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Thursday, September 24, 2020

Is It Time to Downsize?

We’re all stuck at home. Take advantage of it by getting that dreaded task, downsizing, done and over with. We’ll show you how.

You’ve probably been spending a lot of time at home lately. With all of your stuff — where did it all come from?! Most of us accumulate things as time goes by, and after years, or even decades, of living in the same house, it adds up. Kitchen drawers are stuffed full, closets are crammed, and the basement … we don’t even want to think about the boxes upon boxes stored there.

Perhaps you’re considering a move into a smaller space, whether to cut costs or reduce how many square feet you have to take care of. Maybe you’re at the stage where you realize that any possessions you leave behind will have to be dealt with by a child or someone you love. Or it could be that you are just feeling burdened by all of the physical objects taking up space.

Get Supplies Ready

Professional organizer Francine Yafta recommends having supplies at the ready before dig-ging into a project. Here’s her list of what to have on hand:

  • Bags/boxes: Different sizes/colors to distinguish between categories (such as what to keep, sell, recycle or donate)
  • Newspaper/plain packing paper/bubble wrap: To pack fragile items to keep, ship, sell, donate
  • Shipping tape: To seal boxes
  • Notebook/paper/pen/pencil: To take notes
  • Sharpies/markers/masking tape/labels: To label boxes/bags
  • Scissors
  • Measuring tape: In the event design/placement ideas come while sorting through items
Note: For items that are not to be tossed or recycled, it’s easier to retrieve small items placed in small bags (i.e., grocery shopping bags and/or Ziploc-type bags) than at the bottom of a huge trash bag.

Help Is Here

We’ve collected some resources to assist you with various phases of the decluttering process.

Appraisers National Association. Find a certified, accredited appraiser in your area and learn what questions to ask when hiring an appraiser. 

American Society of Appraisers. Members perform appraisals prior to sales, acquisition, taxes and estate planning. Search for an appraiser by state, zip code or specialty.

American Society of Liquidators. Find an estate liquidator near you, and get tips and resources about the liquidation process.

National Association of Productivity & Organizing Professionals. Certified professionals who are experts at effectively organizing and sorting through anything from a closet to a house. 

National Association of Senior Move Managers. Helps older adults and their families through the downsizing and relocation process, including a list of trained senior move managers in their state. 

National Estate Sales Association. Offers multiple guides to improve consumers’ awareness around estate sales and selling personal property. 

Why Declutter?

Most of us live with some level of clutter without realizing that it can make us less productive, even triggering coping and avoidance strategies that can send us to the TV with a bowl of ice cream. In fact, research verifies that our physical environment has a big impact on our cognition, emotions and even our relationships with other people. 

There’s no shortage of benefits from cutting back on our possessions. It’s actually doing it that’s hard. The good news is that there are tactics to make it more bearable. Experts say that the first step is to give yourself plenty of time to get the job done. Weeks or even months may be needed to go through a lifetime of accumulations. 

How To Go About It

Start with the smallest spaces. You’ll be able to clean out a closet or your laundry room in one go, and the feeling of getting a space done will encourage you to keep with the task. Save the biggest areas for last. “Garages/attics/basements are notorious for being the hardest rooms to tackle,” says Debra Blue, of Blue Moon Estate Sales. “These rooms tend to accumulate all the old hobbies, boxes, old holiday decorations, and clutter. They’re also known to be rather un-comfortable spaces. In the summer it’s too hot, winter it’s too cold, and in the springtime, it can be too humid.”

Another tactic is to organize backwards, according to Jamie Novak, author of Keep This Toss That. While a common suggestion is to separate out the things you don’t want, she thinks it’s easier to take everything out of a space and only put back the keepers. Whatever you do, make “yes” or “no” piles only, no “maybes.” If you start waffling, then all you’ve really done is move your stuff from one side of the room to another. 

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you might need something in the future that you haven’t needed in the past. “If you already weren’t using it, or didn’t like it, why on earth would you want to pack it up and schlep it to your next house?” says Hazel Thornton, of New Mexico-based Organized for Life. “I know it sounds silly, but people do it all the time. Moving isn’t cheap, either; do you really want to pay extra to move stuff you don’t even want? Don’t delude yourself by telling yourself you’ll deal with it at your next destination. No, you won’t.”

Difficulty of Letting Go

It’s not going to be easy to get rid of things. “It brings up all kinds of emotional issues,” said Su-san Levin, who has downsized more than once, and has been a consultant with Orchestrated Moves, a company that helps older adults and others with relocation and downsizing. “It’s not just moving things but the emotional letting go.” There may be times you need to cry or reminisce as you work your way through. That’s okay. You’ll move on. “You’re empowering yourself because you’re enabling yourself to make the decision about things,” said Gary W. Small, director of the UCLA Longevity Center and past president of the American Society for Geriatric Psychiatry. “It frees us up when we discard things.”

Some collections may be particularly hard to let go of, but they’re just going to sit in a box. Those refrigerator magnets from all your trips, your child’s sweet drawings from long ago, the collection of teddy bears. Pick a couple of your favorites to keep and take a photograph of the rest, then put it where you’ll see it. If you have old-school photo negatives from when you were a kid, try hiring an outfit like Fotobridge. They can turn negatives, slides, or anything else that is scannable into a digital format that can be saved to your computer. 

What To Do With Unwanted Items

To start with, find out if there are items that family members or friends would like. Don’t be offended if there is very little they want to keep; that is often the case. Things that don’t have much value can be donated. Several national organizations offer to pick up donations, but be sure to call ahead to schedule this service. Make sure they operate in your area, and expect a wait. They are:

  • Vietnam Veterans of America
  • Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America
  • The Salvation Army

Consignment is a good idea for specialty furniture or high-quality items. You can also sell on Facebook Shops, eBay or a number of other websites. Be aware that you’ll need to take photos of each item and fill in details. It may not be worth it to you. You can have a yard sale, but that is difficult during the pandemic. A good backup plan is to donate items to your local Goodwill, Salvation Army or ARC thrift store. Junk removal on a large scale can be accomplished by calling 1-800-GOT-JUNK.

If your house is full of desirable objects that have good value, you can contact estate sale agents. Be prepared to send them photos of some of your choicest items. Very high-end furniture, paintings and other pieces may be best auctioned off by Sotheby’s or another company that deals in the rarest and best. If you have even one piece in this category, it is an option worth checking out. 

While the process won’t be easy, if you stick with it, the day will arrive when you can declare victory. You’ll look around and see only useful, well-loved objects. You’ll open drawers and be able to tell what they contain without rummaging through. Perhaps you should do a little some-thing to celebrate with the money you made from the things you got rid of. After all, you’ve earned it.

Click below for the other articles in the September 2020 Senior Spirit


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors