My family moved around a lot when I was a kid. And I mean, A LOT. I went to thirteen elementary schools and four junior highs. I wish I could say, “Oh, I just got used to it” but no, that’s not what happened. You, I, all humans everywhere, we don’t “get used to” downsizing and moving because, quite frankly — it’s a nerve-rattling, apple-cart-upsetting life event.
Here’s a common scenario: the kids are all in college or beyond, some health stumbles make the staircases troublesome and life is no longer riddled with Super Bowl parties, Easter gatherings and 4th of July barbeques anymore.
So that is the “why” and it all sounds good until you get to the “how” and that’s typically where the wheels start to fall off the bus. People deliberately choose to downsize and then get crushed by timelines and aggravated by the sheer volume of what starts to pop out of drawers and closets. A mere few hours in, people decide to blaze through what they can, as fast as they can, and deal with the rest later. Then NOW becomes what used to be called “later.” A shiny new “For Sale” sign is installed in the front yard. This is it.
Few people feel elation and surges of energy at the prospect of thinning out of their possessions, but I have good news for you. There’s a way, before you do anything, to approach downsizing that will completely change the game from “ugh!” to “okay, we got this.”
Getting Ready to Downsize.
This might sound a little eyebrow-raising but trust me, this technique works. (And remember — I moved fifteen times before I was fourteen years old and have been helping clients for thirty years). The way to prepare for downsizing is by practicing what I call the counter-narrative. Counter-narratives are true statements (a thought, a possibility) that can be paired with feelings and emotions about any situation.
For example instead of rehearsing (over and over, we all do this!): “This move is going to kill me, I’ll never get through it all, why did I wait so long?” we would think about what might also be true that would support a more empowered scenario.
The counter-narrative here could be: “Moving really is hard, but I’ll never have to go through all my stuff quite like this again. It’s going to feel so good to know exactly where everything is. Honestly, I’ve been wanting to do this for years.”
This counter narrative process might not come naturally in the beginning. Our brains are dialed-in to detect danger and pivot toward safety and moving can trigger both of these functions. It gets easier, just like everything does with practice, and these new thought forms will start to snowball in a way that will make the actual doing way less daunting.
Give counter narrative-ing a whirl! It’s a powerful tool and you’ll be blown away by how you gradually start to think and feel differently about this daunting-but-dynamic thing many of us face in life — downsizing.