Why I Got Rid of Most of My Possessions and Moved to the Desert

I'm finding new opportunities and a more relaxing lifestyle.

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Daniel Viñé Garcia/ Getty Images
Daniel Viñé Garcia/ Getty Images

My most memorable move was probably the one I made about a year ago. I booked a one-way flight from Minneapolis to Phoenix. I had left New York the previous year, with my die-hard East Coast friends chanting, “You’ll be back.” Not only wasn’t I coming back, I was heading further west.

Like the pioneers that came way before me, I was simply seeking a new life and more freedom. At 62, divorced and an empty nester, the possibilities were virtually unlimited. The last time I had so many options was when I graduated college at 22. It was a decade when the pressure to start a career (the “greed is good” era) was intense. After that, my moves were all dictated by family and job requirements, school districts, and other third-party factors. Even my move to Minneapolis had been job-related.

So, this last move out West was truly different.

After my marriage ended, I moved from a big suburban house to a tiny (400 square feet) apartment in Manhattan. I worked with a professional organizer to learn how to minimize my life. At the end of that process, I had given away or sold at least 75 percent of my possessions. Going through that experience was amazing. I learned how to fold my undergarments into origami-like squares to take up less space, and hang things from the closet walls. I don’t miss the things I lost. Simplicity in lifestyle simply opens up more room for adventures, relationships, and other passions.

The move to Arizona was driven by several factors. First, the weather and natural beauty are truly amazing. Even on my darkest days, the sunrise over the mountains (which I can see from my slightly larger — 600 square feet — apartment) makes me smile. As both a writer and a tech geek, I’ve found this to be an ideal business environment. My colleagues and friends span the generations. My office is in the same building as Yelp, Indeed, and Zillow, where 20-somethings abound. But happy hours (which are a big thing here) attract a crowd that makes me feel like what we used to call a “spring chicken.” Plus, my 92-year-old mother lives two hours south, so I can be available for her if she needs me. She’s close, but not too close.

The move entailed my leaving my kids and grandkids. Yes, I am a bad Nana. But I’m part of a generation of women who had both work and family pressures throughout our 30s and 40s, and now it’s our time to decide what is best for us at this stage of our lives. A little selfish, perhaps, but also self-preserving.

Moving can keep us young. The thrill of meeting new people and finding new places to go and things to do can be exhilarating. Even little things like discovering the perfect grocery store or an amazing dentist feel like accomplishments. Of course, the process can be scary, lonely, and weird at times. But surviving all that builds resilience. At least that’s what I try to tell myself.

I love my new home so far. Like the pioneers who came before me, I’m finding new opportunities and a more relaxing and healthier lifestyle here. Returning to the East Coast every couple of months is a real treat. Thanks to my professional organizing sherpa, I’m a packing beast, too, fitting a week’s worth of clothes into one suitcase.

I’ve been writing about my move on both my own website and in a private online journal. (Hooray for Google Docs!) I hope to inspire other people who are “rebooting” once they reach the second half of their lives. We are the first generation that has had this much freedom, fueled by technology that closes distances and by transportation systems that let us move from one part of the world to another on a whim.

Will I move again? Only time will tell. Downsizing and saying goodbye to the familiar gets easier each time I do it.

A year in Florence, Italy sounds mighty appealing some days…

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.


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