaction and ahead to your new surroundings and opportunities.
To forgive and forget are two of the most challenging human hurdles. When we are paring our lives down to retain only the best, most beautiful, most precious, it is essential to forget the emotions and memories tied up with possessions we no longer have room for, either physically or emotionally. Your children’s toys (that your own children refuse to keep for their children); your late husband’s books and music (as well as some of his favorite old sweaters) need to find new homes as you now honor your lives together thru memories and carefully selected photographs. Symbols of happy moments, of children’s achievements, of your family’s history need to be carefully edited to one or two good examples and the rest laid to rest. As hard as this may be to realize, we need to move into new phases of our lives where we focus on creating new and positive experiences.
The more we hang onto old possessions, surround ourselves with old photographs, continue to save the good china and crystal, insist upon too large and impractical furniture for downsizing purposes, the more we glue ourselves into our former lives and have difficulties freeing ourselves to moving on to fresh learning, experiences, people and lives. You can actually consider this a gift to your children and family. You are giving them permission to let go of the past as you role model moving ahead and beyond. You are making decisions they won’t have to make on your behalf.
Forget is a strong word and an even harder emotion. In our world today it is tied up into such fearsome realities as dementia and Alzheimer’s. But just as it is important to forgive, the achievement of “forgetting” is equally relevant to the downsizing process in order to make the transition as painless and positive as possible. It is what you choose to remember and to keep and to honor, that will be of most meaning to your family and your ancestors. Make your decisions good ones.
One of the strangest – and most surprising – emotions caught up in the downsizing and transitioning process is the number of times something causes you a sudden emotional reaction. The emotion brings back a sense of anger, loss, disappointment or simply an intense feeling of frustration and/or unfinished business.
It takes a moment to identify the pain. What does the dress or piece of jewelry, the picture, the lamp, the children’s old toys actually mean to you? Is it the passing of precious time, a failed relationship, a friendship lost forever, the lack of interest or downright refusal of your children and family to want what you believe are beautiful and treasured mementos of your life? Or does it symbolize a bad decision, a hope forever lost, an unrealized dream or a gift from someone that hurt you?
Whatever the reason for the sense of anger, sadness or loss, acknowledge it, and let it pass. Take a deep breath and free yourself from the negative feelings associated with that inanimate object, no matter how beautiful or valuable. Pass it on and give it a renewed life. You will feel a sense of relief and more emotional peace of mind to begin the next phase of your life.
I am running a bit behind in my posts so playing catch up over the next few days….. here is Downsizing Commandment # 7 ……
“Learn to love and appreciate the benefits of minimalism”: in order to do this, you have to review some of the earlier commandments. Focus only on the best, the most beautiful, the most elegant, or quite simply, whatever makes you happy. Think about “less is more”, which really means less to clean, less to worry about, less to replace, less to inventory and insure. less to lose, pack and finance. In our times of smaller and smaller apartments and living spaces for most of us, one of the greatest luxuries we may have is simply space. Do not feel the need to fill all the space; use it luxuriously and keep it open, calm and gracious, highlighting only a few of your most favorite and treasured possessions.
I have recently seen a door hung with a collection of necklaces, beautifully displayed, that looked like an art exhibition in a very small place. The collection served as storage as well as a living testimony of the occupant’s style and history. Although there were many necklaces, they were displayed as one, neatly and organized. Another way of highlighting a few special pieces is to consider having them out one at a time so they receive full attention. This way you can create dynamic vignettes and appreciate what you love.
Minimalism is simplicity. It can be as luxurious and rich as you insist. It can be as comfortable as your favorite chair. What it means is that you have attained a level in your life and awareness that you are focused, organized, clear in your goals and aspirations, having cleaned up the loose ends of a life lived, and confident with the present as you look with hope to your future. It is like taking a deep breath and finally admitting to yourself that “yes. I have achived this much and now that I am at this point, I can go forward.” Good luck!
“Hire – or barter – professional help”, is a powerful commandment on the treacherous road to downsizing, minimalizing or just plain moving.
Working on the premise that we are all smart, competent individuals to start with, there is a humiliating moment in time when faced with vast piles of our possessions and the historical and emotional implications they carry, even the strongest of us falters. Some of us despair, cry, give up. This is the moment when I have learned – the hard way, as usual – that the solution is to hire someone to help. Or, as I did, to barter. I may be hopeless at making tough decisions about my earthly goods, but there are one or two things I can offer that other people value.
This is how I leaned about the Professional Organizer’s Association and most particularly, one of their stars. Her clarity, organization, ability to remove -or at least weaken – the emotional strings of giving up long held clothes, books, linens, accessories, kitchen items and others, kept me sane, focused and efficient. One of her key skills was ensuring we always had – and honoured – timelines which helps to keep you focused, productive and practical. I can’t recommend this kind of assistance enough.
Although best friends and family members may be helpful, they often know you too well and may be hesitant to be completely honest about what should go or stay. I strongly believe there are certain times in life that it is the most economical strategy to hire the best to help you. On this list I include a good hairdresser, dentist, doctor and now, a good professional organizer!
