Change and The “Less is More” Train

Summer is always a busy time for me, but this summer is making most summers look peaceful by comparison. Several months ago, Mister Soandso and I decided to sell our house. It is a long story made more interesting with liberal application of wine, but we are happy with our new plan for housing which includes but is not limited to the words: building, permits, construction, sub-division, &*^%, and storage unit.

We first started thinking about downsizing (primarily our mortgage payment rather than our square footage) last year and the whole family was largely on board with the notion of reducing the number of our possessions and such things. But as we got past the point of abstraction, it quickly became clear that not everyone was in the same place of boarding the “less is more” train.

Years ago Mister Soandso and I had purged, organized, and simplified the basement playroom/family room space. Instead of the multitude of bins containing a limited variety of Lego pieces, we purchased two bins with insert trays and dumped them all in together. (We ultimately had to get another. I live with Lego maniacs, it seems.) There was a part of me that shuddered all the way to Goodwill with my lovely stack of storage totes with which I had spent four fruitless years of my life. Sure the kids liked having one bin for 2×4 Lego and one bin for 1×8 Lego, for example, but they hated putting all the Lego back into those bins. So they didn’t. Which means there was way more tension and raised voices in that family room for many years than we would have liked. In other words, I donated a whole bunch of bins, spent $20 on new ones and life got way more zen as fewer Lego were left out, I spent less time cranky-cleaning, and the space was visually much more serene. Three commingled bins versus a system of sorting bins – who knew it could be that easy to change my life?

In that situation, what needed to change was my way of looking at the situation. I had taken data (watching my kids play with their Lego) and applied my system of logic (it’s easier to build things if you seperate materials pre and post playtime). And while this was all good in the building part of the equation, it completely tanked when it came to the part where I was actually invested: clean-up. A funny thing: most four-year olds don’t want to spend much time cleaning up after themselves. They don’t mind digging through a huge pile of Lego to find just the right one because it feels fun on the way to the goal. Cleaning up, on the other hand, is one big yawn.

We changed that Lego storage system three years ago and it made all the difference. *Probably most in the amount of Lego I vacuumed up. But don’t tell Mister Soandso that because he loves Lego as much as the kiddos do.

I share that whole Lego story as an example of how out of synch we can be even when it seems like we shouldn’t be. We don’t all board the “less is more” train at the same time, via the same entrance, and definitely not with the same grace.

Middlest is a prime example of boarding the train in fits and starts. Last summer, there was no way she would part with 98% of the things she claimed. From the smallest pieces of confetti to the collection of toys collecting dust in the attic, they were all precious to her. Middlest is a majorly artistic soul and she loves making fiber arts. Turn her loose in an arts and crafts store and the child nearly weeps for joy. This makes her a bit of a packrat, but rather than focus on the hoarding tendency this might indicate, we shall just call it “thrifty and well-prepared for any artistic endeavor.”

She has had storage access to 2 closets in her room as well as a basement storage room and attic space. This was not perhaps the Mister and mine best laid plan ever, and as we prepared to pare down our belongings for this move, we girded our collective loins for the upcoming emotional maelstrom she was likely to lay upon us.

IMG_6005Instead, she happily donated much of everything we thought she would continue to need to hold onto. For example, she happily let us remove her hobby horse from the attic and donate it. Internet, meet Marigold. I bought her at a garage sale when Middlest was 2 years old. I repainted her, including a “brand” on her right flank with Middlest’s initials. Christmas morning, Middlest yanked off the sheet and squealed with delight. And even though she has long outgrown riding Marigold, Middlest would not part with her. So the poor horse gathered dust up in the attic for six years.

The other day she took one last “ride” on Marigold and then happily watched us take it to Goodwill. Nothing but smiles.

A year ago when we suggested doing this same thing, she was absolutely adamant that we hold on to Marigold.

It just wasn’t the right time for that change to happen.

Considering we are currently living in an apartment for the first time since 1996, it is a good thing the time was right for the many other changes we did make. I can’t even tell you how many trips we took to Goodwill and the dump as we cleaned out cupboards and closets, attic and basement. And with each trip, I promised myself that purging and rethinking how we use and store our things is good for the soul.

In fact, for the most part, the “less is more” train depot fully resides in my soul.

I really don’t need “stuff” for memory’s sake. I understand and appreciate that other people do, but stuff makes me a little twitchy. We ended up moving some things to the apartment that I don’t plan on moving into the new house, but I ran out of time to sort through it all. So even though we are in the lull between moves, I will continue to purge and rethink things.

IMG_6001But one thing I won’t try to change is how my kids and husband approach purging and things. Because we all get there at a different time. Take my son’s collection of Rescue Heroes, for instance.  Biggest was a little guy during the end of the Rescue Heroes days. In fact, when we moved from Minnesota in 2004, I bought him the majority of these Rescue Heroes from my friend’s son at a garage sale. I’d dole one out every few months as a reward for various things. My friend’s son is now a legally drinking adult and Biggest hasn’t looked at them for years. Littlest inherited the collection and he and Middlest played with them until interest waned and up to the attic they went.

When we got them down last week, Middlest couldn’t part with them. She played with each one, setting them out and talking bout her favorite memories of each one. There was no way she was going to easily part with them.

Plan to take them to Goodwill: changed.

Instead, I contacted a friend with two small boys. Yesterday they kindly took them. I got a text last night that her son is happy as a clam with our cast-offs.

In this instance, the change is a three tiered one: three “generations” of little people whose imaginations are sparked by one collection of Fisher Price toys.

This won’t be the last I write about moving from our home and this big adventure. This is a time of big change for me and if you know me, I process change by talking or writing about it. I wonder how many of you are like me – going through a big life change.

This life is a wacky one but I appreciate not being alone for the journey. Thanks for the fellow footsteps along the dusty path. “Less is More” doesn’t apply to the people in my world who make it a better place. 🙂

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5 thoughts on “Change and The “Less is More” Train

  1. Fellow life-changer here … we moved in early May to temporary quarters while our house was undergoing a major remediation/renovation. Then mid-stream we decided to buy a new house in the suburbs. So, two moves within six months with two little ones? I’m feeling much more brave than i was a few months ago 😉 And I’m right there with you with the downsizing. And trying to have patience while everybody gets on the downsizing bandwagon. Good luck!

    • Ugh. That sounds rather horrid PJ. I sure hope you are happy where you are now. Less is more. Less is more. Less is more. (My kids are getting really tired of my enthusiasm for this mantra.)

  2. Wow, that’s quite a bit of stuff and stuff to deal with. I think we have too much stuff, but the thing is we don’t own near as much stuff as a lot of folks. Butt still, I was surprised to realize how many things I’m not willing to give up yet. I also wonder how much being financially disadvantaged affects the situation – It’s possible I might Not be able to replace anything I get rid of.

    Big Scary congrats on the whole house selling/apartment/house building(?) deal.

  3. I soooo need to do a major purge in my basement. Alas, I am lazy. I suspect it will wait until we are forced to move.

    Hang in there! 🙂

  4. I’m telling you, purging is a good thing for a body. Well, purging of accumulated crap. Oh heck, you know what I mean. 🙂

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