As a professional organizer I work with a lot of clients who are downsizing: their kids have moved out, they are retiring, and they no longer want to take care of a large home. One thing I have learned about making this transition is that the process is much easier when it is not done in a rush. Deciding what to keep and what to part with from a lifetime of accumulated objects, many of which are sentimental, is hard work and doing it with the added pressure of a pending home sale makes for an extremely stressful experience.
Maybe you are not faced with downsizing quite yet, but you think it is likely in five or even ten years. My advice is to start the process now, before you have to do it. Start considering what are the most important items that will make the cut when you go to a much smaller home. Think of how freeing it will be when the time comes and you have already done the hard part and you can instead devote your time and energy to making your new place the best it can be. Here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Ask your family if they want anything - An easy way to start the downsizing process is to initiate conversations with your family members. Ask your kids, grandkids, nieces, and nephews if they can use anything or if they are interested in your family heirlooms. If they say yes, offer to let them take these things and start enjoying them (as long as you don’t really need them right now!).
2. Dig into your storage spaces - Most homeowners have a basement, garage, shed, or attic where they put the things they are not using but can’t quite part with. These items are basically delayed decisions, and there is no time like the present to start going through them! Since you’re not in a rush, make a regular appointment to spend just 30 minutes to an hour at a time doing this. Ask yourself if those things will have a place in your future home and future life. If the answer is no, consider letting them go.
3. Donate your things to a good cause (or sell them) - Starting the downsizing process early gives you the opportunity to do some research to find your things a home where they will be appreciated. There are many charitable organizations in need of specific items (Give to Others is a great resource). Knowing your stuff is going to a good cause can make it much easier to part with. Selling items online or at a garage sale takes time, but if you are not in a rush to clean out this can be another good option, and it has the added bonus of making a little cash for the things you are discarding.
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