You know it. Your kids and friends now respond with the mantra, “This place is too big for just you.” You admit to yourself there are entire rooms in your home you’ve not even entered for more than a month. But your home houses a lifetime of treasures, memories, books and papers. How can you possibly release them? How can you downsize?
I still chuckle when I read this 2016 Wall Street Journal article, “Lock the door: Your boomer parents have decided to downsize” and think you might enjoy reading it too.
Sorting through your treasures overwhelms. It seems impossible to find a place to start. And when you finally do, you discover you’re simply putting everything you touch right back to where it was. This experience fuels a sense of defeat.
I know. I’ve been there. It is a big job.
Let’s break through felling paralyzed. When you do, you may discover a sense of relief, a lightened feeling, a new freedom. I did!
Let’s start by busting a half dozen myths about what to do with some of your treasures:
1. My kids will want this! Invite your children, nieces and nephews to join you for the explicit reason of identifying items they want. Contain your shock when they disclose, they have absolutely no desire for their baby bed, their artwork displayed on the refrigerator when they were 8 years-old or even the chair they sit in when they visit. Their home already is filled with their own furniture and stuff.
And, if there is something they may want, insist they take it with them that day…before they change their minds!
2. It’s still good and must be worth something! Then, sell it. Check-out digital outlets such as Marketplace on Facebook, LetGo.com or OfferUp.com. Ask someone to teach you how to sell using these apps.
Better yet, invite your kids to handle these transactions and keep the proceeds.
Not everything will sell, but if you were willing to part with a treasure and no one wants to buy it, it still has a future destination: Donate it to a charitable organizations with resale shops that help fund their operations including Goodwill, Salvation Army, Red Cross and WINGS Program, Inc.
3. Memories are embedded in so many treasures! A baby bed or a favorite toy can instigate a tsunami of sweet memories. But they are just the stimulus.
To savor those memories, take photos of these special items. Download them or have them developed by a nearby store. Then, create a short story of your memories tied to these items and save them in an album. Perhaps make two: one for yourself and one for someone in your family. You’ve now shared a memory rather than stuff.
And, please remember to give away those items too!
4. I’ll use it again someday! Will you? Really?
Here is a good way to test that theory. Pack these items in boxes. Label it. Seal it tight. Add a label with and “open date” date six months away. If the next time you see the box is past the “open date,” do not open it. Just discard it.
5. Documents are important! Everything from tax returns, mortgage papers and bank records to A+ term papers, Christmas cards and letters seem too important to discard.
How do you keep history without taking up space? Try this. Scan these papers and save them electronically. Then, shred the paper to make lots of room. This way, you can share scanned files with family members so everyone can see those ugly Christmas sweaters!
6. Books are too valuable to toss! I love my hardbound books too! Share them. Used bookstores, school libraries, senior centers, public libraries and even the Little Free Library boxes are a great way to share your love of books with others.
Before you start stacking, look for first editions and signed books that may have more value and can be sold to collectors. Set a goal and pace yourself by sorting through one bookshelf at a time. Keep the most precious. Share the rest.
If you’re ready to give downsizing a try, select a closet or room you seldom use and take things out of that space or room with a plan they will never return. Commit to finding a new home for each. Take a picture, if you want. Then, give it away, sell it or dispose of it. But never put it back.
Set a goal. Measure your progress. Without a destination, your journey will wander aimlessly. Set a date for completing a room or closet. Post that date on the door. Each day check your progress. Stay on task.
Celebrate you success when you reach your goal. Choosing ice cream helps clean out your freezer too!
Deborah Hart, the President and CEO of Montgomery Place, a community in Chicago’s historic Hyde Park neighborhood for residents who are 62 and older, shares tips honed through enduring several significant moves with her family