Kathy Whelan

Posted on April 22, 2018

Three springs ago, my husband and I began a downsizing project that reduced our living space five-fold over two years. We weren’t looking to do good by reducing our carbon footprint. We simply wanted fewer bills and maintenance responsibilities. I couldn’t have imagined when we began this undertaking how dramatically it would change my life. 

As downsizing veterans know, it’s exhausting, both physically and mentally. We didn’t think of our home as cluttered (well, maybe one or two rooms) until we started to dig in and clean out. While we’d done spring cleaning each year, we hadn’t done nearly enough. I could hardly believe it when I found a set of walkie-talkies we’d used to communicate with our kids in the 90s, before cell phones, to keep track of them when they roamed our summer island at night. It got kind of creepy when we came across the baby teeth of our older son, who now has a son of his own who is losing teeth. You get the picture. When we faced a move-out deadline, our work became so overwhelming that we checked into a hotel and our home became “the job site.” We skipped meals, skimped on sleep, and couldn’t wait for the day it all ended.

Before this began, I had been trying my hand at fiction writing. I saw it as my work and did it dutifully, but not really joyfully, as I now realize. I’d heard it takes years and a million written words before an author can expect to be published. A little voice in my head told me I didn’t care about being published, but I chose to ignore it and kept trying to make my work the kind that sells. I took my how-to writing books with me when we finally moved, and they filled my new bookshelves. 

Our apartment felt right as soon as we moved in. Living with only what we needed gave us a sense of physical space we hadn’t had when we were living with much more square footage. As the months went by, I began to realize that something else had changed: I felt a new sense of mental spaciousness as well. Less burdened by possessions and household chores, I felt more room to explore what I really wanted to do with my time and energy. My writing books began to feel like should-dos instead of want-to-dos, so I got rid of them. Health coaching, which I’d begun during the late stage of downsizing, grew from an interest into a full-blown passion. I was able to make time for meditation, a practice that reinforces the value of a clear and spacious mind. 

As a health coach, I know the importance of our physical environment. I was taught that clutter in our schedules and minds can be just as unhealthy as the stuff piling up in our homes. But until I experienced it personally, I never realized that all of these could connect in such an impactful way. God bless downsizing.

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