Downsizing as a Mindful Practice

When we were in our 20s and 30s, many of us were in the ‘accumulation’ mode. We had young families and felt we needed to get all of the ‘stuff’ to support our ever-expanding lifestyle.  As our families grew so did the size of our homes, which often meant there was more room to put even more stuff.  As our homes got larger we were able to hide more of it in places we didn’t see, such as garages and guest rooms. This often meant we didn’t know what we owned, so we bought duplications of the stuff we already had.

As our families and lives grew, many of us were in constant overwhelm, and tackling the ever-mounting stuff was for that nebulous time in the future- when we had more time.

Eventually the children grew up and left, and we might have had a few years before our parents and grandparents needed to be moved into care facilities. Now we had to deal with all of their stuff.

Can you relate?

Midlife should be time of Renaissance.  Our kids are launched, our careers are often winding down, and we know more about who we are and what we want in life. We should have more time to do the things that we really want to do.But having to deal with all the stuff from our past lives and those of our families’ can suck the life out of you. What we don’t realize is that some day, someone will have to put their lives on hold and deal with all of the stuff that we accumulate if we don’t face it at some point.

I know from what I speak.

I have spent the past five years dealing with my mother’s lifetime of accumulations as she has declined into dementia,  which also meant dealing with all of her mother’s things which were crammed into a garage and never dealt with by her. This followed close on the heals of my own downsizing from a large home to a small ocean-side cottage. I have been in ‘stuff’ hell for what feels like an eternity. And as a Professional Organizer, I witness the paralyzing mountains of accumulations my clients have to slog through on a daily basis.

So why do I call downsizing a Mindful practice?

Dealing with mountains of stuff allows you time to think, lots of time, because it takes that. If you use this time to really be present and listen, you will learn an amazing amount about yourself; who you were (or possibly still are)  and what got you to this place of deep unconsciousness in the first place.

Feng Shui teaches that every possession we own carries energy. Thoughts are energy. When we look at an object from a past unhappy relationship, that object is talking to us. When we encounter our grandmother’s beloved hand-mirror from our heirloom box, we feel her energy in it. This is why clutter clearing is so exhausting, especially when we are dealing with our own stuff or that of someone we are close to. We are feeling the emotional energy these objects hold for us.

My mountains of stuff in the garage of my home told me of the years I had gone unconscious and consumed to fill a void. What I didn’t see was that my consuming was also hurting my one and only true home, our beloved planet. I was unconsciously leading a life that was not in alignment with the things that mean the most to me. This is what my stuff taught me.

My Hawaiian Medicine-woman teacher talks about how the true Hawaiian way is to take only what you need for each day. When they fish, they catch just what they need to feed their Ohana’s (families) that day. When they search for medicinal plants, they pick only what is needed for today. Then there is always enough for tomorrow.

When we are in the past or the future, we are often in fear, anxiety, sadness or depression, all key emotions that cause us to unconsciously consume. When we are in the moment we can see our lives more clearly. We can see that we have enough for now, and that we are all right. We appreciate the incredible abundance we already have. We see the beauty that is our great gift as inhabitants of this beautiful gem, the earth.

Consciousness is mindfulness. As we sit honestly, without judgment, and listen to what our stuff is telling us, we might feel a great deal of sadness. Feel it fully, then release it, thanking it for its lessons. Staying conscious and present in our lives is the most effective anecdote for curbing our addiction to accumulating.

Here are some articles I have written which might help to show the way – how we got there and what we can do to change.

The Story of Stuff and How we became Addicts

Tips for Downsizing your Living Space

How to Create a Zero Waste Lifestyle

Here is to becoming fully conscious in our lives!

Erica Sofrina is a Professional Organizer, Feng Shui Consultant, Interior Designer and author of the book Small Changes, Dynamic Results! Feng Shui for the Western World.


Jodi A.
Jodi A4 years ago

yes. yes! Less is more. love it

Gyan T.
Gyan T5 years ago

Just downsizing after a relationship split. Amazing how much stuff I personally have- and how little I need day-by-day. One of the greatest discoveries was freecycle. So many people wanting stuff that we no longer need.

Daphne H.
Daphne H5 years ago


Becky H.
Becky Holland5 years ago

i love this mindset. i am downsizing due to the death of a spouse after 21 years of moving accumulated goods, needing to sell an oversized home, getting ready for the only child to move out. it is hard to let go of things, but i really find that they own me rather than the other way around. i will be reading this essay several times.

Garnet Jenny Fulton
Past Member 5 years ago

This is a great reminder that we can do just as much with less. We truly have too much of everything in our lives and it is only through simplification that we find balance, harmony, and a clear state of ease.

Dave C.
David C5 years ago

as you downsize do a double good thing and donate what you can to charity and recycle whats recyclable...

Rama H.
Rudy V5 years ago

Wow, this article could not have been more timely. I just sat down to read it after taking a break from cleaning out some cabinets. The title "Downsizing as a Mindful Peace", jumped out at me. This is very helpful information because I did begin to reflect on many things from the past that I have not been 'ready' to deal with.
I feel more peaceful already : ). Thanks !

Richard T.
Richard T5 years ago

Yes it had taken a long time to realize the need to stop collecting things.

Glenna Holaday
Glenna Holaday5 years ago

Thank you for the "centering" article on approaches to dealing with accumulated "stuff." It helps me to know that I am not the only person who struggles with guilt issues when it comes to family articles. My mother also left "a garage full" and she stated to the end, "it's up to you all to deal with it." I am still working on it after two years and am grateful for the guidance offered here.

Ro H.
Ro H5 years ago