How Downsizing Can Actually Save You Time

At a recent Tedx event in Salzburg, I met the most remarkable entrepreneur who had made millions in the software industry. What made him so unusual was not the size of his bank account, but the size of his heart. At some point in his career, he recognized that having ‘all this stuff’ wasn’t nearly as satisfying as reaching for it. Over dinner he later touted the virtues of getting rid of most of his material possessions.

“The chase was more fun than actually having all the toys,” the bright-eyed businessman told me over fantastic pumpkin shrimp soup. I applauded his virtue for selling his beloved Porsche, keeping his small flat despite his burgeoning family and reducing his air travel to nil. “With my simpler lifestlye, I now have more time than ever to spend with my family,” he claimed.

For us mere mortals without a seven-figure income, the notion of downsizing is still a distinct possibility. According to Wireless Intelligence, there are over five billion worldwide cell phone connections today. Since 1994, over ten billion cell phones have been sold. It is clear that we have reached a saturation point. Do we really need four television sets, five laptops and 1.6 cell phones per human being on the planet?

Downsizing to more manageable proportions is the latest trend. Unlike the 80s and 90s, the 21st century is not about collecting more things. In fact, we have recognized that it is now time to release them.

Recycling Web sites such as have caught on to this notion of less is more. It is encouraging to know there are currently 7,603,875 worldwide members of the Freecycle Network. It’s about sharing what already exists, not manufacturing more of the same stuff.

A most power of slow principle, purging ourselves of our property can be psychologically stimulating. In a recent phone conversation, Jürgen Drommert, a delightful reporter for Lufthansa’s various publications, revealed to me how liberating it was for him to lift the burden of possession.

„I used to commute to work forty-five minutes one way from a tony suburb of Hamburg,” he admitted. For that he needed a reliable, neighborhood-appropriate vehicle. His move to a two-room flat in the center of the city helped him shuck the remnants of stuff, including his car. While he is a bibliophile, he even parts from his books once read by leaving them on the indoor stoop in his apartment building for his neighbors to enjoy.

Possessions hold energy. When we release them, we broaden our capacity to absorb new experiences. If you look at it from a karmic standpoint, you are also unleashing positive energy to the universe, shifting goods to the hands of those who will now appreciate them. In short, downsizing is a generous thing to do.

Removing the ballast is an integral part in our time perception because, as The Power of Slow claims, we can only fill our lives with newness when we get rid of the old. We must create the opening for new possibilities.

As we delved deeper into the discussion, Mr. Dommert and I agreed that routine kills our time perception. “Time is then no longer perceptible in our daily lives,” he stated.

For anyone who’s ever driven a familiar route, you often wonder how you got from point A to point B because you barely remember the drive. Less familiar drives give you a sense that time is standing still, while the drive back appears shorter because you’ve driven that way before.

As we age, our brains have encoded so many experiences that we get the sense that time flies even faster. Mindfulness drops off considerably as our brains tell us “We’ve seen all of this before.” So what can we do to rescue ourselves from deadening routine?

Practice being present in the here and now. A simple exercise to get present is to really look at your surroundings by describing the things you see. “I see a book with a yellow and black spine. The trim on the door is green. The sun is shining, the leaves are turning, this chair feels soft…” When you become present, you automatically feel a sense of gratitude for what you do have. It also helps you evaluate what you no longer need that you can pass along.

As Eckhart Tolle says, “The foundation for all doing is conscious being.” Build the foundation of now by being mindful and releasing that which no longer serves you. When you do, you will have more space and more time than you could possibly imagine.


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  1. Valerie Garner

    November 2, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    I have currently done this…going from a full household to basically when can fit in a little Honda car. There is a dimension that’s wonderfully freeing!

  2. Downsizing & Deciding What’s Important | What I Wanted to Say…

    November 19, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    […] How Downsizing Can Actually Save You Time ( […]

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