I’ve had the privilege of working directly with seniors for over a decade, watching as they transition from a life of (over)abundance to a rightsized existence. Some of my clients have struggled and fought the transition with every fiber of their being, some have made the transition mostly drama-free but with some reservations, and others have actually blossomed and thrived through the transition.
Watching hundreds of people go through this process, I’ve come to the conclusion that as we grow older and are downsizing our belongings, we are called to a higher purpose: To live with less attachment to things and to have a clearer perspective of what truly matters – people, relationships, experiences and memories.
I think this calling comes naturally to people, as they near their own death. I have seen it time and again – when a person knows, deep down, that they are not long for this world, their grip on their belongings tends to loosen. How admirable it is to see this happening – it’s as if we get a clearer vision at the end of our lives, and are able to see how little any of this stuff actually mattered in the first place.
Those clients that struggle with letting go of their things have taught me something as well. They’ve taught me that when we are scared or unsure, we want to hold on to what is familiar, what is beloved. Sometimes we think of our stuff as a life preserver – something to hang on to – when it is really an anchor, weighing us down. I have seen clients choose their stuff over their relationships, over their time with loved ones, over a chance to have experiences. Their grip on their STUFF is what makes them feel safe, but it is actually weighing them down from a peaceful and happy life.
When I read this quote from philosopher Immanuel Kant, I knew it was apt to the work of rightsizing: “One is not rich by what one owns, but more by what one is able to do without with dignity.”