Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Even if you haven’t gone through some major economic emergency that has forced you to reduce your former household size, you probably have some kind of plan to downsize and/or take the clutter out of your house. You know - in your heart of hearts - that having all those possessions is getting to be a burden and your soul longs for a lighter material life.

Downsizing seems to be about people's stuff, but it's really about their attitudes and values. And nobody says the process is easy. In fact, many people report a lot of emotional baggage around letting go. We, understandably, tend to identify with our possessions, so downsizing, for any reason, means a confrontation with who we think we are – our very identity. For example, many people with shelves and shelves (and walls) of books say that all those books mean something to them. Can that possibly be true? Of course, not. But their own identity is tied up with trying to be that person who would read all that (and more). You have to let go of that fantasy self and find a new one who says: “I’m only going to live so many more years, and the chances I read or need to look up something in all of these books is close to zero."
It’s the person that has to change. And, beside books, here's a list of other "sticky" possessions that most people find it hard to part with:
Collections of photos, mementos, and family "treasures"
Antiques and favored furniture
Clothing and other “creature comforts”
Stuff they thought they’d use in the future

On the brighter side, and if I’m reading correctly a lot of blog posts, many people report both happiness and relief when they get rid of clutter and downsize. Here's the nitty-gritty  - we all know that it isn’t good to hold on so much to the past, and things are a lot of our past. Too much energy is involved in maintaining all that baggage. And, properly done, we can let go of what we no longer need and create a better future for ourselves. So, I'm challenging you to take that step and make a healthy commitment to look ahead – instead of behind.

At any rate, it isn’t necessary to begin downsizing and reducing clutter with our very most treasured possessions. We can begin elsewhere. There’s a lot to choose from. In this post, I propose just one change that you can do today to declutter and downsize. And it doesn’t have to affect your identity or your creature comfort.

Case # 1 - The Large, Fluffy Bath Towel

Here, I talk about a creature comfort – the bath towel – and how I changed my attitude toward it over the years.
When I was a child, we didn’t have “nice” towels in the bathroom at our house. Well, most of what we had to dry ourselves with after bathing were called bath towels but, clearly, they were leftover items from years of use. My Mom, true to her past in the Great Depression and WWI, was thrifty and didn’t throw towels away until they were literally rags. Then, she used them for rags.
Tending to be small – just big enough for the purpose that they were intended for - our towels were thoroughly wet when you got through drying. That was a fact of life, and, as far as I could tell, no one seemed to worry themselves about it.  The towel, one for each of us, was hung up in the bathroom and used for a week – drying out in the approximate 24 hours between baths. We didn’t have a shower back then. When hair was washed, a second towel, often the dirty one from the week before that was still in the hamper, was brought into action.
Back in those days, regular people - those who weren’t "rich" - made no effort to put out matching towels and wash cloths. Maybe, in the living room or the bedroom, but the idea of bathroom décor just wasn’t heard of.
So, as a child and teenager, I had made comparisons and felt somewhat left out, seeing that our better-off relatives and friends had newer looking and comfier towels. Later, I saw sets of large towels with matching wash cloths in magazines and on the TV. They were ever so large and fluffy. That spelled out luxury to me.  I vowed that, someday, I would have sets of plush  towels and wash cloths that would grace my (dreamed of) large linen closet. And that they would be the heavy, fluffy type. I guess I bought in, big-time, to the media hype of having the "boutique hotel experience."

So, what happened over the years? Well, my husband and I finally got good paying jobs and the cost of cotton items got cheaper, due to foreign trade. Yes, and, for a long time, I prided myself on buying and using large, fluffy bath towels.

Years, later, came a life-changing set of crises – children then on their own, thankfully. At the end of all that, my husband and I were forced to move across country and downsize our living quarters. In the condo that we gave up – the one that I thought would be our retirement home for the rest of our lives - there was a sizeable linen closet and nice bath. So, bathroom decor, including nice towels, was, if not a priority, at least a possibility.

But, from there, my husband and I went to live in just one room in the house of a friend - along with a shared bathroom. So, a lot of downsizing went on. No furniture was taken with us, and only clothing and some personal items made it that far. Of course, I hadn't gotten rid of all of my beloved “creature comforts.” Yes, I had traveled cross-country with four of my largest and most plush bath towels along with matching wash cloths.

Also, at about that time, I began to adopt greener alternatives and started blogging about Earth-friendliness. So, a lot of things came under scrutiny. Those included washing procedures – energy-related things - like always filling up the machine to capacity, using cold water, choosing less harmful detergents, etc. I also found out that cotton, although the products are available to us fairly cheap, have a huge impact on water use and that the people who collect cotton and make the towels do so under terrible working conditions with wages that don’t even feed them well.

That’s about the time I began to look at my fluffy bath towels differently. They took up a lot of space in the closet. They took up too much room in the washer. They didn’t dry as fast as other clothes in the dryer. Also, I had, over the years, lost a lot of my former interest in matching towel sets. Bathroom décor no longer was a priority in my life.
That’s when I decided to change out my old bath towels for smaller, light-weight ones and give my old ones to a local charity. I found a couple of "downsized" towels at the thrift store and purchased another two - half the length and one-quarter the the weight of the older ones. To my surprise the new ones worked fine, and I’m happy enough using them - no regrets. So, now, I’ve solved one volume–related, material problem surrounding bath towels use. And, oh, I'm still working on some of the social and ecological ones.

By the way, I’ve yet to convince my husband. He still has his old towels. Anyway, he’s not likely to buy himself any new towels, and so eventually his towels will be lighter by wear, if not by intent. My pledge is that I’m not buying any larger, fluffy towels for me or for him.

So, this is my take on bath towels. You can get along very well without all those large, fluffy towels. Get rid of them and buy smaller, lighter versions. If you balk at buying more stuff when you already have towels, here’s an idea. Cut those big towels in half and make a pretty crochet edging around the “new” towels. I’ve wanted to that with my husbands’ towels and made my intentions known.  So far, he hasn’t let me do that.

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