For most of us, downsizing seems like an idea that makes sense for “old” people, but we rarely think about it applying to us until we find ourselves face-to-face with the need to downsize. Some of us choose to move to a smaller house or apartment or into a senior living community because we want to simplify our lives, reduce our house maintenance responsibilities, or simply because we feel we can’t afford to manage all the expenses and responsibilities associated with our current living situation.
Other women downsize for reasons that are not of their choosing. Perhaps a woman has been widowed or divorced and can no longer handle all that needs to be done alone. Or she may be pressured to move into smaller or less expensive living situations due to health decline or financial hardship. Some women are asked to downsize by their children, who are concerned about their welfare and safety.
Downsizing is not limited to moving into smaller or less demanding living situations. It can include the downsizing of our possessions, simplifying our financial life and reducing the complexity of our property ownership, regardless of whether or not we are actually moving. Simplifying our lives and reducing the number of our possessions can bring a sense of liberation from the tyranny of our “stuff”, but can also generate an enormous sense of anxiety and personal loss, and sometimes a complicated mixture of these and other emotions.
Some of us are more attached to our “stuff” than others, whether for practical reasons, sentimental reasons, or because of how these items tie in with our history, identity and sense of self. For some people, stuff is stuff, for others, our stuff is a meaningful weave of memories, hopes, and dreams— dreams that we have either held onto or fulfilled in our lives. It is no better or worse to be attached than not to be attached, although having strong feelings of attachment results in greater feelings of loss when we are forced to let go of things and a sometimes more pressing inner need to redefine our sense of self in other than material terms. Some questions to contemplate:
1) Have you experienced the need to downsize your life? Or are you currently contemplating the need to downsize in the near future?
2) If you have had this experience, what aspects of your life have you had to downsize?
3) Was your downsizing by choice or required by circumstances beyond your control?
4) What are the benefits of simplifying your material and financial life? And what have been the losses associated with this process?
5) If you don’t need to simplify or downsize your life, how do you feel about maintaining the complexity of your present life and how do you see “passing the torch” once you are no longer able to maintain all of these things by yourself?
6) If you had to downsize, what did you choose to keep and why?