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Senior Correspondent

One of the topics you have requested I re-visit on a regular basis is that of downsizing and simplified living. This is a subject that resonates strongly with me. For whatever reason, I have always been more comfortable when surrounded by less stuff. I probably would be quite happy in a small cabin in the woods or a cottage by the sea with just a few important possessions and a lot of peace of mind.

One of the bookshelves in my blogging office has several dozens books on simplicity, voluntary simplicity, downsizing, and the like. When I begin to feel as though life's clutter is closing in on me a bit, I'll grab one and scan it to refocus my determination to "keep it simple."

A recent event in our home reminded me that simplifying and reassessing what is part of your daily life can sometimes be stimulated by something else. After putting it off for at least five years, we finally had the downstairs carpeting replaced in part of the living and dining areas.

I had put it off for so long because of the hassle of the whole process of shopping for carpeting that both Betty and I would like, of moving all the furniture out, being trapped upstairs for 4 or 5 hours while the installers did their job, and then moving everything back.

Our project was complicated by the fact that a rather substantial crack had occurred right through the center of the living room. We knew it was there because we could feel it under the old rug. The 20 foot long split had also risen about 1/2 inch for part of the distance, giving our living room a definitely unwanted two level effect. So, before the rug could be replaced, men with large grinders had to come in and level the concrete before filling the crack with cement.

In any case, all went as well as could be expected; everything was actually under budget. And, this is where the ready-made opportunity to simplify happened. As we began to move everything back, both Betty and I decided to only return the basics right away. The books, knickknacks, candles, photos and paintings, coffee cups collected on various trips,  a dozen or so fancy tea pots, even two large CD  players that held 500 music CDs, all stayed in the garage…..for now.

This was the perfect opportunity to decide what we wanted to look at everyday and what just added clutter to our home. It has been almost 4 weeks and only some of the stuff has come back in through the garage door. One easy decision was to get rid of the 30 pound CD players, burn the music we wanted to listen to onto an iPod, and put the players on Craigslist.

Betty has a great collection of pewter items that have been in storage for several years. She thought it was time to bring them back for awhile; they will take up residence in the dining room in place of the tea pots that neither of us really see anymore.

Coffee cups are staying in storage, candles are going into a newly found space in the laundry room, and even some of Betty's photos are going into the RV instead of the living room walls. When she has the time we will pick a few new photos to have printed on canvas or metal and mount them.

The net result is the living room and dining area feel fresher and less cluttered. The TV stand and bookcases now have room for our DVD collection. The huge CD jukeboxes are gone, replaced by a small speaker system and iPod that sound fantastic, and can be easily put in the RV for our extended trips. This project has prompted us to decide to tackle a thinning out of all the stuff in the outside storage shed and garage. Even the 200 old VHS tapes have found their way into a dumpster.

What began as a carpet replacement project has given us new impetus to cut back, freshen, and thin out. Who knew?

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