I borrowed the book “Scaling Down” (by Judi Culbertson and Marj Decker) from my girlfriend Stephanie, because we’re both attempting to sort through the things we own and uh, scale down. We’ve got to figure out how we’re going to merge households, and for two people who both own two-story, multi-bedroom homes packed with stuff, that ain’t easy.
We also want to be free from the tyranny of stuff – the constant, time-consuming job of organizing/labeling/using/cleaning/repairing and then recycling/donating/discarding things. All that takes up too much of our time, when we could be doing fun stuff instead, like taking the dog for a walk or going on road trips or reading books, or having you over to our house for tea and board games. You’d like that, wouldn’t you? We would.
“Scaling Down” is a fantastic book; I wanted to share it immediately with other people as I was going through it. It addresses the key issues about our relationship with things; namely that we have some emotional relationships with stuff that we have to get past before we can accept that we own the stuff, rather than letting the stuff own us.
The first part of the book covers “the Culprits” — the habits that we form that keep our life in clutter, and the pressures from the society we live in that help keep us disorganized. “The Paper Tiger” is a critical chapter on dealing with paperwork that we have stashed all over the house. What do we need to keep, how do we organize that, and what should we be shredding and disposing of? And the tyranny of collections — yep. That’s a lesson I need to learn, myself. Then they cover clothes. That’s an area I desperately need to master.
The second section of the book is about special situations that crop up in life that stir up the chaos of things in our lives — for example the necessity to separate and dispose of the belongings of a parent that has died, or our situation — merging households.
The third section of the book is all about strategies for taming the beast – how to sort and discard things, where to find homes for your stuff, how to keep from bringing more stuff in. When I lived in a tiny apartment, I used to have a rule that worked well — I couldn’t bring anything into the house unless something of equal size and shape left. That rule fell by the wayside when I bought a house, but I think it’s time to bring it back.
There’s a great deal in the book that is really common sense, but there’s also some great ideas that one wouldn’t immediately think of; like their challenge to not go shopping for a month. That’s an interesting idea that I’d love to try. It would be hard when it came to food, and sometimes personal grooming supplies, but I’ll bet other than that I could do it.
The last section of the book is the dessert — the rewards of living small. All the stuff you can do and enjoy when you no longer have to worry about keeping track of all your crap. So buy this book and read it — when you get to the dessert you’ll be glad you did.