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Downsizing 101: Where to start

If you are anything like me, I pity you you begin nearly any new venture by researching your topic and reading up on it. Which is largely what I did last week, and I am still in the process of synthesizing what I've read and formulating my own plan, which I will undoubtedly foist upon share with you down the road.

About Downsizing

But first, a bit of explanation: As most of you know, I have a most wonderful sweetheart, with whom I am almost sickeningly in love. And we have decided, as many grown-ups do, to move in together in the not-too-distant-but-not-that-soon future (probably 1-2 years from now). After much consideration, we've decided that I will sell my house (same time frame) and move into his. (The third option, finding a new place all our own, was also considered, but discarded for a variety of factors.)

My current house is about 2100 square feet, with three bedrooms, two and a half baths, a living room, dining room, family room, eat-in kitchen, and partially finished basement. It is fully furnished in every area, plus there's an attic, basement, and garage full of "stuff". My sweetheart's house is about 1400 square feet, with three bedrooms, two baths, a living room, dining area, kitchen, and laundry room. It is fully furnished, too, although more sparsely than my house.

It's obvious that what's here (at my house) cannot all fit there (at his), and that some of what's there will be staying there. And some of what's here holds sentimental meaning, in addition to being attractive or otherwise useful. So I spent a while (several months, really) feeling overwhelmed because I had no idea where to start or what to do. I also felt kind of badly that I was feeling sad about the prospect of moving and getting rid of some of my stuff when the move is SUCH a good thing and for SUCH good reasons (relationship, financial, and otherwise).

What I learned from reading

I still don't have final answers, but I have figured out that starting by reading up on the subject was a Really Good Idea.

1. I learned that grief is a normal part of the process, which at least got rid of my guilt at feeling a bit sad about parts of this endeavor.

2. I learned that there are actual steps you can take to plan ahead and make your decisions easier. More on those in future posts.

3. Since there are literally hundreds of decisions to be made, making too many at one go is inadvisable - it's extremely draining, and can feel demoralizing. As a result, you need to allow yourself sufficient time to move through the process.

4. Time and constant progress are your friends: if you have at least a year, it's easier to work your way through your house; if you keep working at it in small segments on a regular basis, the momentum and progress will keep you going.

And I have found a site in particular that I found helpful, and that I thought you might like, too, if you are (a) considering a move or (b) wanting to reduce what you have in your own place, but aren't certain how to start. The site is called Being Organized 101, and it's run by Lisa Patriquin, Director and Founder of Being Organized 101. She is a Trained Professional Organizer and Mindset Release Coach (who knew there was such a thing?), and she approaches her tasks with care. Her motto is "Love your life, not your stuff." And she is kind enough to post a blog with useful tips and, moreover, to offer a free download of an extremely helpful e-book that she's written called I'm Downsizing, Now What?. (You just have to give her your email address in order to get the e-book, and believe me, it was worth it.)

I'm thinking of making these posts a regular Tuesday feature for a bit. Meanwhile, tomorrow it's back to blog business as usual - including a post about Shakespeare, since I do like my "Wednesdays with the Bard".

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( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 14th, 2013 06:56 pm (UTC)
This is SO relevant to me right now, as we're moving into a smaller house next month. Thanks so much for the link, and I'm looking forward to more of your posts about it!
May. 14th, 2013 09:01 pm (UTC)
I am glad it's useful information - that e-book is really good, Stephanie. Some of it is pretty much stuff you already know, but the fact that she's organized it into steps and provides a way for you to figure out a game plan for yourself is really great.
May. 14th, 2013 08:49 pm (UTC)
That site looks interesting. We have tons of junk, it seems, and my biggest problem is that I love getting organized but have a horrible time remaining that way. *sigh*
May. 14th, 2013 09:01 pm (UTC)
Possibly you are trying to force an organizational system on yourself that isn't really designed for how you operate best?
May. 14th, 2013 09:02 pm (UTC)
Be inspired by your 89 year old grandmother who downsized from her home of 57 or so years to one room albeit a large one in our home!!
May. 14th, 2013 11:51 pm (UTC)
I was thinking about that, Aunt Martha, and about how upsetting it was for her, even though it was a necessary and good thing!
(Deleted comment)
May. 15th, 2013 08:06 pm (UTC)
For stuff that you want to get rid of that's in good condition, try one of the local veterans' organizations. They'll usually come and pick it up from your house. And there's always Goodwill.

The paperwork is really something, isn't it? I have bins for tax returns. I am making binders for my appliance manuals, although I know there are sites where you can look up manuals for most appliances. There are links in this person's blog post.

I could never get rid of my roasting pan.
May. 15th, 2013 12:13 am (UTC)
i'm doing this all wrong o_O
o m g ~ so my strategy of opening the front door and flinging things onto the curb each trash day is not my optimal means of downsizing? because of my brief time span (46 days), i am deciding to bring less and less. i am leaving a home similar to yours, and moving into a 2 bedroom mobile home... and i couldn't be happier. i am finding the whole process incredibly liberating, and am loving the whole experience of watching my belongings leave my home to bless someone else the way they can't bless mine.
we are blessed <3
May. 15th, 2013 08:21 pm (UTC)
Re: i'm doing this all wrong o_O
Sounds like you're doing it just right, Shelagh. Letting go of stuff is what's necessary, and as long as you're happy letting go, then you can't be doing it wrong!!
May. 15th, 2013 08:49 am (UTC)
Best of luck! I have to say, the most helpful thing for us was a deadline -- we moved overseas from a 3-bedroom house that sounds a lot like yours (A does tech art and collected parts that "might be useful someday") to a 2-room flat and brought a total of 14 boxes with us (including A's 2 boxes for his desktop tower and monitor!).

We kept books, furniture, and some clothing in storage and otherwise went through a brutal process of donation and elimination. The night of our move, we saw what we were taking, realized it was too much, and cut it in half. Totally killed our darlings.

We miss some things -- mostly books and vinyl -- but I don't think we'll ever go back to having that much space or that much stuff. It feels REALLY good to know exactly what we have and where it is and to use all of it.

The process is really hard at first because every object seems precious (and some are!), but as soon as you sell your house and have to move, you'll end up going through tons of material quickly and finding new homes for things you love with people who will love and appreciate them. I promise the end result will be worth it, no matter how hard the process may be at times!
May. 15th, 2013 08:23 pm (UTC)
Thank you for that inspiration and encouragement!! (I really missed you at the NESCBWI conference this year, but I suppose it's a bit too far to travel for a weekend conference, huh?)
May. 15th, 2013 08:53 am (UTC)
Good for you! I come from a long line of women who are unable to let go of stuff, with hard work & determination I've conquered a lot of it (cleaning out great-aunt Stella's home was very motivating) but still struggle with books, paperwork and sentimental objects.

One trick I learned from the old TV show "Clean Sweep" was to take a photo of a sentimental item you don't actually need anymore and keep that instead of the item. It worked for my bridesmaid dresses & some other things.
May. 15th, 2013 08:32 pm (UTC)
I imagine that cleaning out someone else's stuff after they're gone, and seeing how much stuff they kept "just in case" or "just because" is probably a great motivator to paring down at least a bit.

The "taking photos" thing is definitely on my list of to-dos. Particularly for my kids' artwork from when they were small. I've been sorting it, and am going to take photos of lots of it and have books made at Snapfish for each of them, plus they will each receive one plastic box with stuff in it, so they can look back at it later in life if they so desire. I may end up using it for a few pieces of furniture, too.

I've been culling books for a year already, simply because there were too many books and not enough shelving - and that's here, now, before I downsize. So I still have miles to go in that area.

One thing I am currently working on is the creation of binders for my owner's manuals. I have one for all the stuff that goes with the house, which I made yesterday. Today, I'm going to put together the one for portable things. (TVs, snowblower, etc.) Eventually, most of those items will go (but probably not move), but it will be nice to have all the information in one place.
May. 15th, 2013 08:48 pm (UTC)
You have no idea how inspiring it is to go through bags and bags of newspaper clippings and unused recipes, and unlabeled family photos that nobody recognizes anymore. There was a whole bag of matchbooks, and dozens of restaurant sugar cubes.

Your art plan sounds awesome, especially the Snapfish part that lets you keep the photos in a way that will be easy for you to look at.

I love your idea of binders for the owner's manuals. I put mine in plastic storage envelopes, but I think binders would be easier to keep organized, especially since you can buy those great little plastic magazine holders that just slip into the manual so you can put it into the binder (if you haven't seen those yet, google "magazine binder" - I never can seem to embed links properly in these replies).

I force all of my books to justify their existence on my shelves every couple of years (except the picture books), but it's hard going. Some years ago Dad made me some little "risers" for my shelves out of scrap wood so that I can have two rows of trade paperbacks per shelf and still see all of them - otherwise my house would be entirely taken over by bookshelves instead of only mostly taken over.
May. 15th, 2013 05:33 pm (UTC)
This brought back vivid memories of our oqn general purge before we moved to England. It was tough to live through - especially since I was committed to finding good homes for things and freecycling/donating/Craig's-listing rather than throwing away - but I'm glad we had to reassess and let go of things we didn't really need.

The book that helped me most was SCALING DOWN by Judi Culbertson and Marj Decker. Smart and humane and so very, very good at helping me let go of stuff.
May. 15th, 2013 08:33 pm (UTC)
Ooh - thanks for the book recommendation, Amy. I will have to see if my library has it. (My first response was to run off and order it, but I need another book in my house like I need a hole in my head!)
May. 15th, 2013 11:40 pm (UTC)
You're lucky that you have a year or two to do this.

When you have a house you tend to fill it up with things. Then, when you have to downsize suddenly, you are overwhelmed. The books were the hardest things to cull. Second-worst thing to dispose of was our antique baby grand piano. But we did it--all in six weeks! (I hope I never have another six weeks like that again.)
May. 18th, 2013 05:06 pm (UTC)
I remember when you had to do that, and how rough it was for you. I am getting rid of MY antique baby grand piano, too - and a bunch of antiques that I don't use/need.
May. 17th, 2013 04:24 pm (UTC)
So happy about all the things that are happening for you. WHAT a decision. I'm going to enjoy your posts on this. We have no move planned, frankly indefinitely(which is pretty weird in itself), but I'm a big fan of downsizing just cause!
May. 18th, 2013 05:08 pm (UTC)
After the divorce, I feng shui-ed a lot of stuff that I didn't really care for, use, or need, but it's NOTHING like what I've got to do now with this move coming up. Still, every thing that leaves the house makes me feel a bit lighter and more liberated, which is how you can tell it's the right stuff to go out.
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )

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