The Upside of Downsizing

What is “downsizing? Webster defines it as “to make smaller.” The term is most familiar when related to business layoffs and making a company smaller. For the purpose of this discussion, it means engaging in a number of tasks, such as:

  • Reducing household good via gifts to family and friends, sales, donations, etc.
  • Organizing, sorting household items.
  • Preparing for developing an overall moving and/or “aging in place plan.”

Are you ready to boldly sail into your future, but are still clinging to all your cherished things? Downsizing is an opportunity to create a new life in a new space. Many of our clients tell us, “Getting rid of stuff was so liberating.”

20 Tips to Declutter Your Home

It’s only worth what people will pay for it.

When deciding what to get rid of, make three piles: toss; donate; and sell.

  1. Wedding dress

If no one is going to wear it again, have some nice pillows made out of it. Or save it to wrap bouquets in your daughter’s wedding. Or clip off a piece of fabric and display it in a frame with a photo of your wedding day.

  1. Love letters

Keep them if they’re yours. But if they’re your parents’, they’re part of a romance between your parents and never meant for you. Burn them ceremonially and send the love back into the universe.

  1. Boxes of photos

Throw out landscape shots. Pick three with people in them from each vacation or holiday. With the rest, pull out the great shots and scan them for safe keeping. If you don’t have scanning capabilities, send them to an online scanning service to store in the cloud or to make albums.

  1. China set

If you like it, use it. If you don’t, sell it through eBay. Be realistic, though. Not long ago, fine china commanded a nice price. But today’s consumers want fine tableware that’s safe in the microwave and the dishwasher.

  1. Antiques

We use an online auction service. You can also take high-end antiques to a local antiques dealer, who can take them to an auction house. Find out what the house’s take is upfront (typically 10 to 15 percent) as well as where it will place the starting bid.

  1. Greeting cards

Their job is to greet you over the holidays. They did that. Now you throw them away. Or put them in the recycle bin. If you saved the envelopes, you can go through them to update your address book.

  1. Old appliances

Like a yard sale online, Craigslist is a source for usable appliances. With local buyers, you skip shipping costs. Tip: Sell only to buyers who pay cash and will pick up the item. When they come, have someone with you.

  1. Your kids’ stuff

It’s not your job to save everything from your children’s lives. Box up what belongs to the kids, and send it to them. Or tell them to claim it now, with the date you plan to have the house cleared out.

  1. Books

If you’re going to read it, or it just feels too much like family, put it on your bookshelf. If not, give it away. You can drop books off at a library or donation center. Call around for a charity that will pick up.

  1. Luggage

Few use that old high end-leather luggage anymore. That graduation gift from your grandparents? If it’s in decent shape, try sell it at your own or a neighborhood garage sale. If not, donate it to a charity such as a women’s homeless shelter.

  1. Furniture

Salvation Army and Habitat for Humanity great sources.

  1. Clothes

Questions: “Do I need it?” “Will I use it?” If not, out it goes. It doesn’t matter whether “I only wore it once,” “It’s in good condition” or “It was expensive.” Then make three piles: toss, donate or sell it. We donate to local thrift stores.

  1. Jewelry

Decide what to keep, then give family members their choice. Sell the rest on eBay. Polish the jewelry and light it well, then photograph items in high resolution from several angles. Include a close-up of any label or stamp.

  1. Art

Appraising fine art is an art in itself, so you might need an appraiser. You don’t want to give away that ugly painting or sculpture only to find out it later sold for $50,000 at an auction.

  1. Old tennis racket

They’re heavy wood and outmoded. Toss it or sell it on Craigslist to a collector of old rackets.

  1. Curio collection

Select three pieces to keep, then photograph the rest, and put the photos in an album alongside the display. eBay is the place to sell smaller, more valuable items like collectibles.

  1. Musical instruments

Craigslist is already flooded with dead musical dreams. Spread the word around your neighborhood; ask your kids’ former music teacher. Even if you sell at a loss, it will fill a home with music. Just not your home.

  1. Stuffed Closets

Rather than fishing through and deciding what to eliminate, take everything out, down to the bare walls. Then physically put back items. Choosing to keep, rather than choosing to let go, will net in clinging to fewer things.

  1. Important Papers

Organize the originals and store them in your bank’s safety deposit box. For those that you use periodically, like birth and marriage certificates, school records, wills and other legal documents, scan them electronically and back them up on your hard drive.

  1. Household junk

Got Junk and similar sources will pick it up. Hold a garage sale. Put price tags on items: $5, $50, make an offer. Post signs in the neighborhood, and advertise on Craigslist and other online estate sales sources.

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