People who experience or teach about downsizing say that the hardest part is giving up cherished belongings for which you have a sentimental attachment. Anything else can be treated with a gentle or fierce analysis that determines whether it stays or goes, but "dear possessions" — as Caren Goldman calls them in her passage below — deserve different treatment. The ritual that she and her husband Ted created for facing into the tension of these wrenching decisions is special for two reasons: first, for its peacefulness and second, for not forcing a conclusion. In Restoring Life's Missing Pieces, she writes:

"When my husband, Ted, and I are caught in the tension of whether to let go of possessions dear to our hearts, we do the following ritual:

• "First, we write down the name or draw something that represents the object (or place) on a small piece of paper. It can be just a line or a scribble, or it can be the object. Symbolically the drawing represents what we're about to 'dispossess.'

• "We then go to a peaceful place, light a candle, and sit in silence until the one forsaking a possession is ready to tell a story or stories about it. We speak to the candle — not to each other. Throughout the storytelling, the partner acts as a silent witness who unconditionally accepts the other's truth.

• "Both parties remain silent until the person detaching either burns the piece of paper in the candle's flame or signals the time is not ripe by putting the paper away. In silent unison we acknowledge that the choice made is right. No matter which choice has been made, a reunion has taken place in the process.

• "If the paper has been put away, we say the words of Julian of Norwich aloud: 'All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.' If it is now ashes, we use this quotation from Nobel Peace Prize-winner Dag Hammerskjold: 'For all that has been, thanks! To all that shall be — Yes!' "