Downsizing: The Gains of Letting Go

Couple removing drawers from the dresser they're moving and smiling.

The awesome couple that purchased our dresser and sent us a photo thank you note the next day!

With five weeks left before our move to the Minneapolis North Loop, the sorting, listing, selling and packing efforts have escalated in our Lowertown St. Paul apartment.  Craig’s List has become a repository  for the abundant quality furniture and sporting goods John and I brought into our marriage 3 years ago.  As a result, exchanging emails and texts with a wide variety of strangers as far away as Wisconsin, has become part of our daily routine.

Before we entered this process, we talked about how painful it was going to be to not have the things we loved around us.  We speculated feelings of loss and sadness would accompany these days leading up to our move,

But letting go of our possession has yielded some unexpected gains.  We’re learning that the lives we have led in the past and plan to lead in the future, are really much more centered around the people we’re meeting than the things we possess. This wisdom has been an immeasurable discovery for us both:

  • As John parted with a much-loved sofa last week and we helped the young family from south Minneapolis who purchased it load it into their truck, I gave their 6 year-old daughter a ride up and down the sidewalk on the furniture cart.  The simplicity of the moment was topped off when we heard the couple express their joy at finding a beautiful leather couch at a price they could afford.
  • A young woman moving to a new apartment was giddy about finding my black iron four-poster bed.  Without reservation, she gave us the cash payment in full when we told her we’d be happy to hold on to it for her for 3 weeks, demonstrating a trust in us that took us totally by surprise.
  • Photo of a living room with leather sofa, and dining table and chairs.

    Our beloved leather sofa, and living room, prior to this month’s downsizing via Craig’s List.

    An affable couple from Eden Prairie purchased John’s IKEA dresser for their son’s bedroom and didn’t bat an eye when we showed them that one drawer was losing its bottom. “We’ll just reinforce that,” they told us and happily, without any mention of paying us less for the piece.  They were flattered to  pose for a picture I told them I’d like to use in Urban Deluxe and,  the next morning, my phone contained a text from them.  It was a photo of the dresser in its new home with a “we’ll take good care of it for you” notation.

  • The DVD towers that no one seemed interested in finally walked out the door when a woman from Eau Claire Wisconsin connected with me. “The timing is perfect,” she gushed, “I’m coming to the Twin Cities tomorrow with a Uhaul to pick up some other things.  I’ll swing by on my way out of town.”  As I helped her load the towers she too said, “I’ll give them a good home.”

With every sale and each pick-up, we met someone who not only appreciated our taste in home furnishings, but also seemed to understand that we were saying goodbye to a part of our lives.  The fact that they were aware of this and wanted to reassure us that they knew the value of what they were taking home, was extremely touching and heart warming.

But perhaps the most significant moment of our downsizing journey occurred in relation to the pieces of handcrafted furniture my dad had made for me and some items that belonged to my mother.  I knew we couldn’t continue to hang on to these pieces in a smaller apartment and hiding them away in storage didn’t seem right.  So I got in touch with a niece, who also happens to be my Godchild.  She and her family live about an hour away and had just purchased a home, so it was possible that the might welcome the chance to have some additional furniture.

It had been several years since we had spoken and I wasn’t certain how my desire to contact her would be received.  When she was young,

A pretty young woman smiling.

My niece today with the same beautiful smile I remember.

I had been very involved in her life, even bringing her to live with me for a summer.  But circumstances, including my estrangement from her mom (my older sister) and time had taken their toll and I wasn’t certain if I would be welcomed into her life again.

Now a wife, mother of three and a nurse, I was glad to know that she was doing well.  I decided to reach out to her and inquired if she would like to have some of her grandparent’s things.  Without hesitation she replied that she’d be glad to have them and, last weekend, she and her husband stopped by our home to pick up the heirlooms.

There was no discomfort, no shyness and no regrets.  All I saw before me was a beautiful young woman who knew what she wanted from life and seemed OK with the idea that I was in it.   We laughed and she told us about her kids, her job and plans for the holidays.  She issued an invitation to John and I to join in the festivities and paused to reminisce about the family photos we had hanging in the hallway.

On her way out, she paused at our front door, hugging me for the fourth time and said, “I’m up here all of the time for work.  Let’s do coffee soon.” That’s when I realized what I had gained by letting go.


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