Downsizing and Lightening Your Load

Americans pull up stakes and relocate an average of 11 times during our lives. Are we gluttons for punishment or what?  For whatever our reasons, wanting to buy a new home, change neighborhoods, employment opportunities or better school options to name a few, we Americans change houses typically every 7 years.  For my husband and me, we realized we were making way too big of an impact on the planet with the skyrocketing cost of heating and maintaining a large home.

Recently, we moved from a 3000 sq ft. house to a 1200 sq. ft. house.  It was like fitting a size 9 foot into a size 6 shoe.  However, besides the obvious savings on the heating bill and despite the incentive to lighten our load and make less of an impact, we were at odds with what to keep and what to throw away, give away, sell or put into storage.  Let me sum the process up in a word; organize, organize, organize.

Start with a 30,00 Foot View

It’s important to see things outside of the fray; otherwise it’s too hard to make decisions between what is necessary and what is going to help your new digs feel like home. Take a look at the whole picture as if you were helping a friend move.  In fact it’s ideal if you can invite a friend over to bounce ideas off of. Often a second opinion helps to get a more objective point of view.

Catalog

Take pictures of furniture; digital is best for future use of on-line venues. Keep a journal with descriptions and measurements of pieces that you may want to work into your new residence. This helps take the guess work out of what you can logically take with you and what you might want to deal with differently.

Pitch it or Donate it

This is easier said than done in some cases.  I discovered we had two or three of many things that we barely used.  Did we really need three cans of Brasso or 18 Christmas hand towels?  Sure these are small things, but small things add up to space eaters.

As for bits and pieces that have been in the family for years like Grandma’s bone china or Uncle Ken’s collection of Star Wars memorabilia, you have to be hard nosed when making the choice. I took one plate, one cup and one small bowl of Grandma’s dishes and presently have them displayed on a single shelf in the kitchen. Not only did I downsize, I get to enjoy something that had been tucked away in the hutch for years.  As far as any kind of memorabilia, check to see if it’s got a dollar value before delegating to the donate or pitch pile.

Storage

There will always be things we can’t part with – or so we think. For no other reason other than peace of mind, self storage is an excellent way to keep things safe and nearby. When using storage be sure to supervise your movers when things are unloaded into the unit.  If you are planning to sell items or work them into your lifestyle after you are settled be sure they are easily accessible and near the front.  Seasonal tools for the gardener or golf clubs for the duffer need to be reachable. Talented packers can make the most of a small space, but left to their own devices they may bury the things you want to get your hands on most leaving you tunneling through boxes.

Selling

This can be a toughy. Why?  Mostly because your goods are not as valuable to others as they are to you. Certainly if you don’t mind taking a hit, then this is one way to get a bit of cash out of goodies that you don’t really want to keep any longer. But sellers beware. Most furnishings for example will sell for far less than you think they are worth. Two of the best places to list your things are Craig’s List and Facebook’s Marketplace. Ebay is good for things that can be shipped internationally. We sold several books that we mailed to Britain. The marketplace is much bigger and shipping can be included in the price.

Some of the local newspapers and Pennysavers will get you traction. Consignment shops are popular for those who are downsizing, but many will take a 60/40 split and reduce the price on your things sometimes weekly. Most shop owners are very congenial and want to be fair, but be sure to read the fine print on the store’s policy carefully before agreeing to their terms.

Downsizing can be very manageable if approached with a clear game plan. Take it step by step and don’t let the journey ruin the destination – of being freer and lighter than you’ve been in years.

Kenneth McCall is an avid ski, boater and bicyclist. When he is not engaged in outdoor activities he directs the IT operations at storage.com , building websites and tools for homeowners and businesses needing storage, including self storage in Chicago and around the area.

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