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?



A Year Later!

Hi everyone!

I’m not sure if anyone still visits our blog. Obviously, it’s been ages since we’ve posted anything. Steve and I cannot believe that a year has passed since he dipped his tire in the Pacific in Bandon, Oregon. My grandmother frequently used to allude to time passing so quickly and as a youngster I couldn’t quite understand. Now that we’re at this point in our lives, I know what she was talking about.

It’s a year later and we’ve barely been on bikes compared to last year. Steve quickly returned to work and his routine including seasonal biking. I got back into teaching preschool. We have been out at least once a month on our bikes even during the winter. BUT, we definitely aren’t in the bike craze that we were a year ago. He’s biked a few times to work and we’ve been out several times on rides with our daughter or on our tandem. Hopefully with June here we can actually devote more time to biking.

Our summer plans this year are quite different from last year. Steve and I will be going on a mission trip to Toronto, Canada with 23 of our high school kids. We’ll head to Nebraska for time with his parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. over the 4th of July weekend. Along with our two grown children, we’ll embark on a family trip to Alaska for ten days in July as a 30th anniversary celebration for us. In August we’ll have family visit us for several days and then off to Colorado we’ll go to enjoy a 30th reunion with college friends. A week later we’ll be in Tucson, AZ to spend some time with my aunt, uncle, and cousins there. So, we’ll still be seeing some spectacular parts of the country and reconnecting with family and friends, only it won’t be as part of biking or driving cross-country.

What about our record keeping from last summer? Well, believe it or not it’s on our minds. I’ve finished my handwritten journal and now I’m transcribing it into a Word document. We hope to put something concrete together. Perhaps it’ll just be printing off our web-blog and Word document and stapling it together. Also we’re taking time to really put together some nice photo albums. We are not of the elaborate scrapbooking variety, so we’ll keep this basic in order to accomplish it! We may even try to add some additional photos from last summer to our web-blog.

Again, thanks for your wonderful support last summer. We’ll be checking into this site throughout this summer for memory sake and to follow last year’s trip along with this year’s calendar as we re-read the adventure.

Feel free to continue making posts. We’d love to hear about your summer, your travels, your projects, or time with your families.

God bless,

Christmas is coming!

Hi everyone!

We’re not sure if anyone is checking out our web-blog anymore. We know that we said that we’d be updating as time permitted. Well, time has not permitted. However, we still are sorting through and editing the nearly 1,000 photos that we took. And, we continue to update our hand-written journals in an effort to get our experiences from the summer recorded. That being said, please patiently visit this web-blog occasionally just in case we have made progress. If we haven’t, please feel free to give us a gentle prodding by posting a message!! Once you post this message, it actually comes through to us at our email address too so we know you’ve posted something!

Once we have the photos edited, our plans are to write more in our web-blog postings as journals, include more photos, and tidy up the web-blog. Then we are hoping to actually print and bind our experiences so that we have a scrapbook through which to browse when we’re old and sedentary!!

Given all that, please have a very joyous Christmas and Happy New Year in 2006!
Steve and Diane