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10 great downsizing tips: Mucking out the memories

Moving Boxes

After my blog vent on “Downsize This!” and after that grisly marriage-blasting, nerve-pinching experience of selling our honkin’-huge-house and downsizing our worldly attachments – here we are a year later and Hubsey and I are happily ensconced in our condo.

Thankfully, I no longer see that goggle-eyed, crazed woman staring back at me in the mirror. Our little storage locker is chock-full of Christmas decorations, photo albums and fishing gear. Nothing else. It’s amazing how we boiled it all down to the bones and survived the madness. Do I miss the rest? Sometimes. But mostly there's an incredible sense of relief; a simple freedom in de-cluttering our lives.

Top 10 things I learned:

1. A floor plan of our new condo was invaluable. We measured each piece of furniture and made cut-outs so we could move them around on the floor plan like a doll house. This was a great way to see what furniture would be the best fit in our new place. Warning: not recommended for sissies. Big screen TV's and well-loved recliners may not be condo-worthy.

2. We taped an outline of our condo storage locker on the floor - like they do for dead bodies. After much pushing, pulling and pouting, we stacked the things we couldn’t part with in this space – like a precarious block of Lego’s. If it didn’t fit, it didn’t get on the moving truck. Proceed with caution: can be deadly to relationships.

3. No off-site storage allowed! Sometimes when the pushing, pulling and pouting didn’t work, and we reached an impasse on what to keep, we were tempted to cheat and rent a storage locker. Fortunately, our daughter arrived in full swat-gear to talk us down from the ledge. When it’s stored, it gets ignored!

4. Beware of auction houses! The two companies we used were shockingly dishonest by controlling bids to fall within their highest commission parameters – and by directing some sales to their friends – or to their spouses for resale in their own shops. Make a detailed list before you give them anything. Then kiss your assets good-bye.

5. Before we sold our collectables, we checked sculptures, paintings, carvings, china and so on, for signatures and markings – and tried to determine the value by checking the internet. A sort-of-do-it-ourselves 'Antiques Road Show.' The money's in the details; the devil's in the dark.

6. A longer closing date would have given us time to sell more stuff online. As it was, we were pressured into hustling our belongings out the door, like unwanted house guests. Remember the rule of three: a minimum of 3 months for closings and a maximum of 3 nights for visitors. Don't get them confused!

7. Our yard sale was a great way to recycle. We priced to sell, grouped similar items together and the bargain-pickers were lined up around the block. We sold everything! The boxes of “Free Stuff” we put at the end of the drive was a big hit. They took that too and saved us a trip to the dump. My garage runneth empty; my fanny-pack runneth full... of coins.

8. I made a list of household items I had for sale and emailed or handed it out to everyone I could. Friends, relatives, real estate contacts, trades people, the new buyers etc. Sold lots of stuff this way. Be bold. You've gotta tell to make it sell.

9. Parting with books isn’t easy. But a targeted donation can help to ease the teary-pain of separation. For example, I donated several boxes of children’s books to a Ronald McDonald House, and a collection of creative writing books to my high-school teacher-niece, who made a special library for herself and her students. 'Tis a far far better thing I do... than I have ever done hoarding my books.

10. Charities were a great place to donate clothing and household goods. Many agencies picked up right at my door. Recycling and consignment shops were also good options, but they had lots of restrictions on what they would take. A bit of homework was needed, but worth the effort. So when in doubt, don't throw it out.

Final word

While mucking out the memories was one of the most difficult things I have ever done, the memories themselves are surprisingly alive and kicking up dust bunnies. The good news is – I love that a lot of our stuff has been recycled to someone out there. The bad news is – I hate that a lot of our stuff has been recycled to someone out there. It all depends on the day.

Now as I sit and write this rhyme, I look back on those days in time, Remembering how we were stressed, And acting like two fools possessed.

So here's the moral to my tale; Don't put your big-ass-house for sale! Stay where you are until you're dead, The kids can muck it out instead.

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Pat Skene is a retired banking officer and writer of

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#downsizing #home #retirement #tips #silverandgold #magazine #seniors #moving #storage #boomers

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