Things were happening fast 9 years ago  for Doug and me.  After years of searching for land in the Driftless Area, we happened upon the 44 acres that would change our lives the weekend before Labor Day.  We came back for a second look the following weekend, and made an offer.

We loved this land before we even knew it had a remnant prairie.

We closed the weekend before Thanksgiving, had an impromptu picnic on the land with our girls and a friend, cut three xmas trees and drove three hours back to Libertyville.

We divided our ornaments between the trees and transformed our tiny living room into an enchanted forest Thanksgiving weekend.  That weekend, Doug was also preparing an application for an intriguing job in Madison.  We had been trying to get back to Madison for over a decade.  We worked on his accompanying letter all day Sunday and hit send just before midnight Sunday.

Three weeks later Doug had accepted a job as research and development manager for a start-up diagnostics company, and we were looking for a temporary house in Madison till we were ready to build on our land.

We never expected to live here so long, but it was a good nine years before our goodbye last Friday.


Life is full of set backs and surprises, and when our older daughter declared she was going to graduate school to become an architect, we made up our mind on the spot that she would design our house when the time came.  Because she has been working at Whole Tree Architecture and Structures, our house plans became a whole tree house.   Della was ready to take on an independent project, and this became the year to build.

  • BECAUSE Whole Trees favors natural building techniques and creates a framework of bent and branching round timbers whose walls are insulated with straw and plaster, its homes do not get thrown together as quickly as something made of “2×4”s and drywall.
  • AND
  • BECAUSE one never knows how long it will take to sell ones current home in our unhealthy housing climate.

We have been looking forward to what our architect, Della Hansmann, calls

The Goldilocks Solution to Downsizing

We are moving from a Papa Bear house that is too big to a Baby Bear apartment that is too small and we will ultimately end up in Mama Bear Underhill House that is just right.

By spending a few months camping above Mitchell Flooring on High Street in Mineral Point, we will pour ourselves into Underhill and fill it perfectly.

This truck was only about half full of things for our High Street apartment. The rest were dropped at our storage units.

We will have cast off

  • a bedroom
  • a bathroom
  • a living room
  • a study
  • a full basement
  • an attic
  • and everything that filled them

And we won’t feel the pinch of our downsized digs because Underhill House is going to be a bit bigger than our 2-bedroom apartment.  Instead of feeling pinched, we will feel like we are spreading out into a luxurious amount of space — and we will be.


Goldilocks Downsizing also gives us an extended opportunity to cast off all those possessions accumulated in a lifetime that sit unused, but so quietly and comfortably in all the corners of your life that you can’t even see them.

Everything must go — somewhere.

We let go of many things in this first move.

When you carry your possessions up these stairs, you really question their value.

Thank you, Craigslist and Goodwill!

But let me tell you, that when it came time to pack this past week, I found many more things that I realized I no longer needed or wanted but was forced by the momentum of the moving process to box and haul to our storage unit.

Now that those items are no longer sitting camouflaged by habit in the spot where they seemed immovably fixed, they stand out like a deer in the headlights, and can all be sent to new homes before we move into ours.

Our old kitchen was a Papa Bear of excess deep storage. I pulled things out of the back I had not seen or used in years.

Our apartment kitchen is a Baby Bear of  kitchen storage.

There are shelves full of volumes in book stores on how to declutter, and moving twice may seem like an extreme step to take, but it is ruthless and effective.

Did you see the movie 127 Hours?  All right, moving to downsize is nowhere near as harsh as 27 Hours.

Think hot air balloon over the ocean and losing altitude.  There are times when it becomes a lot easier to let go of objects that seemed have habit and history gluing them to your life.

While we were packing as hard and fast as we could to vacate Bascom Place for the Friday noon walk through with the new owners, an image came to me.  I imagined I was on a space ship traveling somewhere with all my stuff.  The captain told me it had been divided randomly in half (I still had my computer and my purse).  They needed to downsize the cargo, and I needed to push a button to jettison one of those halves into space.  At that moment, packing box after box, I would willingly have pushed that button without even knowing which half.  It seemed painfully clear to me that I had way too much stuff.  And I know I could live happily without half of it.

Now we have several months to make the final cut, and it doesn’t have to be random.  It seems like a gift from the gods.

Thank you, Goldilocks!

Have you downsized?  How did you do it?

3 replies

  1. I feel like I have been on a permanent downsize, upsize swings. We moved from a seven bedroom house in England (two row/terrace houses knocked together) with which we shared with our three children and various guests along the way, to a three bedroomed one floor house in Denmark with two of our children. That move was the most painful as we were both hoarders but we did reuse many things and repurposed many more and throwing things away that we knew others would not even think about reusing was hard. Some things were given to those who did crafts with children, some were sold by a friend who opened up her home to help and some were given to charity. The next move was to a three bedroomed house in the US which was much bigger but we were only allowed a 20ft container and at that point we jettisoned a suite because it was getting old and falling apart. On the way back to Europe we were allowed a 40ft container and so we came back with a new suite but to a small apartment – even if it did have three bedrooms so from around 2500 sqft to 785sqft. We still hoard but still reuse much, so the problem begins again and we are running out of space. I think I need a mummy bear sized space too or better storage for all our produce.

  2. Over the last 12 years, we’ve been trying to downsize during 2 moves so far: from a big, 5 bedroom house in the country (where we raised our kids) to a good sized 4 bedroom house in the city (where they stayed with us when home from college) to a comfortably sized 3 bedroom house back in the country. I don’t think I rank as a hoarder, but I’m definitely a collector, so downsizing is rather tough for me. That said, it’s good for me to acknowledge that “to every thing there is a season,” and continually be on the lookout for items we don’t use that can be pased along to those who need them.

    I’m wishing you smooth settling as you transition from one place to the next and finally to Underhill!

  3. We’re putting our house up for sale in January and have been selling furniture and other unused items on Craig’s list and eBay for the past year. Still have a ways to go. I love organizing and downsizing is just another way to do this.

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