Recently, my friend Dawnie made a Facebook update that caught my eye. Really caught my eye. She shared how her family had downsized their home and reduced their belongings… by a lot. The result was a more peace-filled, happier, Dawnie. I asked if I could ask her a few questions and share her story with you on the blog. She happily obliged!
Today, I’d like to share with you my interview with Dawnie. The questions in bold are my questions. Dawnie’s words follow. If you’re ready for a change, I hope you’ll find Dawnie’s story encouraging and inspiring today.
What prompted your decision to downsize your home? Was there an “aha” moment?
I really like organizing, and I have considered myself to be a declutterer since the 1980’s, when I first read Don Aslet’s book Clutter’s Last Stand (available on Amazon). I cleared a lot of clutter after reading his books, yet continued to accumulate even more “stuff.” About 15 years ago, I started following The Fly Lady, Marla Cilley. I love her methods that help to establish daily routines and make organizing and cleaning fun through her various daily challenges. I still use some of her methods to this day. I did, however, continue to accumulate more stuff. At that point, my strategy was to buy more storage containers that I could label. Problem solved, right? My “stuff” looked so organized! And I had A LOT of stuff accumulated during years of Girl Scout leading, Cub Scout leading, Camp Directing, preschool teaching, and teaching art.
I have always been aware of my clutter, and over the years have made several attempts to sort, organize, throw away or gift items. I was never able to make a dent in the sheer volume of “stuff” that I had in my garage and in my cupboards and closets.
So, for that “AHA!” moment. . . Three years ago, I read Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing (available on Amazon). Soon after that, I read her follow-up book, Spark Joy (available on Amazon). Talk about a catalyst for change. I completely shifted how I FEEL about all of my “stuff.” I began going through everything I own and asking myself, “Do I use this? Do I love this? Does this thing spark joy in me?” As simple as that may sound, it has made ALL the difference in how I feel about what I need to keep and what I am able to let go of.
I joined my local BuyNothing Facebook group and began gifting box after box after box of craft supplies, clothes, games, dishes, appliances, bedding, books, holiday decorations, and more. I made bulk donation deliveries to Deseret Industries thrift store every few days.
A few months into that process, I realized that the more I got rid of, the more peace I felt. I just wanted to keep gifting and purging. I continued until I realized that we no longer needed to live in a huge 2,500 sq ft house with a huge garage on an acre of land. We made the conscious choice to move into our new and smaller house, a little under a year ago. We decreased our possessions by about HALF to fit into our new and MUCH smaller home.
What were some of the items you got rid of as part of your downsizing process? Were some hard to let go of?
Still, the hardest thing for me to let go of is books. My husband and I both love books. He and I both have separate libraries which we have downsized to a mere 300-400 books each down from thousands combined. Now, if I want new books, I have to donate books to make room for the new ones.
I did struggle a bit because I really felt secure surrounded by my accumulated memories and possessions. A friend suggested that I photograph my children’s art and other personal and family mementos and then recycle the originals. That was terrifying at first. But, I started doing it. My greatest surprise is that it is the memories that I cherish, not the actual items and the photograph capture my memories.
Was it easier than you thought to part with your stuff?
Surprisingly, it was not difficult, or at all painful. Best of all, I have not had a single regret about anything I let go of. I knew my things would be used and enjoyed by other people. How could I feel bad, when so much joy was brought to so many people through the gifting?
How long did the entire process take you?
It took a full year to decrease by 50%. I can still decrease what I have. I just started that process by going through my Valentine’s Day tote and gifting away everything except tissue paper and a couple of items I will add to my photo booth props.
This will be a lifelong process; however, I have now become somewhat of a minimalist, not wanting to buy anything that we do not need. I want to keep moving forward in this process and never go back to where I started. The key is putting a stop to what I BRING IN to my house.
What have been some of the best benefits of having less stuff and living in a decluttered home?
I am noticing that my home stays tidy in a way that it never has. All of the hours that I used to spend returning things to where they belonged… unbelieveable. Now there are less items in my home overall, so less items out of place. As I have had less and less, I have have become more away of how much trash we accumulate. As that awareness has increased we have now decreased our “landfill” output to 1 kitchen size bag every 2 weeks. We are now a family on a journey toward zero waste.
Could you share one small thing you changed that has had a big impact?
Angela, of all the things that I have changed, the biggest impact has been giving up paper towels. I bought some inexpensive cloths, made them into smaller cloths and now use these for everything. I also take them with me when I come out and about, so my family does not need to use any more disposable napkins.
What simple steps would you give my readers who want to declutter or downsize, but don’t know where to start?
For someone just starting on this journey, I would suggest that they take a look at their “stuff” objectively and make decisions. If you don’t use it or haven’t used it in a year, give it away. Let it bring someone else joy. If you USED TO wear it (clothes!), USED to use it (appliances!), USED TO play it (instruments!!), or USED to love it (anything), it’s okay to just not own it anymore. Make room in your heart and home and life for the things that you wear, use, play and love NOW!
What encouragement could you give to readers who have tried to declutter before only to find themselves in a cluttered home a few months later?
Some people can do a mass declutter over a short period of time and maintain that for good. Marie Kondo’s method promotes doing exactly that. Must be nice! However, for myself, and the majority of people, this will be a lifelong journey, because our families change, our interests and hobbies and jobs change, and we will gather and accumulate different things over the years.
Dawnie is married with 6 “kids” (ages 14-32), 2 of the best dogs on the planet and 3 sweet kitties. She lives in Northeast Tacoma with her husband, 2 teenagers and her oldest daughter. She works as a substitute para-educator and enjoys having adventures with her family and friends. Her hobbies include zero waste DIY projects, reading, cuddling her new granddaughter, community gardening, painting, karaoke, and using her new Instant Pot! Recently she and her family have begun their journey to zero-waste, which has been life changing. Dawnie and her friend Liz will soon be launching a Tacoma Journey to Zero Waste Facebook group where those in our own community can share ideas and support each other. It’s so much more that recycling and composting. In 2017, Dawnie and her husband chose to downsize to a house ½ the size of their previous home and they have never been happier. It turns out that for them, less really is turning out to be more.
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