I just finished reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Ruben. I’m a little late to the party since this was published in 2009, but it is a great book and if you have not already read it I highly recommend it. In reading it I realized I have spent the last year of my life on my own happiness project. Last year we made one of the hardest decisions we have ever made in our marriage. It was not a huge deal in the big picture of life because it only affected us, but it was a decision that would greatly impact our daily lives for years to come. We discussed making it for over five years before we finally pulled the trigger. Russell, who is often freaked out by how easily I am open to change was less enthusiastic. The decision we took so much time making was whether to downsize and move or stay put in the home we had lived in for more than 20 years.
Our home held many happy memories for us. We raised our children in it. We celebrated most family holidays, birthdays and the many little daily victories in it.
Our kids brought their friends to hang out in the back yard pool. When our daughter, Katie was playing softball which was about ten years of lives, Russell would sit out on an upside down orange paint bucket and catch for her. People knew our house because of that orange bucket and the cute blonde girl who threw so hard! The boys would work on roller hockey or shoot hoops in the driveway.
One summer our front yard was turned into a badminton court and the “shirts” versus the “skins” would play for hours and hours until eventually we had no grass. I kept waiting for the note from the homeowners association, but there were so many boys playing in our front yard that summer likely the board members had kids playing too so they were grateful to me.
Our kids had been out of the house for several years by the time the summer of 2015 rolled around. Our house was old
and needed a lot of updates. The pool needed resurfacing and no one used it anymore. The yard was big and with more work than we wanted.
Then Memorial Day weekend of 2015 brought flooding to the Houston area and to our home. Many thousands of families suffered damaged far greater than ours. Consequently, we felt lucky that we were just facing some clean up and the replacement of all the carpet in the bedroom, but our sheetrock was not damaged and the tile in our living areas had survived.
It was the second time we had flooded. At around 10:30 pm while bailing water out of our living room Russell looked at me and said, “I’m done”. I jumped on that! We spent the summer preparing for the downsize. The task was huge. It is unreal how much stuff one can accumulate in 20 years. Plus we even found boxes that we had never unpacked from our previous move years before.
We got rid of almost everything we owned except our clothes, some of our kitchen contents and our mattress. Our new apartment is 1/3 the size of our old house. We actually had to sell our furniture because it was not going to fit inside our new place.
We look back now and wonder why we fretted so much about this decision. Our apartment
is across the street from a beautiful park. Every day we get take our little dog, Lanie there for a walk. The relief of not dealing with all the issues centered around an old house is beyond description. Letting go of “stuff” did not mean letting go of the
memories. In fact, it really freed us of from a lot of worry which interfered with cherishing those memories. We have more time now to enjoy the little things like a walk in the park. writing a blog, being with our adult children or hanging out with our friends.
The decision to downsize and declutter has allowed us to do a lot of soul searching. We began looking into other areas of our lives, deciding which things we really needed and which things we could live without. Over the last year besides moving I have reevaluated much in my life.
After proudly working as an advocate for 10 years on tobacco control issues, I left to join a large corporation. The new job came out of nowhere, but I had an opportunity to continue making a difference in my community, including being more active in my hometown with the bonus of not having to travel across the country regularly. I had travelled extensively for work for the last ten years. I was tired and the schedule had lost its glitter. Plus it was another way to declutter my life. In fact, I no longer keep a bag half packed in my closet. I no longer have to buy two toothbrushes, travel sized toothpaste, deodorant or two of every type of make up I use, etc. That alone is a huge space saver.
There were other things I reevaluated like playing bridge once a week with my girlfriends. I
have played bridge with these wonderful women for several years, but I am the only one who does not live in the neighborhood. Driving over on Sunday afternoons at times was a drain, and I thought dropping this would add more value to my life. Turns out dropping bridge was a huge loss to me, but reevaluating helped me realize how important my friends were and how vital they are to my happiness. For me having strong relationships with my female friends definitely make me happier. Even my husband notices the difference.
What I have discovered over this last year is that the people in my life are very important and the stuff really isn’t. In fact, the less stuff I have, the less clutter, the more time I have to enjoy the people. Yes, a year later I can definitely say even though I have sold, donated or trashed about 2 tons of stuff it turns out I didn’t need, I am at least 20 tons happier.