Why Are Moving and Downsizing So Stressful?

4 min read

We had no intention of moving. But with no warning, we got an email from our landlord saying that he was moving back into his house and we had to vacate. Panic. There is a terrible shortage of rental properties in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where we live. We began looking for a new abode and it was quite distressing. Prices have gone up two or threefold. They are often in remote locations, and we have an urban walking lifestyle. Many are run-down, or more akin to student housing.

My full-time job became scouring ads, contacting landlords, and location scouting. One day, a few weeks ago, it paid off. I found a place a few minutes after it was listed. It is close to where we live now, and it is very small and partially furnished. We grabbed it. Then the real stress set in. My husband and I have a lifetime of possessions, and a highly unusual art and cultural objects collection from around the world that we bought while traveling on assignment as travel journalists.

One day I woke up with a start and decided I had to sell the whole art collection because there was no room to hang it and no surfaces to display it. I grieved from the loss, but once the decision was made, I didn’t go back.

Paul Ross, with permission

art for sale

Paul Ross, with permission

I knew I didn’t want a lot of people traipsing through our house while we were in the middle of downsizing. We let a few people we know come, they told dealers, and suddenly dealers were buying a lot of it. One museum took a large collection of ours. The walls and surfaces were beginning to thin. I insisted that I explain to each buyer what the pieces are, and which culture they came from. This is how the selling had meaning for me and, hopefully, the buyers.

Judith Fein

art from the Cultural Revolution in China

Judith Fein

Buyers kept asking, “How much do you want for this?” I decided to forget about what I paid for the art and objects. I wanted everything to be a good deal for the next owners of our art. I detached from wanting or needing to make a big profit. The right price is what the buyer is comfortable paying and what we feel is a fair price. All of the buyers think they have gotten great deals, and they have. This makes me happy.

Next it became a matter of all our possessions, our work, our photographs (my husband is a photographer), clothes, books, household décor, kitchen equipment, office furniture, living room furniture, you name it. It was overwhelming. We needed to downsize very fast, but how do you let go of everything that surrounded you for much of your life?

I had an idea: What if it all belonged to people we didn’t know? My husband added to that: it belonged to people we didn’t know and they are deceased. It opened the floodgates of possibility. We detached emotionally, and were able to let most of it go.

Friends suggested that we rent a storage space, but what for? We would probably never go there, the costs of storage have escalated, there is theft in the storage units, and we could not see any advantage.

Now people are calling and asking for advice about downsizing, since they want to do it and can’t face it. I decided to put in writing what we have learned from what we are going through. I hope it helps you if the time comes that you need to downsize and relocate.

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