Obstacles to Downsizing: The Inner Ecologist and the Inner Altruist


The look on my face says it all. Getting rid of things can be SO hard to do!!!

During my most recent attack on the storage locker that is holding some of my things while I continue to work my way through a complicated and protracted international move, I was talking with some friends who are also going through the downsizing process, as they readied their house to put it on the market.

As we were commiserating one night about the misery of it all, the husband of the couple said, “The reason it is so hard is that there is nothing—NOTHING!!—natural about getting rid of things. We are all about acquiring them. And keeping them. And enjoying them. It’s in our DNA.”

“Hunter/gatherers,” his wife murmured in agreement.

And I said, “I really think you have hit the nail on the head.”

I think that indeed my friend is right, that this is at least a part of the reason—or maybe one could say one of MANY reasons—why downsizing is so difficult.

But most of us do know that we have to do it, at least to a certain degree, sooner or later, much as it goes against our nature.

And we also know that sooner is definitely better than later. Much as we hate to admit it!

This post is about how to deal with some of the voices we hear when we are downsizing that tend to impede the process of actually getting down and doing it—that is, getting rid of things.

At least these are some of the voices I hear that I have to argue with in order to keep the process moving ahead and get it done. Do you hear any of these voices too?

The Inner Ecologist.  The Inner Ecologist in me can’t stand to throw things into the trash that should really be either recycled or reused. (Please note: The Inner Ecologist is a good person, who cares about the earth!)

The problem is that when earth-friendly solutions are not readily available or easy to achieve, the stuff just stays there and adds to the clutter.

In other words, I procrastinate.

We’ve written a lot about various ways to recycle even very hard-to-recycle things on this blog, and there is guidance about ways to do this in our book also.

And as we have pointed out in our book, no matter what avenue you’re taking to get rid of things—selling, donating, recycling—the earlier you start, and the more time you have to complete the task, the better it is.

So what my Inner Ecologist needs to hear when she pipes up, protesting “Don’t throw that away!”  is this: “Find an earth-friendly way to get rid of it NOW, or know that one day it is going to end up in the trash where it SHOULD NOT BE. And if it does, you will feel just AWFUL about it. Plus, you might even get fined. “

That tends to get my Inner Ecologist’s attention and cooperation. 🙂  

Closely related to the Inner Ecologist is the Inner Altruist. The Inner Altruist is  someone who hates to waste. The Inner Altruist cannot stand to see “perfectly good things” (and often imperfect, not-so-good things) “go to waste.”

The Inner Altruist always wants to either use those things him or herself until they are absolutely, completely and CLEARLY no good–or give them to someone else “who could use them.”

The Inner Altruist is a good person too, and has many points of convergence with the Inner Ecologist, one of the most notable among them being the tendency to procrastinate.

So the Inner Altruist, like the Inner Ecologist, needs to be urged to take those things, whatever they are—clothing, shoes, towels, bedding, dishes, whatever!—that are not being used, and get them to someone who can use them NOW, before it is too late and someone comes along and THROWS THEM AWAY!!! (Horrors!)

In my next post, I will introduce you to two other creatures that dwell within me, these two even more difficult to deal with–at least for me.

So stay tuned to meet my Inner Collector and my Inner Archivist….sound familiar, anyone?

Janet Hulstrand is a writer/editor, writing coach, travel blogger, and coauthor of  Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home.





2 Responses

  1. I’ve been helping a relative sort through 40 years worth of stuff she had in storage. I have found that another problem with hanging on to “stuff that is too good to get rid of” is that it may not actually be so great years later, especially if your storage spot isn’t ideal! Things can get musty and mildewed over the years. Moths and mice and silverfish can ruin clothes, linens, and books. And that outfit you put away (and forgot about) years ago because it was “too special” for everyday may now be hopelessly out of date.

    • This is SO true, and another great way to fight that voice, thank you for the reminder about this Catt! It’s really sad, having to throw out special clothing (or books) that have become ruined by lack of use or poor storage conditions. This is not to say that NOTHING can be preserved, but it requires special conditions and requires special care. We have a whole chapter in our book about some of the basics people need to know about how to safely preserve special things.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: