Moving & Downsizing

Does Downsizing Really Spark Joy?

January 15th, 2020

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When Marie Kondo first published her book about Tidying Up, people around the world made “does it spark joy?” a household saying. All of a sudden, everyone was using this criteria to select material possessions to keep and things to toss out the door.

We all know that downsizing and simplifying are both great ideas, and actually necessary ones in the culture we live in. For most people, gathering possessions sparks joy. According to some estimates, our homes have over 300,000 objects in them from staples to appliances. Not everything we own sparks joy, but they do have a purpose. So where do we draw the lines and begin to downsize with purpose?

You can start decluttering at any age, but as we grow older, and choose to live in smaller spaces, we no longer have a choice. As maintenance and repair costs begin to take over, energy and funding decrease, or we are no longer actually using all the space, a smaller footprint allows us to free ourselves of the burdens of home care, cleaning, maintenance, and household headaches. That kind of freedom truly sparks joy!

Determining what to discard and what to keep is crucial to an ordered, happy life, so here are some practical tips to help you get started.

  • Gift the important things to your loved ones now. Select the things you would like to pass on to family members and gift them now. Don’t wait until after the funeral. There is much joy to be had seeing our beautiful things in loved ones homes. But don’t be surprised if they decline. Our children have different tastes, different homes and often are not really interested or see the emotional value of our things.
  • Toss it after a year. So much of our clutter is there “in case we want to use it later.” If you haven’t used it in a year, you probably won’t ever, so let someone else be blessed by having it.
  • Double means trouble. If you have more than one of anything, it is too many. Freely give generously the extras ones. Especially in the kitchen, you will be surprised at the extra space that is being taken up by multiple objects or unused appliances.
  • Pass on the collections. A family member collected ducks over her lifetime. She had over one hundred small duck figurines. Diagnosed with cancer, she allowed all of her loved ones and friends to pick out a duck to keep. It was a delightful way to keep her memory alive.
  • Simplify Your Space for Adventure. Since retiring, widower David Young has been able to indulge his love of sailing. He sold the family home 16 years ago, downsized to a bungalow, and now spends most of his time on a 30-foot motor cruiser in France. 

“I have always had a boat and in 1999, when my wife was alive and I was still working, we took it across the channel and moored it in the French canal system. When I retired, we set off south through beautiful villages and lots of locks. If we liked a particular place we’d stay there for three or four days buying local produce, cycling to the bakers – it was a relaxing way of life. Every six weeks we used to catch a train to come home to see the family and then we’d go back again after a couple of weeks. Now, I go to the boat for two or three weeks every spring, summer and autumn. It’s my place in the sun – it just happens to float.”

  • Find joy in what’s truly important. It is possible that we don’t need to own all that ‘stuff’ to find joy. Practicing gratitude, taking notice of the good in each day, appreciating the beauty of creation and making special connections with others are joy sparklers that don’t require purchasing anything. Take note of what truly gives you joy and invest in those things.

Excess possessions do not bring happiness, but only distract us from the things that do. Downsizing truly does “spark joy” when it allows us to live our life’s full potential, when we are no longer defined by our possessions and when we find peace in our surroundings.

CRISTA Senior Living is connecting & celebrating generations through grace, compassion & inspiration, you can find out more at

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