When you’re 50+, your next move is most likely a downsizing move. The kids are grown and out the door. The home maintenance is becoming a drag. You might be feeling the proverbial midlife crisis (which I prefer to call a “midlife opportunity“). You yearn for something different, now that your life feels different.
In other words, your interests are evolving or your needs have changed. Either way, a simpler setup in a smaller space appeals. It all makes sense. So when it’s time to start the downsizing process, does it unfold smoothly? Well … maybe not so much! Sit back, relax, and read on about these 4 decluttering facts that catch many of us off guard. When you know these uninvited visitors tend to pop in unannounced, you can be prepared to show them the door!
Decluttering Fact #1: Hardly Anyone is Fully Ready to Let Stuff Go!
Deep down, no one really wants too much stuff. We feel the weight of it when we open a full closet or jam-packed cabinet. We see it when we are searching for something else in the house. And we grumble about it when it gets in our way.
But when we have available space, it’s easy to hang on to things for now or for “someday”. Many of us were raised to not be wasteful. Others are simply more relaxed with what comes into the home and never leaves. Yet there comes the day when it’s time to get serious. We feel sad to say goodbye to things we loved or needed at one point. And then we feel stuck. Why is it so hard to get rid of what we truly don’t need or use?
Our things are more than just things! They represent where we’ve been, what we’ve loved and who we’ve longed to be. Even though the memories will stay with us, we still balk at releasing the symbols of our life story. So we hang on, and, before you know it, there are dozens of boxes labeled “miscellaneous”. Where will these boxes land in the new place?
Decluttering Fact #2: Family Stuff is Sticky with Sentiment!
It’s a relief to release the odds and ends we accumulate over a lifetime. Goodwill is a common recipient of those items. Outdated clothing, obsolete reference books, assorted knickknacks … off they go!
But when it comes time to consider Grandma’s silver tea set or your high school yearbooks, it’s a whole different story. We may not display all our inherited or nostalgic items but they can still conjure up heartfelt memories. And now as we gaze at these things, it’s difficult to part with them. It feels like we’re dishonoring memories of loved ones or our own personal history!
Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with keeping a few select items like a tea pot, a serving platter or a picture collage. Displaying or using treasured pieces makes a home uniquely our own. But when they go from the old closet to the new closet … when they’re not claimed by your own children or used in your new home … does their continued storage make sense?
Decluttering Fact #3: We Lose Objectivity When Pricing Items to Sell!
Remembering what we paid for certain items makes it difficult to digest what today’s buyer is willing to pay. How about the low starting bid for the folk art collection you lovingly curated all these years? Or consider the pennies on the dollar you make when selling your 1990’s designer duds.
Of course, there is money to be extracted out of specific categories such as MidCentury Modern furniture or rare coins. But the fact of the matter is, there are hundreds of thousands of 55+ aged sellers looking to offload housefuls of similar items. It’s really a buyer’s market, for the most part. Again, you can make money but it will take time and effort to do so. It’s not as simple or easy to resell as most might think.
Decluttering Fact #4: It’s a Bigger Job than We Anticipate!
When things are hidden in drawers, closets and cabinets, it’s easy to underestimate just how much stuff we have! If you’re a highly organized person, even you can have far more personal belongings than you think. Day 1 of decluttering is generally overwhelming for most. We work all day in one room and then we realize how many more rooms there are to go. Of course, we don’t accumulate all our belongings overnight. So it follows that it won’t be an overnight process to sort through and make decluttering choices, either.
We can often be in denial about downsizing as part of our future. But adopting a pragmatic stance that it’s inevitable can be quite helpful. With that in mind, start early and declutter often. If you want to pass things down to your children, ask them now. Don’t assume they want or can take everything. And don’t be offended if they say no. After all, isn’t that how we ended up with some of our own stuff? Would we want them to take something unwillingly and then just stow it in a closet? That’s passing along guilt, too!
Downsizing is not for the faint of heart, no doubt about it. In order to minimize the mindsets that can hold you back, start decluttering now, even if you don’t have your next destination finalized. We all have many items in our homes that are obvious candidates for the trash, a donation or a selling venue. In fact, carving out a specific time slot each day or week to focus on decluttering will really put you in a good place. It’s surprising what 20-30 minutes a day will accomplish over time. Circle back to this post, 3 Considerations to Maximize Your Return When Selling Your Stuff for resale tips.
Knowing that you’ll eventually have one or two fewer bedrooms or storage space is enough intel to release what’s currently in those areas now. And be sure to allow for “breathing space”! Head over here and listen to Matt D’Avella’s novel idea about honoring sentimental stuff.
Ultimately, the most important things are not “things”. They are “experiences”. And experiences take up hardly any space at all!
- Have you recently started or finished reducing your stuff?
- Which decluttering fact challenges you the most?
- In hindsight, what would you do differently?