A move into a smaller home is a great opportunity to simplify life by deciding what’s truly valuable. Make your move manageable by using the 80 / 20 Principle. Most people use 20% of their possessions. The other 80% is stored “just in case,” because of sentimental value, or because getting rid of it requires more work than leaving it alone. That 80% shouldn’t make the move, but our emotional attachment to possessions that we no longer use but which are touchstones to important memories and feelings can make downsizing seem daunting.
If you don’t have the time or desire to make the decisions and manage the downsizing, there are specialists (just Google “downsizing professional” with your town’s name or call a local seniors’ organization for a referral). If you are doing it yourself or with family members, use this simple three-part process:
- The review.
- The decision.
- The grunt work.
Reviewing and deciding go hand-in-hand and can easily take 80% of the time you’ll spend in the downsizing process. Begin in storage spots like the garage, attic, and basement and use a notebook or video device to record three categories – “keep,” “get rid of,” and “can’t decide.” Anything that is no longer used but evokes strong emotions should go into the “can’t decide” category at this point.
The decision process gets easier – in fact, you may get a little too ruthless as the moving date gets nearer. That’s why it is important to give yourself plenty of time to review what you have and whether to keep it. What you should keep includes:
- Important documents and the last seven years of tax records.
- Clothing in good repair that you’ve worn in the last year.
- Furniture that fits comfortably (both size and style) into your new home.
- Kitchen items and china that you use regularly this past year.
- Sporting and hobby items that you’ve used in the last year.
- A selection of photos and other memorabilia.
- The very best of your collectibles.
As you sort through your treasures, aim to keep a maximum of 20%. Decide and divide them into gifts to family and friends, charitable donations, for sale through a garage sale, a dealer, or online classifieds, and landfill. If you are worried about being fair to family members, consider the round-robin lottery system. Each person draws a number out of a hat, people choose in order based on their number, continuing until everything you want to hand on has been chosen.
The grunt work should start with items you know you won’t be keeping. Allow plenty of time to sell, donate, or throw them away. Sell through a garage sale or online classifieds. Find a charity that picks up donations. Shred financial records that are no longer legally required or relevant. Create boxes for each family member, clearly label them, and fill with photos, keepsakes, pertinent records, and so on. If your current furniture won’t fit into your new home (or you are excited by new designs) there is furniture designed specifically for smaller homes – one manufacturer makes a small side table that expands to seat ten guests!
Downsizing gives you the opportunity to make deliberate, considered choices and create a home that perfectly suits your current lifestyle and needs.