Christmas Makes Me Want to Downsize

I have felt this overzealous need to reduce the amount of stuff in my life for a long time.

Maybe forever.

I’ve just never needed a lot of material possessions to be happy. In fact, less for me has always meant more in terms of feeling peaceful and content. But then, I’ve never been all that traditional, or as Gil likes to point out, normal.

It’s not that I want to be a monk or a nun or that I don’t aspire to do things. In fact that’s it — I’ve always been more about experiencing and less about acquiring or collecting.

I was never that kid who dreamed about all the things I wanted when I grew up, especially in the traditional sense and because of this, I always felt…different.

As early as I can remember, my little girlfriends would talk about who they wanted to marry; they would describe the house they hoped to share with their families, and of course they always knew how many children they wanted.

Not me.

I’d begin by telling them exactly how I felt about whatever make-believe game we were playing. In other words I’d be honest.

Authentic.

I would say things like I want to live in New York City;  I want to write a screenplay;  I want to be the starting pitcher for the Atlanta Braves; I want to go on tour with Aerosmith.

Honest…but different. My friends didn’t quite know what to do with me.

They thought I was weird.

So I had a two options. I could play by myself or I could play with my friends and pretend to like the same things they liked.

You can probably guess what I did.

I reluctantly played along. They wanted to play school. I NEVER wanted to play school. Why on God’s green earth would I want to pretend to go school when I already spent entirely too much time there as it was?

Wasn’t pretending supposed to be fun?

Yes! And more than anything as a kid, I wanted to have fun. I endured these disastrous activities by infusing our games with my own flavor.

“Let’s pretend our school is like Fame!!!”

or, “I’m the teacher, but I can’t be stuck in the classroom. We’re spending the semester in Paris!!”

It was the same with the houses. My friends wanted Georgian mansions and I’d be all, “My dream home is a teepee!”

I remember thinking how cool those huts were on Gilligan’s Island. Now that was the kind of house I could live in.

I also never wanted to take care of the babies. I usually had to be the stand-in husband unless someone’s poor, unsuspecting baby brother got conned in to the job.

I grew up in a small town. Many of my childhood friends had parents who had lived in the same area for generations and generations. My parents were transplants, and because of this our entire family was a bit different. A few of my mom’s feminist leaning pals did their best to encourage their daughters to aim higher than a mansion, a rich husband along with a staff to care for the babies while they fanned themselves under the veranda sipping gin and juice…er…lemonade. But really, doesn’t that life picture make you want something stronger than lemonade. Or is that just me? Who knows. Like I said, I’ve never been normal — my gauge can’t be that reliable. Thankfully, neither of my parents pushed me to be some guy’s arm candy. I was expected to get an education and a job in order to support myself.

I’m still not like most of my peers in my area. We live in a mid-sized town in the Southeastern US. Many of my children’s classmates’ parents hold views that are vastly different from mine and Gil’s.

We’ve lived here for nearly ten years and as much as anywhere, it feels like home. We’ve been blessed with good friends, many of whom hold similar values and rear their children the way we do. And for what it’s all worth, I really don’t expect people to be just like me. I like variety and want my children to be exposed to various ways of existing in the world, BUT it’s nice to have a tribe, a safe-space that feels rather Kumbaya.

It’s more accurate to say that I KNOW a lot of people here, but the truth is, my tribe is gone. In the past year and a half, my three closest friends have moved far far away and I’m sad. These were the women who, had we known each other as children, would have been right there with me playing Fame School and Study Abroad in Paris.

I think that’s what I’ve discovered as an adult. You have to find your tribe. It wasn’t so much that I was a super-freak on the playground, but at the time I only hung with people who saw their world differently from the way I saw mine. And instead of embracing or even accepting my ideas, they told me I was wrong.

Different isn’t wrong.

This post was supposed to be about minimalism. I’m nearly 800 words in and I haven’t gotten around to that yet. I will tell you this — I feel like I’m on the brink of something life-changing, but I have to push through and make it happen. I’ve always felt that the fewer material possessions I have, the better and more creative I can be. I want to seriously downsize my life, and I’m in the process of figuring out exactly what that looks like.

I’ve been telling Gil and my mom this for a few years now, but they keep telling me that I’m being unrealistic. My mom, ever the traditionalist, is used to my whacky ideas, so she just shakes her head and tells me it’s my journey. We can thank her therapist, Diane, for that.  A couple of years ago, that became Mom’s mantra. Anytime I brought up an idea that she didn’t understand or agree with (like the time I considered going to nursing school so that I could treat prisoners and educate them on AIDS and STDS — and yes, that was a crazy idea seeing that I don’t like blood or needles all that much), Mom would say, “Viv, it’s your journey.” She would repeat it over and over like she was trying to convince herself that she meant it.

But Gil, as well as he knows me, just thinks some of my ideas are straight-up loopy. This minimalism idea is extremely hard for him and I’ve decided that it’s because he’s a borderline hoarder. The dude loves his stuff and has a hard time parting with any item he’s spent money on.

Most likely our family will be moving in the next year or two. Gil works in downtown Savannah; I currently work from home, and we’ve wanted to get back to a larger city for a while. Personally, I’d love to pack up, sell or donate the majority of our stuff and move into a smaller, less expensive house. I’d also like to move across the country, but that’s not in the cards at the moment, so Savannah will have to work. There are certainly worse places.

I really want to do something crazy like design a container home or move into a motorhome so I can take the kids cross-country anytime the mood strikes, but that might be a tad unrealistic.

I’m starting by devouring this amazing website. Check it out.

I think for people like Gil and me, we’re just not organized enough to manage a lot. I miss traveling and would like to go on longer and off-the-beaten-path trips in the future. I have a million classes I’d love to take and skills I’d love to learn. I believe that simplifying and consciously reducing our bills and things to manage would be a first step in helping us achieve our goals.

To be continued…

What are your thoughts on stuff? Love it? Hate it? Somewhere in between? 

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20 thoughts on “Christmas Makes Me Want to Downsize

  1. I love this post. As I look at my changed life after divorce, being back in the work world in a big way, etc., I find that the tribe I had I move farther from–not intentionally, but because as their lives become more filled with ease, mine has gotten a bit harder. Tribes should go beyond circumstances, but in some cases, life shifts. I find myself feeling Ok about being different but frustrated by people’s puzzlement at the dichotomies that lie within me . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know exactly what you mean in terms of moving away from tribes unintentionally due to circumstances — or rather their ease. At least I think I understand. I’ve been going through some difficult circumstances with one of my kids this year and I’ve had to put a lot of energy and focus in to that AND job stuff. Certain groups that once felt like a supportive, safe space just feel different now — unintentionally on their end, but they don’t really get what I’m going through because they’re not. I like the way you summed that up — life shifts. I’m discovering that the people I truly want to keep in my life regularly HAVE to get that. Some do and when we re-connect, we can pick up right where we left off. I don’t know — parenting and adulthood can be lonely at times. Not because there aren’t people around, but there aren’t enough who get it maybe or perhaps they don’t have the time, energy or capacity to truly care.

      I loved this comment. It made me think. Thanks!

      Like

  2. I recently began to minimize. Bringing husband on board has been a challenge. We have been able to find a compromise in our new place. We simply don’t have the wall space for so many pictures and shelves. The result is a nice, clean, eclectic look, using wall space to feature our best art. I am much more content here. There is no carpet to clean! That’s my biggest change. Wood or tile floors just clean up so much easier than carpet. I hope you guys can find some middle ground.

    And it’s time people like us embrace our weirdness. I finally have and I’m ok with that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Reading your story has always been so encouraging. You’re such a good example and you write so clearly about moving forward and then also back a little bit but sticking with the process over the long haul. I’m so happy to hear that you’re more content since you moved. It’s always lovely to hear from you, friend. Thank you for the encouragement.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I loved reading this post and I can REALLY relate to so much of it! I’m like you, Craig is like Gil! Experiences matter to me – not a bunch of crap!!! I love your attitude! I wish you would move to the West Coast!

