The Big Downsize has a big heart.
The Canadian TV show about getting excess stuff out of your life turns out to be just the thing people locked at home by COVID-19 need right now.
Hosted by designer/declutter expert Jane Veldhoven, The Big Downsize is about guiding families through the process of cutting their material possessions in half.
And it’s about so much more than that.
Why do we all have so much stuff? What do we buy? Why do we buy it? Why are we hanging on to things we don’t want, don’t need and don’t use?
And why is it so tough to get rid of it?
Veldhoven has been helping people let go of material goods for 17 years in her role as a professional organizer and decorator. She is a big fan of recycling, re-using and re-purposing things; The Big Downsize makes sure people’s excess belongings go to various charities.
Veldhoven needs order and organization to thrive, so divesting herself of possessions is second nature. Although she moved recently from a three-bedroom house to a 600 square foot condo, she says, “I always have the sense I have to get rid of something — even though I really have nothing left!”
The new season of The Big Downsize follows Anne and James, and Patti and Faye, two Nova Scotia couples who are overwhelmed by their stuff.
Both are moving to smaller houses.
Don’t be surprised if you find yourself immersed in the lives of these people after an episode or two.
“It’s structured differently from most other programs of this type,” says Veldhoven. “Most show you a different family every episode. What makes The Big Downsize so interesting is that we really follow people and the audience gets to know them.”
In between practical tips about how much bedding you really need or how to declutter a man cave, The Big Downsize offers insight into how the things we own end up owning us.
Both nature and nurture are involved, says Veldhoven, who happens to be one of the lucky 25% hard-wired to crave organization.
She grew up in a household where importance was placed on family and experiences, “not on things.”
For the rest of us, there are all kinds of reasons why we hang onto things. Maybe that’s what our parents did. Maybe some objects have emotional value. Maybe our possessions give us status.
Sometimes we keep things out of a sense of obligation, because they were gifts. And sometimes we keep things that seem to define us.
“Writers hang onto books,” says Veldhoven. “And books and books and books!”
She always tries to get clients to ask themselves the ‘why’ and the ‘where’ of every purchase.
“How did the product get to you? Could you be buying less? When you buy something, think about how you will dispose of it when you’re done with it.”
Many of her clients are baby boomers, downsizing their own things as well as items they’ve inherited. Some face the tough job of going through their parents’ possessions — a generation that kept everything.
“We spend our lives accumulating things, and then it’s gone,” says Veldhoven. “You are not your stuff. Being able to separate yourself from the weight of all that can be very freeing.”
She is currently helping people (remotely, of course) sort and organize, as this COVID-19 lockdown has prompted many to declutter their homes.
“During the normal routine, we leave the house and go to work, and we all stuff things in closets and don’t even remember they’re there. Now, everyone is home,” says Veldhoven. “Doing some organizing gives you a sense of control when life feels out of control.”
Going through old photos is a popular current project.
“We remember family and friends, and it’s a reminder of great moments in life. We need that now.”
The Big Downsize starts Monday, April 27 at 9 p.m. on Vision TV.