1. Getting rid of things is hard at first, but it gets easier as you go. In fact, somewhere in the middle of the process, it's actually really, really easy. Until you get near the end, and then it becomes difficult again.
Por ejemplo, when I started paring books, the first pass was kind of easy: stuff I knew I'd read that I definitely wouldn't read before, or books that I wasn't sure why I had them in the first place. Those 20 or so books were an easy cull. And then I was stumped, and staring at quite a lot of books. I have gotten rid of literally hundreds of them in the past year, and it all started with small steps. Like "okay, but what about books I haven't read yet, but am pretty sure I'll never actually get around to?" or "what about books I have read that I liked, but have no real interest in rereading?" (I mean, they are just trophies at that point, right? They serve no useful purpose.) And once large batches started moving, it was easier to include books I had read and might read again someday, maybe. Etc. Until I got down to the "books I'd read and really want to keep, dammit". And there were still too many books.
It doesn't help that I have 90 linear inches (one full tall but thin bookcase) of Jane Austen-related books, and no, I can't get rid of any. At least, not yet. Maybe someday, after my Austen book sells, but not yet, because RESEARCH.
2. Even after you have whittled and pared ALL THE THINGS (books, dishes, kitchenware, linens, etc.) down to what you think is the bare minimum, you will likely find, as I have, that you still have too much stuff.
I'm not saying this just because it happens to be true of me, but also because I have read this countless times in the various articles on downsizing that I have read. And there have been A LOT of articles, because when I start any new project or need help, I research and read. I'll bet most of you do, too, because that's what readers and writers do.
The "experts" tell you to have two sets of linens for each bed, and two sets of towels per person, plus one set per spare bedroom for guests. I'm betting most people have more than that, if only because it's so easy to keep stuffing things into the linen closet rather than paring out. Most people only need one set of dishes, and most couples only need eight place settings. This is rough on people like me who like dishes, and already own multiple sets, including several with 12 place settings each. Same goes for flatware. And table linens - two or three tablecloths at the most, and that's if you use them all the time (and we do).
I am fortunate that I am not in trouble with respect to linens, but that's probably the only category. The only linens to jump houses were dish towels (because my sweetheart owned three and they were in need of replacement, and I had nicer ones), two twin comforters (because we needed them and he had none), one queen-sized quilt (because we like it and it fits our bed), and some bed linens that Maggie wanted. The rest (every single towel, sheet, pillowcase, and bathmat) have all made their way to the Animal Orphanage, because puppies and kitties need that sort of stuff all the time.
What I've found is that I retain the hope of doing some actual craftwork, even though I've done pretty much none of it in ages and ages. As a result, I "couldn't" get rid of all my scrapbooking stuff, although I did get rid of most of it. And I "couldn't" get rid of some of my quilting stuff, although gobs of that went out the door, too. I'm giving myself a year in which to use them, or they all have to go, done or not. Because, really, they take up space. And space is at a premium.
And despite divesting myself of three sets of dishes, with one more in a box to go to someone soon, I still have too many sets of dishes. And too many serving pieces. Yeah, I got rid of two cake plates, but I still have two more. I got rid of a few platters, but there are still many. We are going to do a bit of entertaining soon, and if stuff doesn't get used, it's going on the "getting rid of it" list. Because, really, they take up space.
3. There is no magic bullet, and there is no way out except through.
Unless, of course, you are willing to let someone else come through and make all the decisions for you, and probably you aren't. Your husband might be perfectly willing to get rid of your grandmother's Blue Willow pattern dishes, or those sheets with the embroidered pillowcases that you love, and, well, all that craft stuff because what is it for anyhow?. And you might be more than happy to get rid of four of his Phillips head screwdrivers, because he has six, and why does anyone need more than two? Would you both be happy if you let the other have free reign? Probably not.
You just have to pull up your big girl (or boy) panties and get to work.
And then again.
I'm learning this lesson the hard way.
4. There are tremendous benefits, physical and psychic, to having less stuff.
Whether we realize it or not, all "stuff" comes with an obligation to care for it and keep track of it and such. It's basically one more responsibility. Each spoon, each lamp, each book, each pair of nail clippers, each photograph: all of it is one more obligation. After all, they all have to be cleaned, cared for, put away/taken out, stored, etc.
Think of how many individual items you own. Scratch that -- it's too hard for most people to tally. Look around you where you are now, and start counting individual items. Just on my desktop right now, there are more than 25 items (some of which are notebooks in a stack, but still). TWENTY FIVE! That's a rather lot to keep track of, and that's not counting the many additional things I can see using just my peripheral vision. There are wall-to-wall, nearly full bookcases behind me. There is a closet that has little available space at present. And this is all the stuff that I couldn't part with. I couldn't have fit the rest of the books and objects that I let go before moving. And I have found that I don't miss them. Not even the stuff in the box that went to Goodwill by mistake.
The weight of all those things, and all those responsibilities and obligations, is enormous. Every time I sit down to meditate, I start by trying to relax. And I become aware how much tension I am holding throughout my body, even after I have "relaxed." I have a sneaking suspicion some of it is the stress of all those obligations pulling at me. Paring down allows you to let go of quite a lot of stress that you probably don't fully realize you're holding. At least, it seems to be helping me.
I hope those of you who are downsizing, moving, or just paring back will share your own stories, too.