Moving is a difficult chore, but it's always resulted in a better life. All your life, you've moved to bigger houses where you've collected more stuff. Now, however, you're planning to downsize, a new term that simply means moving to a smaller home. And the thought of organizing everything you have and losing some of your stuff is overwhelming.
You're not unusual. Our possessions give us identity and indicate our social status. They also hold memories.
Getting rid of our stuff is especially difficult because it wounds us emotionally. They've even made up a name for the depression that may occur when contemplating or after moving — transfer trauma. Symptoms include feeling sad, angry, depressed, tearful, irritable, and anxious and complaining, screaming, combativeness, withdrawal, sleeplessness, indigestion, failing to take medication and rapid heartbeat.
Placing value on stuff — materialism — is bad for us. Research has shown that it may cause depression and selfishness and detract from relationships.
So how do we get rid of our stuff and get away from a materialistic viewpoint?
Here are some important factors in healthily getting rid of stuff:
- You must make the choice. If you've ever watched any of the hoarding TV shows, you soon realize an important factor is choice. You may delegate all the other aspects of moving, but you must take the lead in choosing what to keep and what to dispose.
- Look forward, not back. Visit your new home. Take an active part in the placement of your furniture, drapes and other necessities in your new residence. Choose your own wall color and carpeting if possible.
- Get involved in your new community even before you move. Research volunteer opportunities. Visit some of the nearby shops. Find a hair salon, a gym, even a mechanic by getting referrals from acquaintances familiar with the area.
How many of these items should you consider discarding?
- Kitchen appliances you rarely use. Do you really need a four-slot toaster or a waffle maker? How often do you use them?
- Clothes you don't wear or don't like. If you haven't worn it in a year, get rid of it.
- Cheap wall decoration. Perhaps you bought that cheap painting to fill a blank spot on your wall when you moved into your old house, but wall space is at a premium now. Get rid of it.
- Books you don't read or reread. Someone else would love to have them.
- Towels — especially the ones you've had for years. Perhaps you needed many towels when the kids were still living with you, but how many do you need?
- Mugs. Just how many do you drink out of?
- Gag gifts and random free promotional stuff
- Makeup you don't use or that is more than a year old
- Redundant items. You are not NASA, and you do not need two of everything.
- Bath products you don't use.
- Stuffed animals.
- Dolls. Many older women collect dolls, perhaps as a result of empty nest syndrome. Unfortunately, the dolls are usually not even valuable. There is no other reason to collect dolls.
- Stuff you borrowed and forgot to return.
- Photos. Send the photos to a service that will copy them and save them in albums. Then give the actual photos to your children. Or, better yet, give the photos to your children with the proviso they make copies and send them to you.
- Extra bed linens. Most people have bed linens from beds they no longer have. If it doesn't fit your bed, get rid of it.
- Luggage. Do you still have luggage used by your children or your spouse? If so, why?
- Purses and shoes. Most women have way more purses and shoes that they use or need. If you haven't worn or used it in a year, get rid of it.
Here are specific tips on choosing what you can do without.
1. Determine your lifestyle needs. Do you do a lot of entertaining? You may want to keep your mother's dinner service. How will you fit your family photos into the decor? You may need to resize and change frames to fit on walls or even develop a gallery of photos. Do you have difficulty standing up or walking? You may not want to bring a throw rug or the over-comfy couch that's difficult to get up from. Do you never step outside the door without being fully made up? Bring your vanity.
2. Determine your priorities. Unfortunately, you just can't fit everything from your larger house into a smaller space. So decide what is important to you. Would you rather have more space in the living room or a computer desk? Are you actually going to use that Stairmaster or would the exercise center work just as well?
3. Walk through your old house and use sticky notes to select what you're going to keep. Of the items you're not going to keep, place appropriately colored sticky notes to decide whether you're going to sell it, give it to family or friends or donate it.
4. Don't do the hard work. Get your children or an organizing service or hire someone to do the hard work of getting rid of things. setting up a garage sale or auction to sell items. Many organizing companies have Senior Move Managers specifically trained to help older people move. Many charity organizations will pick up your unwanted furniture. Check your local Craigslist to find people who will haul away your items for free — as long as they can keep some of them. Have your children and friends pick up their items; don't deliver them.
5. Try not to let emotion overrule logic. If you've kept your mother's old wardrobe for a while but not used it, talk to your child or a friend about taking it. And if you can't find someone you know to take it, give it a new life with someone who will treasure it. You may even want to write a note about its history and leave it inside.
6. Look toward the future. Don't stay in the old house as your stuff is being carted away. Go to your new home and decorate or direct the movers.