This is my favorite commandment! Here’s why: when you are downsizing, you are getting rid of most of your stuff. Right? Therefore, this is your opportunity, your golden moment, to keep only the best, the ‘stuff” that you love the most! There should be no more “I’ll save this for a special occasion”. You have now reached your own personal “special occasion” and there should be no holding back. I am now drinking my water, milk, juice, whatever, out of my long cherished Waterford crystal glasses that were wedding presents. I am using – every day- my grandmother’s porcelain dishes. I am sleeping on linen sheets that are older than I am! I am using the sterling silver that I hoarded for years. You know what? It feels good. I think my grandmother, my mother and all those people who gave me these treasures would be thrilled to know that finally I am using and appreciating. Plus, my own children and grandchildren are seeing these lovely heirlooms honored and appreciated, so they in turn will do the same.
Keeping this goal in mind, of being “elegant”, helps with some of the tough decisions you have to make when you undertake the serious and difficult task of downsizing. Keep only the best and most beloved of what you have. It doesn’t have to be valuable to anyone else but you. This is your time, your moment, to create a new environment for yourself. As I said, my favorite commandment and I hope it will inspire you.
Whoops, did not realize that I missed Commandment #2 and #3 – here they are…..
Be charitable - ask yourself, do I really want to house clothing, furniture, linens, kitchens and bath accessories, old toys and books that I know I will never use again? This kind of mentality is costly.
You pay for storage, whether it be in jammed square footage, annual cleaning costs, or the sheer frustration of being surrounded by outmoded, outlived, items you are hanging onto “just in case”. Have you considered the ways you can enrich other people’s lives by letting them share in yours? To families who have little, your clothes, linens, toys, dishes, glassware, blankets, and odds and ends may make the difference between poverty and comfort, between deprivation and dignity, between cold and warmth. Charity begins at home – from your home to those of others, share your wealth and kindness. It feels good for everyone involved. There are a number of ways to make this happen. Here are just a few. Goodwill, Salvation Army, church organizations, local charities and community centers, women’s centers, the list is long and you will find a group in your community that welcomes your years of saving. This is a “win win” for you. It is amazing how good you feel after giving to others.
Visit our Where to Donate for a list of links to possible charities in your area.
Visit our Where to Recycle for a list of links to possible recycling solutions in your area.
Be Creative ~ and environmentally responsible: This is tough, I warn you. There is a huge emotional issue underlining our need to accumulate, hoard, save for a “rainy day” (and no, we are not talking about our college or retirement funding here.) To internalize and role model respect for our environment and create new ways to use what you have, recognize that resources are limited. Re-think buying patterns. Avoid purchasing clothes, gadgets, junk food and other “stuff” wrapped in layers of paper and plastic. This requires seismic shifts in behaviors. Personally, I am an avid treasure hunter, shopper, lover of new designs and ideas, both in fashion and interior design. Aging is not dampening any of my enthusiasm. Moving, particularly downsizing, certainly is a wake-up call. I guarantee it.
Our ten commandments of surviving a downsizing continue……
Patience – this may well be the most challenging of all our commandments. You decide upon a task. With great intentions, you believe that it will be completed within a specified period of time. Or, you count on someone else to help. The date and time are set. You assume that everyone is as task oriented and as honorable as you.
Surprise…….unless you are a wizard of efficiency or a master of time management, very little will go exactly as planned. Murphy’s Law is all powerful and if you don’t build the virtue of patience into your planning and thinking, be prepared for exhaustion and frustration. Stuff happens and it is rarely favorable. Patience is a hard won gift, not lightly given. So be prepared to develop your patience as best you can. While your levels of determination, organization and preparation are critical, you still need to cultivate the patience skill when downsizing, moving, and making life changes. Good luck, I am sure you will be successful!
Surviving a Downsizing Transition by Lynda Palazzi continued…….Commandment number 1: Coldhearted; a word you might think would never apply to you. Considerate it an important fallback position that underlines the old saying, “When it doubt, throw it out”.
Throwing “it” out, however, does not mean hiring a dumpster. It means you are moving on to free yourself and at the same time, add to other’s lives, closets and earthly possessions. Just don’t count on your beloved children and best friends to fight over the treasures you have collected over a lifetime. Once you have offered and been declined, swallow hard, move on and explore other options. You may be astounded at how much stranger’s value and appreciate your taste. Enjoy this experience. Search out a dealer, either through your local newspaper or organizer or on the web. Visit antique markets and check out the regulars so you can explore the best way to dispose of your treasures. There are experts in vintage costume jewelry, all sorts of dishes, cutlery, trinkets, linens, books, postcards, pictures. Several of my most successful sales were old beaded evening bags, long leather gloves and some of my mother’s old perfume bottles. Your treasures are treasures to someone. My favorite story is the old gold metal belt that I proudly bought in Chicago 35 years ago to adorn a crème moiré dress I had made. That belt was one of my most precious keepsakes because it represented the waist I once had and what it felt like. With great pride, I offered it to my daughter in law who shuddered and kindly suggested it wasn’t “her taste”. You can imagine my satisfaction when my wonderful dealer told me it was actually fought over by several young women and sold for a substantial sum. Yes!!
A word that scarcely existed in our vocabularies a decade ago, is now key to success as professional organizers. It is a word that strikes terror in most of us as it was coined to symbolize and rationalize large scale terminations as companies got smaller and smaller in hopes of maximizing efficiency and the bottom lines. It is now used in a variety of ways but still can cause otherwise successful men and women to tremble. Even though you may not be losing your livelihood, downsizing still implies significant change in lifestyle, living and working space and ways of organizing our world around us.
We plan to explore how this concept of “Down” and “Sizing” has percolated our culture. It impacts architecture, furniture design, use of public space, office design, in fact, just about everything that touches our day to day lives.