With retirement around the corner, or if your kids are (finally) making their way into the world on their own, you might be thinking about downsizing. A new home, a simpler and less-cluttered life, and time to devote to YOU -- all of these possibilities might sound crazy-attractive.
How do you go about it all? Where do you start? How do you make all the decisions necessary to be happy with the outcome? Simple. Take a deep breath...and slow down.
Step One: The Plan.
Be sure that everyone involved is on the same page. Do you and your partner agree that this is the way to go? Have you flown the idea past the children? Even if they won’t be moving with you, your home has memories for them, too.
Once everyone is invested in the basic idea, create a workable timetable. There’s no need to rush this. Do you want to downsize this year? Next year? After the traditional family get together/BBQ/holiday gathering? Before that long hoped-for cruise to Hawaii? Once the decision to downsize is made and an end-date is set, start right away to get it done.
Then, approach clearing out your home one area at a time. You’ll be hunting for that new perfect home and you won’t be able to devote full-time to the clearing process. So, approach the project in sections.
Step Two: What to Keep, Toss or Give Away
It’s easier to tackle the downsizing job in stages. In each area of your home, you’ll have pieces you’ll want to keep, items you have wanted to toss for quite a while, and objects you know others will treasure but that you don’t need (or want).
It’s important to save those things that bring back memories for you. You can always replace a bookcase, but a treasured book -- perhaps inscribed by a loved aunt -- cannot be replaced easily. You may not need ten sets of table linens, but you should definitely keep the special set you got for your wedding and have used for every holiday meal. Memories are priceless.
Be sure to check with local historical societies if you have collections you’d like to see preserved, but for which you will have no room. You might be surprised that they will welcome a collection of road maps, matchbook covers, restaurant menus, perfume bottles or postcards from the local area.
Offer usable items to your family members or charities. Your son may have his eye on that comfy recliner for his new apartment. Your niece may need a complete set of serviceable pots and pans. That hallway runner might fit nicely in a friend’s entryway.
Step Three: Reminisce and Remove
Saying goodbye to some items might be easier if you involve the ones you love in the process. Share some stories; raise a glass in a toast, talk about the future, and the process of bidding farewell won’t seem overwhelming.
Face it, de-cluttering is an emotional process. Don’t deny the ghosts. Just enjoy the challenge of breaking those ties. An objective friend or adviser might be a help to provide an alternate view about the things you are sorting through.
Step Four: Don’t Hurry the Process
If you’ve taken the advice offered in Step One, you’ll have plenty of time to complete your task, room by room. As you sort through your belongings, you’ll find the experience becomes easier and easier. You’ll begin to realize what items matter most to you, and closer to the end of the process, you’ll have a fair idea of the size of the new home you’ll be moving into.
We accumulate many “things” during our lives. Some of them have meanings far beyond their size or worth; others are just “things.” With a bit of thought and careful work, you’ll learn quickly which is which.