Mathematics: A Story in Downsizing a Household

I’ve been thinking a good deal about Mathematics the last few days while Steve and I are opening boxes, unwrapping objects, and deciding where these items will go for two years. Math terms such as adding, subtracting, dividing, multiplying, sorting, simplifying, reducing, and infinity all keep rolling around in my brain. It hit me that we have a story involving these terms.

Our story began five years ago as Steve and I pulled back into our driveway in Batavia, Illinois following his summer 2005 trans-U.S. bicycle ride and my driving/flying trip across the country. After nearly 3 months away from home that summer, we walked into our suburban house, which featured 4 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, 2 stories, a full basement, and a 2 car garage with an attic above. We were profoundly struck by how much “stuff” occupied it.

We began asking ourselves: “How did we get to this point?” Following the deaths of my parents, my sibs and I spent time dividing Mom and Dad’s household belongings among us. Some antiques, many sentimental items, and the family archives came to our household. Our own family of four already had a knack for keeping and collecting things, so we quickly filled the crooks and crannies of our home. Adding to our own growing household with my parents’ treasures was a significant part of our story.

As Steve and I returned to our routine during the fall of 2005, it became all too obvious to us that all of the belongings in our house represented time away from what really mattered to us. Our preferences instead would be spending time in relationships with other people, doing for others, or enjoying interests and hobbies. Our Solution: “Let’s begin a 5-year plan to simplify and downsize to a smaller home!” From this point on, subtracting from our household became a significant part of our journey. Sorting took place first and then many loads were donated to Salvation Army and Goodwill. We had two garage sales: 2008 and 2010. Craigslist, free-for-the-taking, e-Bay, and a call to Wayside Cross were also beneficial approaches. Last December, reaching desperate proportions, we even gave white elephant gifts to friends (will they forgive us yet?).

While we played the math game well we thought by reducing our household belongings, a reality check came in September 2009 after we sold our house. We moved from our 2,200 square foot home, with a basement and 2 car garage, into a duplex that we rented for 9 months. The duplex had 1,500 square feet with a basement and 1.5 car garage. Yikes, we still had so much stuff! More subtracting and simplifying measures were taken as we sold, gave away, or donated more things over the next 9 months.

On May 28, 2010, we were ready to move to Denver, Colorado! We hired a crew to load our household into a 26 foot truck. Upon their initial walk-through of our household, their advice was: “Obtain at least another 17 foot truck!” They were wise. We filled the additional 17 foot truck plus our mini-van, which rode on the trailer behind the larger truck. Now we were faced with multiplying the cost of our move due to the cost of a 2nd truck and fuel.

It is August 2010 and now we are settling into our home in Denver. We have been at this endeavor for 15 days. We have a smaller home with 1,400 square feet, which INCLUDES a basement. We have a 2 car garage without a driveway (it’s on an alley). Our van must go into the garage and gladly shares it with bikes, camping gear, a lawn mower, and a variety of things. The inventory notebook, which we have kept updated over the last 18 months, notes that we have 206 boxes or Rubbermaid tubs. Along with the furniture that we brought with us, those boxes and tubs represent a downsized household! Yikes! At least 150 boxes need to be opened and unpacked so that we have room for an office, a guest room, and bookcases in our basement.

As each box is opened, we have one of two different reactions. “Yes, how good it is to see this again!” And, “Hmmm…why do we still have this?” We begin to feel there is no end in sight! For at our Denver address, our first donation box is filled and we sense there will be more. Was there something about infinity in math?

Love,

Diane

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