How to Downsize without Going Crazy: 17 Timely Tips
When you’re finally ready to make a move, there is one challenge that can be more taxing than finding a new home, locating a valid buyer for your old home and making the necessary travel arrangements combined: letting go of your old stuff. The tangible possessions you have accrued over your lifetime can seem inexorably linked to you. Unfortunately, there are certain moves where you just can’t take everything with you, and that means learning to let go.
Here’s a handy guide for making the adjustments in as painless a manner possible.
1 – Take it one step at a time
Rather than running through the house at break neck speed, chucking things into the trash can (which you will later be tempted to return to and excavate items from…), take a breath and formulate a plan of attack. Start organizing things in one room at a time, and don’t overdo it: a solid two hours per day is enough – anymore than that and you may begin to feel trapped in a sea of emotionally significant detritus.
2 – Tackle each item individually
Rather than ask yourself: “Should I toss this photo album?”, take a little extra time to sort through it. You may want to keep a few select photos, and then will feel fine about getting rid of the rest. One alternative is to just scan any photo, piece of paper or document you want to keep, thus totally preserving the memory (and vital info) while you remain free to discard the actual, physical item.
3 – The perfect guide for sizing? Your new space!
Grab a tape measure and precisely record the measurements of your new living space. How much closet, cabinet, garage or other storage enclosure do you have to work with? Use these figures when packaging up boxes of your stuff. If the math works out, you’re in the clear!
4 – Be decisive
Resist the temptation to have a “maybe” pile. If every item you encounter receives either a “yay” or “nay” vote, your mountains of belongings will begin to see an immediate decrease. On the other hand, if you have a “maybe” pile, it will simply grow and grow, and then you have to sort through that all over again. Adhere to a principle that professional movers call the “OHIO” rule: ‘only handle it once.’
5 – Make a list of everything that is frequently used
Once you do this you’ll know your “must-haves.” Regardless of age or wear, your must-haves need to come with you. The “never even used once” category is pretty much a no-brainer in terms of what to discard.
6 – Sentimental items don’t need to be lost forever
Some objects you may want to keep because of a deep emotional connection to them – but have you ever considered how a less fortunate person may also benefit from this item? Donating things that are sentimental to you can often give you the satisfaction of knowing that they are now special to someone else. In this manner, they live on.
*As with all things precious to you that you may need to let go of, you can always take a photo of the object, so that it will stay with you as long as you like.
7 – Keep the best, toss the rest
Some things come in packs. An entire collection of decorative plates, for instance. Do you really need every one of them? Of course not. Keep you absolute favorite, and then gift, donate or simply float the rest down a flowing river. The symbolic action can be quite liberating.
8 – Be realistic about “collectibles.”
Sometimes we hold on to things because we are certain that they are worth a lot of money, or will definitely “appreciate in value over time.” The unfortunate reality is that this just isn’t as true as it once was. Not convinced? Still think your mint rookie baseball card of _____ is worth thousands of dollars? Do a quick Google search and see for yourself. The disappointing results may help you let go of numerous other things that you are holding on to because of their alleged high value. This is not to say you should start indiscriminately throwing out every antique and treasured item you own, just make sure you research what they are really worth (in today’s market).
9 – Give it up now
If you are holding on to something that you intend on handing down to someone down the road, why not brighten their day and hand over this legacy item now? It will free up space and the recipient will assuredly be grateful to have it now.
10 – eBay: stay away!
Don’t fall into the time draining trap of trying to sell things on eBay, Craigslist or any other sales site. The odds are that you will not get the price you are hoping for and the whole process typically takes way longer than you think it will. If you have the luxury of time, feel free to try it out; but if you have a stringent ‘move in’ date approaching, don’t stress yourself out with this option, which usually yields little results.
11 – Big money tickets
If you have a bunch of items that you are certain are worth a lot of money, you may want to have a professional appraiser do an assessment of all your belongings. Going through an auction house for the sale of any major goods is a smart idea, as the auction house is trying to get your items to sell for the most money (because they take a commission). On the other hand, antiques dealers are the usually the wrong way to go, as they are buying for themselves and will try to offer you the lowest price possible. A final option is a consignment shop, but they usually do not take a lot of items (mostly because their actual space is limited). They also tend to charge for pick-ups and due to the nature of consignment, the selling process has no actual end date.
12 – Do or Do-nate
In addition to major national charities that accept donations, which include Goodwill, Salvation Army, AmVets and Purple Heart, there are often local ones in your area that will not only take used goods but there are some that even provide free pick-up. Aside from the obvious fact that donating things will make you feel like a better human, you can usually get a receipt for tax deduction purposes.
13 – People love the word “free”
If you really don’t feel like lugging all your stuff around town in search of donation centers, simply drag it (a relatively short distance) to the front of your property and have a ‘tag sale.’ You may even make a few bucks this way. The next (and most important) step in this expunging process, is when the sale is over, place a prominent sign that states “Free!” in full view. You’ll be amazed at how fast some things vanish right before your eyes. Large leftover items? Now you can post an ad on Craigslist in the “free” section. Here you’ll reach a lot of people, many of whom will be more than happy to drive to you and liberate their newfound trash-like treasure. This concept is hailed as “freecycling,” and there are other websites that let you list things in this manner too.
14 – If it’s broke, don’t try to fix it.
Any item that is cracked, broken or hasn’t functioned properly since the Reagan administration: throw it out. No one wants it, not even the charities.
15 – Perishables: let them perish
Sadly, even if you “just bought them!”, do not take food items with you in a move. You simply do not need the headache of packing boxes of spices and containers of spaghetti; invite friends over to take them or toss ‘em. Other items that fall into this category are: decrepit newspapers and magazines, expired medications, old toiletries, crusty tupperware and take out containers, ancient rulers, staples and stationary and that creepy stuffed squirrel that no one is quite sure where it came from. All = garbage.
16 – Believe it or not, people get paid for this
There’s an actual, burgeoning industry of moving professionals out there. They primarily deal with seniors who need help in downsizing their estates. One company called the “National Association of Professional Move Managers” is rapidly expanding. If you feel your particular moving project is too much to tackle on your own, give these guys, or a similar agency in your area, a call.
17 – What to do with your teeny valuables
All of the aforementioned examples of moving and eliminating things are very helpful for items big and small; that is, except your jewelry. Precious gems and metals are in a category all to themselves. As you complete the final steps in downsizing your estate, you need to find the best outlet to sell your jewelry. The only way to get the true, fair value for diamond jewelry is to sell through a diamond specific brokerage company, such as Diamond Lighthouse. Much like an auction house, we take a commission (10% on diamonds one carat and higher), so we always strive to get you the highest price possible. You definitely want to avoid pawn shops and jewelers, which are similar to the previously mentioned antiques dealers: they all want to buy from you at the lowest amount. With a trusted and reputable company like Diamond Lighthouse, you get the expertise of trained diamond professionals and the unlimited assistance of a skilled and caring customer service team. These factors combine to get you the most money possible when selling your diamond jewelry.
-find out more, and good luck moving on!