Choosing What Really Matters

My husband and I recently went through a process of examining everything that surrounds us, and eliminating what wasn’t serving us well.

This included property, possessions, attitudes and even relationships.

Sounds harsh, huh?

Here’s why we went through this downsizing process: we recognized the finish line of our life’s journey is within reasonable sight. We’ve both hit the age of fifty, and understand we have more time behind us than we do ahead. With that recognition came a desire to unburden ourselves from the unnecessary, in order to make room for the desired.

It’s been blissful to see the results.

Yes–downsizing was, and is, a very challenging process. It takes time, work, emotional investment and energy. Downsizing requires a great deal of both patience and fortitude. As we began, I jokingly said my primary goal was for us to remain friends. As we progressed through the process, I was glad of this commitment, because at times things were very stressful. I’m not saying it wasn’t worth it, because it was. The downsizing process was a significant chapter in our lives together.

We found a book that was instrumental during our downsizing journey: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, I recommend it to you, if you are considering downsizing in your own life.

Here’s the book’s primary lesson, in a nutshell:

You are surrounded by too many things, and you must get rid of them.  The best way to do this is to take each object, and hold it in your hands. If it doesn’t bring you joy as you hold the item, that thing must go. It’s served its purpose in your life, and can now bring joy to another person.

It was as simple, and as difficult, as that.

So we sold properties, furniture, clothing and possessions.

Together, we donated, gifted and threw away things that no longer brought us joy.

We re-evaluated, wept a little bit sometimes, and slowly winnowed down the unnecessary.

It took several months, phenomenally hard work on some occasions and a great deal of patience.

I am extremely grateful for all of the hard work that we put in though, because we are now living a life of joy.

We’ve created room in our lives for exploration, spontaneity and free time. We are no longer shackled by yard work or home maintenance. We have picked up new hobbies to replace the time we spent cleaning our unnecessarily large house, and now have time to entertain the people who matter to us. Our quiet time is now spent pursuing things that interest us, and not dealing with the stuff that we own. Interested?….

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Here’s how to start your own downsizing journey.

1.  Set a goal that matters to you.  

Maybe this involves geography, like moving to the mountains. Or perhaps it involves your work life, such as changing careers or acquiring a different degree. Maybe it involves having more free time to pursue a passion. There is something unique that means a great deal to you–so put in the detective work to recognize what matters most for your limited time on the planet, and use that goal as your guiding star.

2.  Identify what, in your present life, gets in the way of that primary goal.

Maybe its debt, or its possessions. Perhaps it’s an unhealthy relationship, baggage from the past, or fear of the future. It could be any number of things–we are all fluid beings, with enormous chances to get stuck. Start this process by staring down your problems, and evaluating them in the light of day.

3.  Come up with a game plan to get rid of these burdens. 

See a debt counselor if you need one, and be willing to do whatever it takes to pay off what you owe. Be willing to sell your extra things, or get a second job. Cut down on your spending–whatever it takes. See a mental health counselor if you need to, if what you are holding onto are toxic emotions. Forgive those who have wronged you, and let go of those burdens. Decide that your primary goal is worth letting go of whatever you need to release, because it is only with empty hands that you can again receive.

4.  Follow through on this game plan, without whining.

Yes–this is going to be tough. So what? You’re tougher. Have garage sales and join Craigslist or Ebay. Accept your vehicle is going to be crammed with things on the way to Goodwill for a while. Know your orderly existence is going to be filled with garbage bags, packing tape and a ton of emails as you push through on these plans. Keep your primary goal close–perhaps tape up an index card on your bathroom mirror, or have a special picture as your background on Facebook. Sign up for those classes in your new field, and don’t complain while eating dinner in the car as you drive to campus after work.

5.  Be grateful.

Not only for all of the extra stuff you have, but for your vision. Many people slog through life without goals, and waste the time they are given. Not you!  YOU have a wish, a goal–a purpose! From now on, everything you do is going to drive you closer to your purpose, and further away from the things that are holding you back.

6.  When you think you’re done getting rid of stuff, keep going–there is more, I promise!

My husband and I continue to shed belongings, because we continue to realize that we can do without. As Americans, we are surrounded by excess. Actively decide you can do more with less, and challenge yourself to go a certain time frame without buying anything other than food or medicine. Here, I dare you: Go thirty days without buying anything new.  I know you can do it!

7. Recognize there are really only two things that genuinely matter in life: time, and people.

Everything else is just ‘stuff’. You can always get more stuff. You can never get more time once it’s gone, and people can also go away, for any number of reasons. Focus, really focus, on the people around you, and how you spend time with them, and everything else will work out.

8. Continue to grow, once you think you’ve finally gotten there.

My husband and I are now settled into our new place, (with our ridiculously well-organized closets), and are now allowing ourselves to reach towards our next layer of goals. We’ve removed so much from our lives that was unneeded, we can now clearly see ahead, to what is wanted. We continue to make plans for things we desire in the days ahead.

What sorts of things would you like to get rid of? Belongings? Relationships? Mistakes from your past, that are hampering your journey forward?

Reach, Friend–there is a path of joy and delight ahead of you! Let go of what you don’t need, no matter how hard it is to do.  I’m happy to give you personalized suggestions, and would love to hear stories of your own downsizing. Please feel free to comment below, and remember to subscribe, so we can stay connected.


**Chanler Jeffers is a woman who has seen many extraordinary things over her lifetime. An adventurer, survivor, overachiever and advocate of kindness in all instances, she has been awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE), and is a member of their Circle of Champions. She has had the good fortune to live and travel all over the world, grew up as a military dependent, was a single parent for many years, has survived cancer and gently shaped countless people over her years on this little planet we call home. Follow along as she shares her knowledge, her experience and her love. Oh, by the way–one more thing. She’s married to a Bass playing rock star, lucky girl.

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  1. I’ve heard so many great things about Marie Kondo’s book! With our thoughts about long-term traveling, “decluttering” and “paring down” are just the first steps before massively reducing the number of things we own. I’ve always agreed that the things you own end up owning you… But still, it’s a struggle to fight the urge to keep things just in case they come in handy. Thanks for your mindfulness tips!

    1. Her book is pretty ruthless about things ‘just coming in handy’, to be honest. She doesn’t give those items a lot of time or space. Her advice is great, because she leads you through entire categories of things at a time, starting with the least emotionally charged items, and progressing to things that you would naturally value more. I would encourage you to slowly stop purchasing, and ‘make do’ with the things that you already own, as a way of beginning your new life path.

      Thanks so much for your thoughts, and good luck!

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