clothes hanging on rail in white wardrobe

Walking into my apartment, exhausted after a long day of negotiations on my recent listing in Los Altos, I stopped and looked around at the tiny space I called home.  Just a year ago, I sold my beautiful five-bedroom, 3,500-square-foot home—filled with memories and pictures of my four kids on every wall—and downsized to what felt like a 780-square-foot closet. My first thought was I should be crying over this change. Instead, I smiled.

Not long ago, I was a marketer’s dream. I found myself constantly sucked into buying the latest and greatest everything, whether it was technology, kitchenware, or my favorite—cosmetics. And when life felt dull or there was the slightest sneeze in the temperature, retail therapy was the perfect medicine. My bulging closet, with its rows and rows of pretty dresses, sweaters, and slacks with the tags still on years later, offered a false sense of security. It said I lived a life of abundance. In reality, my consumption had become a ball and chain blocking me from living a truly full, rich life.

Let’s face it: downsizing is never an easy job. Just like losing those dreaded pounds that took years to pile on the body, a strict diet of letting go of items that no longer add purpose doesn’t happen overnight. It takes resolve and determination to stay the course.

I recently read that living a simple life takes courage, and boy did I need a double shot of that. Lifelong habits are hard to break, especially when you’re the daughter of parents who valued each piece of scratched furniture, chipped dishes, and mementoes from another place and time. Even paperclips and rubber bands were saved.

To say my downsizing mission was difficult doesn’t even begin to describe the pain I initially felt. My home was my life’s work. I’d lived there for thirty-five years and raised all four of my kids within her walls. She was the one place I felt safe. Like my father, I hoped one day to die there as a very old woman surrounded by my stuff. But I was drowning in stuff, and I did not want to leave it all for my kids to clean up one day, so I began the downsizing process.

First went the five sets of dishware for twelve and glassware for fifty (I once entertained—a lot). Next, the toys in the attic the rats had made friends with, as well as the overflow of holiday decorations. Then, the knickknacks Mom loved that I thought were hideous but kept because they were once important to her. I went from room to room, weeding my life until all that was left were the essentials. Today, I live in a space with only a few of my favorite things: photos of my children, a comfy couch, one small table with place settings for four, a dresser and bed. In my closet hang just the items I actually fit into, wear, and love.

As this past year has unfolded, I’ve come to see my removal of all that wasn’t truly serving me as a gift. For the first time since my divorce, I’m free of stress and sleep deeply at night. I travel with ease because there’s nothing that needs attending to while I’m gone. And because my world isn’t filled with clutter, I find myself appreciating the simple joys in a day and place importance where it belongs, on my family, friends, and me. Yes, when I come home, I smile. Living as a minimalist has made all the difference, for I am finally free.

How about you? What makes you feel free?