As women who are aging beautifully, one of our goals is to finally settle on our personal and unique style. What defines us. What clothes look great on us, what people enrich and inspire us? What colors make us feel energized and comfortable? What music makes us smile.  This is not to say that we do not continue looking for new and wonderful inspiration and discoveries, but we finally understand what shapes our true self.

For me, downsizing was the key to that realization. It was by eliminating things from my life, that I started to understand who I was. In saying ‘yes’ to the things that  I loved, I found myself.

Downsizing Uncovers the Real You

My journey to a simpler lifestyle has had many twists and turns over the past 6 years as I have reduced my possessions and redesigned my world.

The ultimate goal was always to get a better definition and understanding of my own unique style by making decisions about possessions, people, and places. I donated, discarded, downsized. I let people go who no longer made me happy, left my job and moved to Switzerland.

Of course, with any set of decisions that move you toward the truth, it got very complicated at times. All that kept me going some days was a sense that somehow complexity was just disguising the essential me and that somehow by choosing to reduce and simplify, I would find some serenity and peace.

Little did I know that complexity was a gift and in some way at the heart of simplicity. Moving house can be a catalyst for downsizing, so as I prepared to move 6 years ago, I realized that everything I owned fell into three categories.

Unique, Wonderful and Irreplaceable Treasures

First, there were the items that I carefully selected for their unique and memorable connection to my life that defined me as Margaret. These were the things that absolutely belonged in my life. I loved them without question and never wanted to let them go.

I figured that when I died, those 100 or so items would be easy for someone to discard. I know that sounds morbid, but the process of ‘Swedish death cleaning’ is all about getting to the honest truth of what is really important to you.

Things That I Will “Need” 

The second category consisted of things that I know I will need in a new living space and see absolutely no reason to buy them again at twice the price in the new location. A saucepan, can opener, shower curtain, sheets, and towels. I have, for example, gorgeous purple mugs that make me smile every time I make a cup of tea in them. I hope I’ll have at least 4 friends to share them with. Yes, I could use plastic cups or boring white, but I love the purple design that someone hand-painted with memories of a field of lavender in their minds, or perhaps something more complex.

I like that image, I think it’s beautiful. So those kinds of disposable items have to come along. This only goes to show how emotional and completely irrational the ‘owing’ of stuff can be.

Transition Items That Eventually Have to Go

The final group was things that for some inexplicable reason refused to allow me to let them go – for now at least.  Items in this category were primarily things made of paper. Books,  papers, journals, pictures, and postcards. Also, things that were handwritten or handmade. Mother’s Day cards made by my young children. Handmade necklaces that I created. Heirlooms. Things I knew could never be replicated and which would take decades to scan. Clothes and shoes are a subset of this category and deserve their own sentence! Say no more.

Yes, there are some basics to hold on to as you make a move, but 5 sets of Christmas lights?

I am inextricably connected to these things. Yes even though I could throw them away, I have been unable to let them go! For years, I refused to be that minimalistic. “What is the point of reducing and reducing just for the sake of it.” I would ask myself. I argued to myself that there was richness in memories and holding on to things that have accompanied you on your bumpy and beautiful life journey.

Now I understand this is the biggest category for downsizing. I have to learn to simplify those categories. I imagine it is the same for many of you. It is going to involve decisions and tears, but we can do it together!

Learning to Simplify Does Not Have to Be Boring

As you get ready to join me on this downsizing exercise, I will share one essential truth. What I’ve learned most of all is that simplicity does not have to be boring. It can be elaborate and funky and abundant. It leads you to your true self which is a pretty amazing place to land!

They say that living small is the new way to live big – in terms of fewer possessions, more creative budgeting or physically in fewer square feet. And that is my next challenge. I can’t wait to start my own adventure with all of you.

What are you anticipating will be the hardest things to let go?

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