Scaling Down, Downsizing, Cutting Back, Minimizing, Simplifying: there are many words we use for sorting through our things and releasing our control of them to others. Formerly thought of as, well, second-class, currently the handed down item is now a recycled, green, unique and admirable thing. Websites such as EBay and stores like Value Village have capitalized of the current search for used properties. What is the appeal?
A used thing takes on a sort of persona. To the second hand buyer, it has a sense of mystery. It often is something from far away or long ago. In many cases it is not something that you could buy at the mall, even if you wanted to get it new. But this column is not about buying, it is about releasing. When you decide to give away, sell at a garage sale or charity event, or go online or classified with your treasures, you will be pleasantly surprised at how happy it makes other people to get your things. They may hold up your tourist souvenir of a Native American doll which was made in China and purchased 30 years ago at a Canadian tourist trap and reverently say, “Where did you find this?” They always want to know. It’s called Provenance, or at least it is called that on PBS’s “Antique Road show.” Stay tuned to that series and you might discover some real treasures you own that you should even insure.
I scaled down about ten years ago. We owned a four bedroom farmhouse on twenty acres with plenty of storage spaces and we wanted to move into a much smaller home. In choosing things for the garage sale I was surprised to see how many items of the same use or purpose I had somehow ended up with. You know how things accumulate if you are a mother. Little gifts for many occasions that you don’t really need, an attempt by someone to start you on collecting things you never admired in the first place, and just that weird concept that when people see you they think you probably would like a certain kind of present. For me, it was ceramic candy dishes and purses.
What a pleasure it was to pick my favorites from many similar things and let the rest of them go to others. How many candy dishes does a Diabetic need, after all? Having found and sorted through all my things, I sort of felt like I had passed away and come back again. But looking at it from that standpoint, I am happy that it was me that did the sorting, not my bereaved children. The good thing was that I didn’t have to mourn myself! It was fun to open up the barn to young islanders who were needing feathers for their nests. Their enthusiasm for my leftovers was making us all happy.
The real prize was when I moved into my scaled down house. I could put my mind and even my finger on where everything was! I got to thinking about how much of our lives are spent in searching for things. Sometimes, things we never find until we decide to scale down. The final reward, then: looking less and therefore living lives full of more important things. And, feeling knowledgeable and in good mental state when someone says to you, “Honey, where is the candy dish?”