    I also wanted to make sure you see the special reply I wrote to you yesterday complete with a song – here’s the link….scroll down in the comments section to yours:
    http://proudlybipolar.wordpress.com/2014/12/08/one-step-forward-two-seroqueled-steps-back/

    wishing you a great day – and thanks for writing such a wonderful blog! I want to comment more but we have a huge incoming storm that’s freaking everyone out, and I have to go prepare for it! I’m praying we will keep our power throughout the storming, but it most likely will get knocked out by redwood branches/trees. That’s not good for an internet/elliptical machine addict! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hope you’re surviving the storm. My goodness!! Stay safe. And I also wish I lived on the West Coast. I used to be a flight attendant and I spent LOTS of time there. It felt like *my* place, though I suppose i should be thankful I’m not there now with the weather.

      I LOVED LOVED LOVED that special reply. Sorry I’m so late replying. It’s been a week. One kid’s had a staph infection that’s required a few doctor visits, but he’s on the mend and full of energy, but yeah, crazy week.

      My mantra — Less stuff, more life. Now if I could only get the rest of my crew to jump on board. Hope your elliptical and Internet are up and running. Trust me, I get that too! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • You never need to apologize for when/if you reply to any of my comments – we are both busy moms, and I understand sometimes we can’t get it all done the way we’d like! Certain days I fully intend to reply to a comment or someone else’s blog post and I space out.

        Anyway, I survived yesterday’s storm, thank God, but there’s another one coming right this moment, so I’m going to hop in our shower in case we lose power.

        I’m also so happy you enjoyed my reply to you! 🙂 I had lots of fun writing it and I had a blast finding that Hare Krishna video. Speaking of which, yes, stick to your mantra of “less stuff, more life” – I love that & I’d like to abide by that as well. Have a great Friday and a *wonderful* weekend! (((hugs)) to you!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Considering we live in a fifth wheel for over 7months a year, I am slightly biased. We have friends who are going to travel for a year in an RV starting next year. They will home school their boys. What an adventure. I don’t think I had it in me to home school my kids but for them, they have the details already worked out.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. We are totally on the same wavelength. I wish you lived in Dallas because we would be fast friends. 🙂 Decluttering and get rid of stuff makes me so happy and makes me feel more peaceful. The two boys and man I live with, however, accumulated stuff everyday. I constantly gather up the crap and donate it. I’ve also talked about living in a motor home for a while. I think it would be really great. Recently we downsized from a house to a town home in the city. The change has been really positive. Good luck to you in your journey!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s SO good to hear from you and I love that you understand! We would be fast friends (in real life) if I lived in Dallas. So glad to hear your downsize has been so positive. It’s encouraging. It also helps to know that you were able to manage it with three males who accumulate stuff. So it really CAN be done, huh? My brain just works better with less clutter.

      Liked by 1 person

    • The only thing I tend to buy in ridiculous quantities is books. I have WAY too many. For the most part I keep my own stuff to a minimum, but Gil and the kids…that’s another story. I don’t think the kids have a crazy amount of toys, but there’s a lot more plastic junk than is really necessary. At the same time, they really do play with everything they have. I box stuff up and rotate toys in and out and that works well. It’s like Christmas when I bring all the stored stuff out.

      For me, I need less space to clean. We don’t have that much stuff considering the size of our house, but I’d love an easier house and yard. Gil hoards tools and coolers and random crap. When his dad died four years ago we inherited ALL of his tools and miscellaneous junk — he was kind of a hoarder too.

      Then there’s my concern that I have this idea that I’ll be less anxious and overwhelmed if we downsize and then the reality might be that I just fixate on something else to stress about. I kind of doubt it, though. The few times that I’ve sprung for a housekeeper, I’m been remarkably surprised at how much calmer a clean space makes me feel — even though it only lasts a day or so…

      Liked by 1 person

      • I hoard everything, from art supplies for projects I’ll never do to books to salt and pepper shakers. It’s a mess. But, I’m not a big cleaner. I do the minimum and that’s only because I HAVE to. My kid does have way too many toys, though.

        Liked by 1 person

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