Downsizing Without Regrets
Since committing to downsizing and creating the tiny house lifestyle in 2011, we have gotten rid of couches, tables, desks, beds, bedding, towels, kitchen gadgets galore, enough clothes to fill a small clothing boutique, a couple hundred books, tons of sports gear, memorabilia, photos, negatives, slides, old letters, grade school report cards, enough musical instruments to start a full band, boxes of art supplies, crafts, scraps of fabric and rolls of yarn, a couple dozen boxes of old business files, toys, DVDs and VHS tapes, appliances, old spices and cooking ingredients, ridiculous amounts of electronics/cameras/cables, puzzles and board games, toiletries, and the list goes on and on. We are talking about thousands upon thousands of pounds of material possessions. And in all of that thinning out and purging, I can honestly say this: I do not have a single regret of getting rid of ANY of it.
Our initial shedding of material possessions was so easy it shocked us. We just knew with ultimate clarity what we actually needed in order to be happy and what was frivolous (we can thank our five months of living in Baja out of a pop up tent trailer for that perspective). The one struggle I had though was around my heirlooms, letters, thousands of photographs, boxes of home movies, etc. What I eventually came to terms with was that I don’t need 63 photos of that family vacation to the Bahamas. Rather, my favorite ten tell the story just as well. Further, I don’t need every single letter written by every single person. Really, a couple dozen tell the story just as beautifully.
Despite some pretty drastic pruning of heirlooms allowing me to whittle six keepsake boxes to one, in the end, I still was left with a pretty decently sized box that I didn’t want to find a permanent home for. Fortunately, digitization technology has come SUCH a long way and become so affordable that it enabled me to create digital versions of nearly everything. For the past month or so I have been on a mission: I have individually scanned well over 2,000 photos, 1,000 negatives and slides, digitized about 20 audio cassettes, scanned a few dozen of my favorite letters, and am in process of digitizing my home videos.
What matters in life to me are not the material possessions but the relationships that I hold with my loved ones. Being able to keep photos, letters, videos and audio recordings of things I’ve experienced with those people is important to me. Fortunately I know that I have this sentimental side and that just ridding myself of that last box in our thinning out process would have been something I would likely have regretted for the rest of my life. The good news is that for even the most nostalgic of us, the tiny house dream is still a possibility. We can have our cake and eat it too! With digitization, boxes upon boxes can be trimmed down to nil, but the memories can stay alive.