Why (and How) to Downsize Your Home

The upside of downsizing. It means more than more space in your home. It means more space in your head.

I’m 60, and I have a lot of friends around my age. Many of us have been very fortunate. We’ve done a lot, and — with careers, and families, and travel — we’ve really “had it all.” Now, we’re running out of space to “keep it all.”

Well, Ladies, it’s time to downsize.

I don’t mean that you need to go full minimalist. If you want more than one set of dinner plates, that’s okay. You don’t need to sell your house and move to a small apartment. You can keep your running shoes; you might, one day, decide to start running again. (Though if those running shoes make you feel guilty about not running, then donate them.)

I have sympathy for the idea that you shouldn’t own anything that doesn’t bring you joy. (This is the idea behind Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, which has a cult-like following.) But my daddy owned a post-hole digger, and I’m not sure that it brought him any joy until he had to choose between that and a shovel to dig a narrow hole. Then he was pretty happy to have it, I’m sure.

The Upside of Downsizing It means more than more space in your home. It means more space in your head.

That’s sort of the way I feel about napkins. I love linen napkins, and I don’t think you should throw a party without them. I keep a variety on hand because they aren’t easy to find on short notice. I’ve got a few (okay, a few dozen) different styles, so many that I store them in an antique chest of drawers. But after I squeezed in another adorable set — which will be perfect for a dinner party I haven’t had yet, and am not even planning at the moment — the old drawers were creaking. I decided to organize them, and OMG, there were napkins everywhere.

There were four or five different styles of white linen napkins. Some were monogrammed, some were not and some had a family crest. Madras cotton, Irish linen, embroidered, laced… you name it, it was in that bureau, which must have been twice as big on the inside as it was on the outside. And so I trimmed down. I was merciless. I got rid of sets I didn’t need and never liked and sets that didn’t match any of my tableware. I even got rid of some (gasp!) that brought me joy just because there were too many.

Because do you know what? Just having those extra sets out of my life filled me with joy. In place of piles of linen, I now had SPACE! I had organization! I had the ability to be creative with the napkin sets I have, instead of having to shuffle through a lot I did not love. It was a wonderful feeling not being buried under pounds and pounds of 20-inch linen squares.

The Upside of Downsizing It means more than more space in your home. It means more space in your head.

It was such a good feeling, that I immediately made a few calls, and before the end of the week I had sold or given away 12 bins of antique fabrics that I had been holding on to. I’m free of all that clutter, and my mind is free of the worry of what on earth I was ever going to use 12 bins of antique fabric for. Really, I think that’s what makes downsizing so wonderful. It’s not just the space it opens up in your home — it’s the space it opens up in your life. And you can start today just by opening your napkin drawer.

Next week, I’m going to write about some concrete steps you can use to downsize. Until then, comment here to tell me about YOUR adventures in downsizing. What was the hardest thing for you to toss? How did you feel afterwards?

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  • Few things on earth give me more pleasure than an empty drawer in my closet, and seeing my dumpster completely full, too the point of running over!

  • I LOVE to edit and keep only my favorite things! I am the opposite of a hoarder… i love to give things away/donate/consign.

  • What a timely post. I am in the middle of cleaning out years of accumulated things and trying to decide what to do with it all.

    I will look forward to your next post as it can be an overwhelming job and concrete steps would be very helpful.

    Thanks for the inspiration to keep this process going!

  • I do look forward to your posts! I just went through the linen napkin purge last week end. This week- the hall closet. Thanks for the encouragement.