In my last blog post, I shared about my husband’s struggle to keep his head above water, and the blow of another job loss. Although my husband was now “free” to leave, with winter just weeks away and mounting work commitments on my end, we had missed our window of opportunity to mobilize.
While my husband handled his first job loss well, at least initially, his second job loss in less than 10 months had a much more devastating effect. The lingering effects of a damaging work environment just about broke his spirit.
I had been quietly downsizing on my own for months in anticipation of moving on to a new adventure. When my husband lost his job again, he ferociously threw himself into cleaning out 26 years of accumulated possessions.
I had been waiting for years for him to clean up the basement and storage area. But not like this.
There is a “right” way to downsize, and there is a way that is unhealthy, short-sighted, and damaging. Downsizing should never be done in haste or when one is in a tenuous emotional state. Unfortunately, external factors can force us into decisions that we might not otherwise make.
“I’m selling my drum set to pay off my credit card.” My husband was emphatic.
“Hon, I really don’t think that’s a good idea. Once it’s gone, you probably won’t be able to buy another set—ever. Can you just wait a little longer to see how things play out?”
Despite my petitions to delay his decision, off my husband went with his drums to Long and McQuade, our local music shop. It was heartbreaking to see my husband sell off, piece by piece, something that had brought him so much joy over the years.
Like me, my husband is a musician. When we play music, we feel closest to God.
To sell his drum set was a huge decision and sacrifice. It dawned on me that my husband had to prove—mostly to himself—that he could still provide for his family.
But he could not logically process the long-term cost. This kind of rash decision is not uncommon for people under emotional duress.
The deep purging continued. I was alarmed to find out that my husband was throwing out perfectly good things that could have been used by someone else. I was worried that he would dispose of something of great value to me.
This not how to downsize. More than once I found myself picking through our garbage can and retrieving items to put into the donation bin instead. More than once I had to remind him not to touch my “stuff.”
There are many good books out there how to downsize in a productive and healthy manner. If you are thinking about downsizing, I highly recommend you find resources to help you on your journey. It can be an emotionally charged process, so why not consult the experts?
One of the books I found helpful was Let It Go: Downsizing Your Way To A Richer, Happier Life by Peter Walsh, which I picked up from my local library. I also found Marie Kondo’s suggestion to leave sentimental items to the very last in the downsizing process—those items to which you have a strong emotional attachment—very helpful.
Most experts recommend that you start your downsizing process with things that are “easy” to let go: clothes that don’t fit anymore, toys your children have outgrown, duplicates of anything, items that don’t serve your purpose anymore, etc. etc. Garage sales and Kijiji are two ways to sell your unwanted items and bring in much-needed income. For all the items I didn’t sell, I immediately gave away to charity organizations. At least someone, somewhere, would benefit from our situation.
In time I began to understand the source of my husband’s sudden and deep purging. It was both a symptom and cause of his continued spiral down into depression. Looking back at how he threw out, gave away, sold, or packed away so many of his things—interestingly enough, many of which were the creative things that gave him pleasure and joy, and I dare say, to which God called him to His glory—I realize now this was his way of punishing himself for what he saw was his failure.
This is a common response by those who root their identity in what they do rather than who they are in Christ. Many people, especially men, undergo an emotional upheaval when they lose their job, especially if they haven’t prepared themselves emotionally and financially for a job loss/early retirement. For them, their job is who they are, and when they lose their job, they lose themselves. But the truth is, is that we are who Christ says we are; we are NOT what we do.
It would take months for my husband to figure this out. And once again, he needed to work it out by himself.
In the meantime, I had my own challenges with our “new normal.”