Declutter to Downsize
There is something about being in my 50’s that has me contemplating the next phases of my life. Retirement, for one thing is frequently on my mind these days. I wonder, will my husband and I have enough money to retire comfortably? At what age will we be able to retire? Will we need to downsize in order to optimize our funds? What should we do now to start preparing for retirement? Is it too late to start saving more for retirement? These are just some of the questions rolling through my mind.
Perhaps the thing that is most on my mind these days is preparing for downsizing. As we’ve aged, I’ve found that we seem to be the typical couple who have upsized several times over the years and are now living in a 3,200-square foot home that is full of “stuff”. Our children have grown and started lives of their own, and our home is simply becoming too big for just the two of us. It’s not only the square footage that is becoming a burden, but also the maintenance required to keep our large home and property looking nice. It also seems that we have accumulated far more items than we could possibly need. So how then, do we begin the process of decluttering so we can downsize later? When we think of selling our home, we stop in our tracks, overwhelmed by the sheer amount of possessions we have accumulated over the years.
For us, decluttering will likely begin with shedding many of the belongings we have collected over the years. A good place to start seems like it would be in the formal rooms we rarely, if ever, use. Things like fine china and crystal seem to be a thing of the past. Many young couples and families don’t seem to need or want these items anymore, leaving us with no one to pass them along to. However, I checked with Replacements Ltd. and Classic Replacements who buy some china and crystal patterns, and that seems like a good option for us. We’ve also collected pieces of family china from my Mother-in-Law which sit and take up space, collect dust, and never get used. And let’s not forget the plastic tub in the garage filled with all of the Christmas dishes! I can’t help but wonder if I will regret selling those items, and therefore they continue to take up space in our home for now.
I recently read the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up By: Marie Kondo as well as following several blogs on downsizing and simplifying. The author’s advice is to only keep what brings you joy. This can be a hard rule of thumb to follow. Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist says that instead of asking “does it spark joy” we should ask “does it help me fulfill a greater purpose with my life?” When put in those terms, it becomes quite simple to determine whether or not I should keep or let go of an item.
A close friend of mine recently moved from her 3,400-sq. ft. home to a 700-sq. ft. boat with her family, including a dog and a cat. She tells me that she learned that they owned way too much stuff. They got rid of about 80% of their belongings and she said it was quite liberating. She gave away a lot of her possessions to people in need, and sold the rest. Her advice to others who are trying to downsize, “If you can’t get rid of something because you’re emotionally attached, box it up for three months and if you didn’t miss it, get rid of it.”
Here are a few suggestions if you are beginning the process of decluttering to downsize:
- Start Small- Declutter for 30 minutes a day, or clean one drawer or cupboard at a time.
- Get Organized-Divide items into piles for trash, recycle, to sell or donate.
- Be Thoughtful- Keep only items that meet your set criteria for saving, such as does it spark joy or does it help fulfill a greater purpose?
- Can’t decide? -Take my friend's advice and box the item for three months. If you didn’t miss it, it’s likely you don’t need it.
- Remember the Why- Why are you doing this? To improve your quality of life and have time and money for things that truly matter.
Courtney Carver, author of Be More with Less says, “If you need to buy more stuff just to organize your existing stuff, maybe you own too much stuff.” Truer words were never spoken! How many times have I made a trip to the store to buy more storage tubs and bins to organize all the stuff we already have? Too many to count. This quote really puts things in perspective.
There are so many books, blogs, and articles on decluttering, it can be hard to know where to start. I believe I will take Margit Novak’s advice as I prepare my home for eventual downsizing, “The key to downsizing is not finishing the process; it’s starting it.” I think I’ll start with those Christmas dishes. Now where did I put that tub?
Written By: Susan O’Leary
Kensington Gardens Estate Living Retirement Community
Published on Sep 15, 2017.