Article by Meredith Keeve a.k.a. The Wandering Parisian
RIGHTSIZING…and learning to live in smaller spaces
In a sense, many French women have a head start, they have been living in tiny Parisian apartments and thus have managed to avoid accumulating too much. But for those of us who lived in houses (as I did in North America for over a decade) the luxury of space meant the luxury of acquisition and now, as they say in museum-speak we must de-acquisition.
If you are so inclined Marie Kondo and her Konmari method is everywhere in books, on television and on youtube. If she is not your cup of tea there are other organizational methods, numerous books and articles…. But, if you cannot be bothered to acquire books in order to get rid of things there is one easy lesson to take away:
Your memories are in your head. You carry them with you every day.
Allow yourself to separate yourself from the “memorabilia” that is cluttering your cupboards, drawers, attic and cellar.
And PLEASE do not say you are saving it for your children, grandchildren, or favorite god child. The truth is THEY DON’T CARE. Honestly. And it’s not unkind, or cruel or heartless, it’s just life. Apart from valuable jewelry or artwork, no one want it.
Life has gotten smaller and more portable. Real Estate everywhere in the world has skyrocketed and people live in smaller places with fewer things.
The beautiful set of dishes with the gravy boats and soup tureens that you yourself rarely use – well, no one is waiting for it. No one has a kitchen with enough cupboards to store a rarely used soup tureen. They just don’t.
And the same goes for all the things you store for other people.
You may have family members who insist you must not throw away their sixth form yearbook, or basketball trophies, or dance recital programs, or their dolls, or soldiers or monopoly game or art project. Strangely enough if you insist the owner take it on, suddenly the item is indeed absolutely ready for the bin.
And the Christmas cards, letters and theatre programs – truly not to be saved. If you are hugely attached to a formidable collection of something you could try a very local and very niche museum, or perhaps a local theatre company is interested in items that might serve as props. I gave thirty pairs of my grandmother’s gloves to the wardrobe mistress at the Opera House near me and she was thrilled.
The French can be ruthless. Ruthless about people and things. Now you must learn to be ruthless too. How much stuff do you really want to deal with – move, dust, clean, care for – how much?
At this time in your life, sentiment is for people, not things. It is our relationships that matter, those with our family and friends and our community. If your house absorbs more of your time and energy than you want to give, then you need to move to something smaller, lighter and less time consuming.
Lighter and Livelier
You managed to get out from under decades of stuff (somewhere there is a statistic that says married couples collect five hundred pounds of stuff per year!) and are now ready to move into a new home.
When choosing this new home, think not of how you used to live, but how you plan to live now. What do you want your new life to look like?
If your children are grown and have their own homes, you don’t necessarily need to plan to lodge them on a regular basis. The notion that they will come for Christmas is not a reason to have an empty guestroom the other 360 days a year. Think about the price of real estate and the value of every square foot in your new place. The bedroom infrequently used is a vast expense compared to a couple of nights in a hotel – where your guests will have their own bathroom!
Make sure that new home is not only appropriate for now but will also be appropriate a decade from now. A charming spiral staircase can be a bore if your footing or your knees get shaky.
Think about how you live now – do you want a formal dining room, or will your family be happy to have holiday celebrations at their homes?
Do you need a guest bedroom, or is a home office going to be more useful? A room with a bed in it is just a bedroom, whereas an office with a foldout couch may be much more convenient on a daily basis.
If your last house was chosen because the local pub was terrific, great, but is that still the criteria that matters?
Do you have a car, do you need a car, do you want to drive everywhere? Is there a solution that would allow you to do more on foot giving you more opportunity to meet people and take a little exercise?
You can also make new choices at this crossroads: if you live in an attractive location and are tired of playing hotelier to friends of friends of friends then perhaps less guest space is needed?
Are you moving away from where you have lived for many years and hope friends and family will come to visit, then perhaps a guest space is essential? If you had and loved a spectacular garden do you need to have a terrace or balcony so you can cultivate a little greenery?
If you love to cook, then a well-organized and attractive kitchen is essential. However, if you are a woman on your own just as likely to have a yogurt or a bowl of soup for supper do you really need a large kitchen? I have known two women who – pressed for space – preferred dishwashers to ovens.
So, think not about how you used to live, but rather how you would like to live. Where do you want to sit and drink a cup of tea? Where do you want to read, to sleep, to have a glass of wine?
Reflect and select. Think about what you have had, and what you would like your future to look like.
Then choose that future!
Reinventing Your Life Over 50 the French Way Part Two