Downsizing Is Easier Said Than Done

by Susan Quilty on June 6, 2011

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Downsizing is not an easy process, and it will likely take much longer than you expect. To minimize your stress, it’s often best to start small and give yourself plenty of time to go through your belongings at a comfortable pace.

After a lifetime of accumulating a houseful of “stuff,” empty-nesters often want to de-clutter their lives. This may be the perfect time to move toward retirement plans, and downsize to a home that requires less maintenance. Yet downsizing is often easier said than done.

While you may think it will be easy to get rid of your excess belongings, most of that stuff is stored around your house for a reason. Maybe it was a gift, or it has sentimental value. Maybe it’s clothes that are a bit snug, but are sure to fit after your next diet. You may know that you don’t need these things, but find it hard to give away items that are still in good working order.

When downsizing, you have to start by looking at your reasons for keeping all of your stuff. Examine each item individually and ask yourself, “Do I really love this? Does it add value to my life now?” Be honest with yourself. Even if you do lose ten pounds, wouldn’t you rather celebrate by buying something new?

Downsizing is not an easy process, and it will likely take much longer than you expect. To minimize your stress, it’s often best to start small and give yourself plenty of time to go through your belongings at a comfortable pace. Set a goal of sorting through one box (or closet or drawer, etc.) each week. Little by little, you will reduce your belongings until you are only left with the items which you really want to keep.

Fortunately, there are plenty of options for what to do with the items you no longer want. You can donate gently used clothes and household goods to local charities, or give them to friends. You can pass down items to your children or other relatives. You can sell items in a garage sale or on eBay. You can even simply throw things away.

If your kids are older and establishing their own family homes, it’s a good time for them to go through their childhood memorabilia. This can be a little harder when your kids are still in college dorms, or in their first apartments. If they aren’t ready to part with their childhood items, you could rent a small storage space to hold them. But do have your kids share the expense until they are ready to either take their things or get rid of them.

Having help when downsizing can make the process much easier. Family or close friends might be able to lend a more objective eye, and offer moral support throughout the process. However, a professional company which offers home organization and downsizing services can be invaluable. You will want to check references before hiring, and ask to see proof that the company is licensed and insured.

Downsizing is difficult, but it is worth the effort. Begin looking around for your low-maintenance dream home, and keep reminding yourself just how much easier moving will be after you’ve gotten rid of your excess clutter.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Bill Pearson June 7, 2011 at 10:38 am

One quick observation from our move: Leaving cold weather climates to the heat of the desert should have been an easy downsizing. However, we were like so many, we clung to things we have never used. Winter clothes are the first thing to pitch and those old redwood patio sets don’t transition well.

Sometimes a new beginning means letting go of that old sentimental junk and starting fresh. If you are paying a mover to haul your things, think twice about what your are dragging along and what would be better served by buying new.

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Kathy Cooke June 8, 2011 at 3:16 pm

When you don’t have children, downsizing becomes a lot easier. A few treasured family pictures, clothes and our pets is all we really need to take with us. Everything else is replaceable–especially with the cost of moving companies these days.

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