Downsizing to downtown

Part I, the house's story
By Jory Squibb | Apr 16, 2010

I love adventures, and the adventure of moving is one I strongly recommend every 10 years or so.  It isn't easy, but it will freshen up your relationships with things, and with people. Tiring, even exhausting, as the process is, there's a spiritual component to it.

We usually look at things from a human-centered point of view: We own a house. We try to manipulate the selling process to gain enough treasure, to allow another to own it. We sort out our possessions, trying to determine their future value to us. This thinking, seeing ourselves as the controller of things, and being ego-identified with them, is stressful and fraught with the fear of loss.

But consider that the earth, and the things made of earth, might be primary; and there comes a strange peace of mind. We are relieved not to be at center stage. Our house was bored. It had nourished and grown a family of five before we owned it. Then it sheltered our family through 13 years of life passages. It had heard the delight of our children as they tracked in mud from the frog pond,  or returned panting from the trampoline in search of a snack. Now  there were only the two of us knocking about, keeping the house maintained and warm for the occasional return of these children,  whose visits form only a tiny fraction of the year. You couldn't help feeling it: The house was ready for more chaos.

My wife and I had been looking at smaller, in-town houses for a number of years. Our frustrated real estate agent returned our calls without enthusiasm. Yet in late January, she showed us a house that had nothing of the ho-hum of its predecessors. This house -- I hate to sound flaky -- seemed to be calling us. Its story included us. It was ready to take us through the next passage of our lives. We would have to build an outbuilding for visiting young adults, but the far smaller size and the walking proximity to town was just right for the simplifications we both longed for.

In the next part of this article, I'll share some of the trials of selling and buying, but today I'm surrounded by boxes on every side. Each day is a marathon of collecting boxes and relating to things. And again, it's helpful to listen to the stories things tell, instead of analyzing their usefulness. I pick up an item, enjoy again its history, and see where its story leads: to rebirth at the dump, to a new owner, or to continued hanging out in our household.

This sorting process is full of surprises: My wife immediately OK'd that our rarely used clothes dryer be given away; but the 24-year-old Maytag washer, though redundant in the present move, must be lugged out of the basement and stored while awaiting unknown developments. I conclude that this machine -- a wedding present that has labored with us through the years -- has an unfinished story. I can only understand this conundrum, by considering my relation to certain tools, like furniture clamps. These, no matter how numerous, will never see Craigslist.

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