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Shrink ‘Downsizing” Down to Size
Posted in: Aging Well
Before I went into professional downsizing and relocation services, I’ll admit it, I was a shopaholic. Now when I walk into a store, many times I turn around and walk away. It’s actually hard for me to buy new things.
Moving doesn’t have to be a four-letter word. How great would it feel be in a place and surrounded by the items that are right for you at this time of your life? Through assisting seniors with more than 5,000 moves, I'd like to share three key pieces of advice that can help get you to there.
1. Our stuff can be a heavy burden, so get someone to help lighten the load.
If you feel overwhelmed when you think about downsizing, call an expert to help you prepare a plan of attack. Paying for services – especially in the beginning – will help you stay focused, and it is amazing what can be accomplished in a 4-hour sorting session with a professional organizer.
“How do I get rid of my stuff” is the most common question we encounter when working with clients. We suggest you reverse your thinking to focus on what you want to keep. Once you know that, it’s very easy for a professional to figure out the rest.
At TAD, we advise asking yourself three questions:
- Do I love it?
- Do I use it?
- Do I need it?
If you check two out of three, you may want to keep this item. If you love it, but it’s been sitting in your closet for five years, you don’t need it. If you have a decorative plate of your grandmother’s in bag sitting in the garage, consider donating it or sharing it with someone else who can benefit from it.
By all means, avoid what we call deep storage if possible. That’s when a storage facility has your credit card on file and charges a monthly storage fee. Over time you might not even remember what you have in the storage locker. Could you use that money to take a vacation or give it to your children to spend on something they want or need?
2. Be realistic about the value of your items – emotionally and financially.
Younger generations are adapting to a more minimalistic life style. They want experiences more than “stuff.” They are changing jobs and relocating more often. Further, what holds sentimental value to you does not necessarily do so for your children or grandchildren.
We advise clients to set a deadline for their children to collect the things they have been storing in their parent’s homes and tell them that after that date the items will be sold or donated. Be firm. If the children live out of town, you can send photos of items you think they might want. My son lives in Los Angeles and hasn’t lived at home in seven years, but I still have boxes of his stuff. And if I’m honest, I’m holding on to them because they remind me of his childhood, not because he wants them.
A difficult part of my job comes when educating clients on the actual market value of some of their belongings. We can’t emphasize enough to do some online research so you are not disappointed at the estate sale or auction house. Every now and then there is a hidden treasure worth more than you thought, so have an expert walk the house before you get rid of things. However, furniture and collections typically are worth much less today than most people believe. If you loved the piece and enjoyed it, then the price you paid was worth it, but you may not recoup that cost.
There are many creative ways to sell your things including online auctions and estate sales. The most important thing to remember is to price items properly and give yourself time to find the best possible way to sell or donate the items that you have.
3. Start small and start now!
Tackling some of the work yourself will help you to save money. Start now, while you still have the motivation and energy to make the necessary phone calls, sort, and haul things out to the corner or donation center.
There are significant savings to decluttering before a move. A “moving disaster” is when someone tries to put an entire house into a two-bedroom apartment – and we have seen it happen. The items still have to go, and delaying makes the move more stressful and more expensive.
We suggest starting small; set a timer for a half hour and tackle one drawer or one cabinet at a time. Don’t try to tackle an entire room all at once. When you start to see progress on the smaller tasks, it motivates you to do more.
Above all, remember this: it took a long time for you to fill your house, and it will take you some time go through it and prepare for a move. But with a good plan and support, you can get started on the path to “rightsizing” your life .