Whether you are moving into a smaller home or into a similar size or even larger house, sorting, de-cluttering, purging, and packing are exhausting tasks.
It’s hard to part with belongings you have had for a long time, especially those that have significant memories attached to them.
And the work involved – the decisions to make – where do you even start!
You are not alone.
Books, videos, magazines, and blogs offer a wealth of information to help you de-clutter and downsize your home and life with lists, guides, and “how-to-get-started” advice.
There are even packing and organizing services that will come to your home and do the work for you, but you’ll still have to make hard decisions about what to keep, and what to do about those things you probably don’t need but are attached to. Professional organizers can simplify the process for you because they’ve had lots of experience and understand how you feel.
Most books, services, and organizers offer the following suggestions in one form or another:
Start sorting and packing well before your scheduled move date – this job is going to take you longer than you imagine.
Don’t try to do it all at once. Commit to 2 – 3 hours a day and understand that choosing what to keep or discard can be emotionally challenging.
Go through items by category. You’ll be surprised how many duplicates people find, especially of photos, books, kitchenware, and clothing.
Clothing purges can be liberating! We all have things we haven’t worn in years. Let them go. If you’re relocating to the sunny south, from the frosty north, you probably won’t need that down coat or those snow boots! Own five black t-shirts? Donate a few to the local thrift shop. There are people everywhere in need of clothing, linens, dishes, cookware, furniture, office and school supplies, and working electronics. Google or your local yellow pages will help you find services such as shelters, resettlement, and faith-based organizations that will match your donations to the right person.
Deciding what to do with old family photos, films and videos is always a challenge. Before digital and smartphone cameras, pictures and other media were hard-copy only and stored as such, in files, shoe boxes, heavy albums and so on. These days, everything can be digitalized. Scan your photos to a disk or flash drive and give family members each a copy. Film and VHS formatted family videos can be converted to digital also.
Make a floor plan of your new home and decide which of your favorite furnishings will fit in the new space. Modern décor embraces the “shabby chic” approach of incorporating interesting older pieces with newer more contemporary items. Keep what you love but make sure it is going to fit. Your measuring tape will help!
Items that you don’t want can be sold, but a yard sale may not be the best use of your time and energy. Instead, consider an estate auction. Some companies come to your home and photograph all of the items you want to sell. They list the items online and viewers bid on what they want – usually for about ten days. The winning bidder picks the item up from your home under the supervision of the estate sale company. You receive a percentage of the total sale, and some goes to the auctioneers.
When you are sure about things you want to keep, pack them in a sturdy box that is not going to be too heavy to lift. Label boxes with both the general contents (books, stemware, good china, etc.) and the room you want the box taken to at your new residence – bedroom, laundry room, kitchen, and so on.
Keep the things you absolutely love and USE them in your new home. Your beautiful dishes, crystal ware, and softest towels. You’ll enjoy your lovely items daily and have much less to store when you relocate.
The following items are easy decisions:
Garden tools: especially if you are downsizing your outdoor landscape.
Large appliances: Most new homes come with built-in appliances that are not only space-saving but also probably more energy efficient than what you own.
Your kids' stuff: If you are storing your adult children’s belongings in your attic, garage, or basement, this is a perfect time to ask them to pick everything up and store it at their own places.
Let them know that their snowboards, bicycles, skis, bowling balls, hockey equipment, and old college books and notes will have to live somewhere else or you’ll find everything a new home.
If they don’t have space, they’ll have to decide what to keep and what to discard!
See what you’ve started?
Everyone’s de-cluttering, downsizing, and moving journey is unique.
This was one lady’s solution:
A few years ago, a friend’s elderly aunt decided to leave her three-story six-bedroom heritage home and relocate to a two-bedroom condo. She’d raised three children in that house, all of whom were starting families of their own.
Each floor of the vast house held large heavy pieces of furniture – carved bedsteads, mirrors, bureaus, and needlepoint chairs. There was a baby–grand piano, a massive mahogany dining table with twelve chairs, and enough silver to finance the Spanish Armada.
And many sofas.
Cupboards and shelves overflowed with hardcover books, sheet music, precious knick-knacks, framed photos, and souvenirs from years of world travel, dozens of albums filled with yellowing photographs, cooking manuals, and decades of National Geographic magazines.
Walls on every floor were hung with tapestries, oil painted portraits of long - ago relatives, candle sconces, and framed prints.
Because Auntie was an excellent cook in her prime, predictably the kitchen, pantry, and storage areas were stuffed with – well – cooking tools.
Not much of this collection was suitable for a small modern urban condo, but Auntie’s solution to de-cluttering and downsizing was brilliant. If her children each took some of her things, that would ensure treasures stayed within the family.
Would they want her mementos and collections?
A lot of her belongings were valuable, but because there were memories attached to them, she didn’t relish just selling everything off.
As it happened, her children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins, and good friends loved the idea of choosing from among the home’s many treasures. Auntie listed items she would take to the new condo, but the rest of what was there was up for grabs.
Over half of her home’s contents disappeared in a few weeks.
Whatever the family didn’t want or couldn’t use, was sold through an estate sale auction. What didn’t sell went to charities.
Auntie found later, living in the new condo with her favorite, though significantly pared down belongings, that she didn’t miss all the stuff she’d been so attached to. Didn’t miss it at all.
You may not have as many treasures as Auntie, but however much you’ve collected over the years, it’s probably time to scale it down. And think of all the lovely space you’ll have in your new home!
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Your new home awaits.