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Downsizing 101: More on making decisions

In last week's post, I discussed making decisions, and how every single item is a decision. In follow-up discussions, I started to address how one might go about making some of those decisions.

As I noted last week, in the end, there are only two decisions, really: "keep" or "get rid of". Both have subsets, however. For "keep", one must decide whether it's being kept in storage of some sort (and what that might be - e.g., attic/basement/garage or rented storage space) or moved into the new space. For "get rid of", one has to decide whether it's going to a specific person, being donated somewhere (and, if so, where), being sold, or being thrown out.

Having worked into the "whats" of decision-making, I figured it might make sense to talk a bit about how to make these sorts of decisions, since it's the rare person who is going to decide based solely on "what I like best" or "what fits in my new place". One of the things my sweetheart and I are doing is deciding what we're keeping based on what we are calling a "must have" list. For each room, we decide what items we must have for the room to function properly. I mentioned this list before, and it means not adding extras, but focusing solely on necessities, and then figuring out which items fill those needs. Only after that are you supposed to start adding extras (like, say art for the walls, and candlesticks, and your doll/spoon/shotglass/salt & pepper shaker collection, or your hoard of crafting supplies).

It's important to ask yourself two key questions: 1) whether you love each object that you are considering, and 2) whether you use the object in question. You can actually start these in either order, because every single item has to jump through both hoops.

1. Do you love it?

You really ought to. Because life is too short to be surrounded by things you dislike or that you find oppressive to your spirits. If you're interested, it's good feng shui as well as good sense to surround yourself with things that make you happy and to put away (or get rid of) things that don't. If you despise an item, why would you want to keep it? (And yeah, I get "familial guilt" and all, but still . . . if you don't have space in your new place AND you don't like it, this is the sort of stuff that you should be thinking of liberating, in hopes it will find someone who really does like it.)

For clothing, optimally you should love the color and the style and the fit and the way you feel in it, but realistically, I go with "what I like and wear and don't mind being seen in." For items, it means you should enjoy seeing them or using them. It's kind of hard to love a can opener, but say you have two, and one hurts your hand and the other doesn't, it's pretty easy to decide you love the pain-free one. (If you have two and they BOTH hurt your hand, for goodness' sake, get rid of them both and get a new one that doesn't!)

If you've asked yourself if you love something, or if you at least don't dislike it, you still have to proceed to the next question:

2. Do you use it?

For clothing, this means "do you wear it?" And not in an "ever in life" way, but in a "within the past 12 months" way. If not, you probably ought to let it go, although I do believe in making the very occasional exception for this category as long as you have the storage space. That last caveat is very important. If you are crowding all of your stuff in order to keep a bunch of "maybe/just in case/but I love that dress/sweater/coat" items, then you are making every single day of your life harder than it needs to be, since you can't readily get to the stuff that fits and that you wear.

For every other item in the house, that same "within the past 12 months" rule applies. Possibly you only use that huge platter for turkey on Thanksgiving, and that's cool - when next Thanksgiving comes, you're still going to need it. If there's "stuff", though, that you haven't used in ages (and that isn't intended to serve a purely decorative function - those things are being used if they're being displayed, yes?), then you aren't using it, and it's a prime candidate for going. This is true, for example, of the ice cream machine I have. On the one hand, it's been in the house for about 13 years or so now, so it's old; on the other hand, it's never been used - not even once - so it's brand new. (Obviously, it's on my "get rid of" list.)

But Kelly, you may ask, what if I LOVE something, but I don't use it? Well, I suppose if you have the space, you ought to keep it, right? But if you don't really have the space, then a popular option appears to be for you to take a picture of it. Make a scrapbook, if you want. Keep the memories, but not the object.

3. Do or do not. There is no try "maybe".

The reason I do not advocate the use of a "maybe" pile is because if you are saying "maybe", you are essentially making a decision now to make the decision later, which isn't really solving anything. (It's kind of like the advice when sorting through mail to not handle things twice if you can avoid it. If it's trash/recycling, put it there right away, so you don't have to go through the mail again later; if it's filing, file it; etc.) So I usually opt for immediate "keep" or "get rid of", with an occasional pull-back from the "get rid of" pile before it actually leaves the house, and a few "never minds, this can go" moments that work the other way.

I have found, however, that if I've hit the point of decision fatigue, which we discussed last week (isn't it great to know what to call it?), I sometimes opt for a "maybe" pile because I simply can't go on, although the smarter thing for me to do at that point is probably just to STOP. Still, when I do that, most things in the "maybe" pile end up in the "get rid of" pile - another reason that I think use of the "maybe" pile isn't really a useful idea.

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( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 12th, 2013 01:22 pm (UTC)
Good advice!
Jun. 12th, 2013 08:42 pm (UTC)
Jun. 12th, 2013 05:22 pm (UTC)
Because you're going to be sharing a space with someone (yah for you!) do you take into consideration his likes and dislikes of the items?

I found that there was some compromise necessary in making these kinds of decisions...which leads me to our Moving Joke.

We were discussing which one of four dining tables to keep. (Yes, we had room for four in the house. And he liked and wanted to keep two. I liked and wanted to keep the other two.)

Me: We have to think of the big picture.
M: "Guernica"?

(edited to add: We ended up pitching all four and buying a new one.)

Edited at 2013-06-12 05:24 pm (UTC)
Jun. 12th, 2013 08:45 pm (UTC)
Of course I take his opinions into account! So far, no major disagreements. No minor ones, either, really, but I read him your comments and we both thought your joke was a great one. (Until today, I had four dining tables, too - one from Ikea, that's still in the basement, one antique in desperate need of refinishing that I'd trash-picked years ago (it's at the curb now), and two refurbished antiques, both of which I really love. We are probably going to keep my sweetheart's table, which is okay-ish, because it fits the space really well, but my two antiques will probably go into storage for the girls to have when they're ready to set up house.
Jun. 13th, 2013 02:09 am (UTC)
Where clothes are concerned, if I've not worn it in a year, it goes. UNLESS it's a superfancy outfit that only gets worn on occasion
Jun. 13th, 2013 02:14 pm (UTC)
Me too - same exception, even. Though I do have one vintage piece that was my mother's from the 60's (a jacket with a scarf/hood), which I don't wear. But perhaps I should.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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