I experienced my first lesson in “downsizing” when I was just 16 years old. My mom passed away at the young age of 46. I was living with my dad when my mom passed, and the next day, when I went to my mom’s house, I remember my grandma saying we could take anything we wanted. What I wanted was my mom, not the stuff in her house. My mom always told me and Scott, “You can’t take it with you when you go” – a phrase that didn’t make a lot of sense to me until this major life event.
Little did I know that another 16 years later I would start a company that helps people get organized and deal with their “stuff.” At some point in your life, you will experience this exercise; maybe even more than once. The downsizing process – also referred to as right-sizing – can be emotionally and mentally exhausting. Why? Because you are making important decisions about the things in your life that have value and memories attached to them. I have found that people are either financially or emotionally attached to their stuff, or both. From a financial perspective, there is attachment because “I paid good money for that” or “If I let it go I may be not be able to afford another.” On the emotional side, there are memories in things we have acquired. What might be considered a “memory” to you may be seen by another person as trash. You just don’t know until you ask. For example, a client of mine didn’t want to let go of many of her receipts. While we knew for tax purposes she did not need them, they represented memories to her from a vacation she took – and this was how she remembered what she did on the vacation.
Downsizing may be something you hear about more often with those in their golden years, but I can assure you that this activity does not have a target age range associated with it. More and more people I know are right-sizing their lives and learning to live with less in order to simplify their lives.
The less you own the less there is to downsize at some point. So when shopping, tuck these questions away in the back of your mind:
- Do I have a place for this in my home?
- How will I use this item?
- Is this a nicety or a necessity?
- What purpose will this serve in my life?
Downsizing is About Decision Making – Tough Decisions
The downsizing process actually begins before you even get things into your home. Many people shop to fill a void in their life only later to be very upset by the fact that they will not be able to recoup the amount of money they spent.
Moving is the perfect opportunity to downsize; why pack and pay to move things you won’t use again or no longer serve a purpose in your life?
Here are some questions to ask yourself during this process:
- When was the last time I used X?
- Does X still serve a purpose in my life?
- What is the worst that can happen if I let X go?
- Can I honor the memory of this item another way, such as taking a picture of it?
- Can someone else benefit now from X more than I?
- Am I controlling my stuff or is my stuff controlling me?
Get Support in Your Downsizing Process
To support you in your downsizing process, whether it is in your own home or if you are helping your parents, here are three excellent books you may want to use as resources:
Don’t Toss My Memories in the Trash: A Step-by-Step Guide to Helping Seniors Downsize, Organize and Move by Vickie Dellaquila.
Who Get Grandma’s Yellow Pie Plate Workbook: A Guide to Passing on Personal Possessions by the University of Minnesota Extension.
Rightsizing Your Life: Simplifying Your Surroundings While Keeping What Matters Most by Ciji Ware
If you happen to live in Washington State, the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties will be sponsoring a series of home seminars to assist you with your home projects. I will be giving a free seminar titled Rightsizing: Less Stuff = Less Stress at the Everett Public Library on Tuesday, March 13 at 7 p.m. The address is: 2702 Hoyt Avenue, Everett, WA 98201. During this seminar we will explore the following:
- Simple strategies to keep you from becoming overwhelmed
- Why there is more to right-sizing than just getting rid of stuff
- Ideas on what to do with all of your stuff
- Where to find help and resources
- How to plan your project
- How to right-size your treasures – what to keep and what to release
If you don’t live in Washington State, I encourage you to check with your local Master Builders Association to see if they offer similar programs.
I always appreciate your feedback and suggestions. If you like this topic, I can write another post in the future that will go more in depth on some of the ideas presented in the seminar.
Laura Leist, CPO
Organizing with Laura