Downsizing. We all talk about it. Just the word “downsizing” can cause angst in some and excitement in others. Be it the kids growing up and moving out, the need for a home that meets our aging bodies or a desire to join the minimalist movement of less is more and tiny houses… it is a big topic.
Most of us know we own too much stuff and the thought of sorting through it all is overwhelming. The average home has nearly tripled in size over the last 50 years and we have an average of 300,000 items in our households.
But it is more than the labor of sorting our stuff that make most reluctant to downsize but instead they are emotional reasons. Our homes don’t only hold our things but also hold our memories. The thought of moving into a smaller home without room for our children and grandchildren to visit isn’t possible.
The house is so much more than just walls and sheetrock. It is doorframes with growth charts, gardens with years of growth, and rooms lovingly decorated over the years.
But, downsizing doesn’t have to mean getting rid of things you love. It doesn’t even have to mean leaving your home. I prefer to think of it as having a lifestyle makeover – cleaning your space and time to allow a new adventure and your next phase of life.
Chris and I moved more than thirteen times in his career before we settled in Fayette County. We were lucky that they were corporate moves where a company came and packed the boxes. We didn’t stay long enough in a home to become attached. We were so busy anticipating the next step up that we didn’t have to take the time to consider what not to take. We were moving up and there would be room for all the stuff.
That was not the case with our big move – the selling of the farm. It wasn’t a big working farm but it was a beautiful piece of property for our horses. The home was remodeled and we made it our own. It was the place where we finally put down roots for our children and where they grew up. But once our children were on their own and the horses were gone, it just seemed big and the upkeep was time consuming. It tied us down. Rather than bush hogging the empty pastures, we dreamed of sitting on the beach.
We thought it would take time to sell and our plan was to slowly sort through the collection of stuff that we had gathered. The easily accessible attic storage space and a barn with a hayloft had been my friend as I saved the kids artwork, favorite toys and outfits. I had a place to put the boxes marked as “momentos to save,” I had boxes of decorations and supplies for every holiday from my years as a room mother and scout leader. There were boxes and boxes including unpacked boxes with 13 different moving company stickers.
When the house quickly sold and we had two weeks to get out, I had to start sorting and slimming down fast. I really can’t tell you what was going through my mind except a feeling of excitement and a lot of panic.
There are many great theories out there, but there was no time to ‘talk to each item and determine its value.’ Our task was so drastic that we brought in dumpsters, storage pods and lots of stackable containers. I started by sorting. Things to keep, things for our kids and family, things to give away or donate, and things to trash.
In the end, the “pulling off the bandaid” method changed my lifestyle. The urgency of the move gave me the push I needed to get rid of things I didn’t need. It made me look at the momentos I had saved and decide what was really important.
Our home sale was so quick that we didn’t have time to think about where we were going, so I had no preconceived ideas of what furniture I was going to need to keep. I only kept what I loved.
As it ended up, we took our time, renting homes in different areas before finding our place at the beach. I can honestly say that I only lost one irreplaceable item in the downsizing (a really funny ballet video of Liz at age six). There have been a few items I have had to rebuy. But now, it easier to find things and I am able to display what I love in my home rather than have so much that it is packed up or stuffed on a shelf. Our new home requires less maintenance providing an easier lifestyle filled with hobbies and travel. Life is good.
Our method to reorganize our life.
Our goal is to be organized and give everything a place.
Sometime it helps to have a disinterested friend or family to help decide what to keep. The kids were given the opportunity to take the things they wanted and different friends sat in support with me as I tossed items from the attic.
After the move, I wanted to get rid of cardboard boxes, so I purchased large stackable containers from the hardware store for items in the attic and garage. Everything is labled for easy access.
As I unpacked, I reassessed items and considered where they would fit in my new home. As a result, many more items found their way out of my life.
How I downsized: if it was worn out, didn’t fit, was uncomfortable or I had not worn it in its last season – it went in the trash or to a charity.
How I stay downsized: With a smaller home and less closet space, my closet rotates by season. When starting a season, I put the hangers on the closet bar backwards. When I wear something, the hanger goes on the closet rod the correct way. All clothes with a backward hanger at the end of the season are tossed or donated.
Books and cookbooks
How I downsized: I realized that with the internet I rarely used my collection of cookbooks. So with the exception of a few sentimental ones, my shelves of cookbooks were donated or given away. I kept my favorite books and donated all the rest.
How I stay downsized: I use my kindle for most of my reading. If I purchase a book, I either plan to pass it along or it will have to have a place like the coffee table and become decor. After I read a magazine, I throw it away or pass it along. (That is of course with the exception of Fayette Woman Magazines which are in my office.)
How I downsized: I had a cardboard file box of old files for every year since 1982 in the attic. I disposed of paperwork that was 7 years or older- with the exception of records of important events that would be family history records. (The hospital bills from the children’s birth, important health and shot records, the closing document of house sales, etc). I paid to have the paperworked shredded.
How I stay downsized: I put all the tax documents for each year in a large envelope with the date and then the date seven years out (for example: 2010 -> 2018) When I file a year of taxes, I dispose of a year. It is very manageable and a personal shredder can do the job. I can easily find important paperwork for the last seven years if need be.
The important papers that I saved, never intending to dispose of, are also filed in the same spot. The current years paperwork is kept accessible in a single file drawer if a digital version isn’t available.
Old Toys and Baby things
How I downsized: Of course we all anticipate grandchildren one day and as a result we hold onto momentos, clothes, furniture and toys our own children enjoyed. When deciding what to keep and what to ditch, I thought about safety. If there was any chance that small parts would come loose or it would be deemed unfit, out it went. The baby furniture had already been passed down, but we kept the rocking chair that was a family heirloom.
I sorted through the toys and allowed myself one box for each of my children’s favorites and best toys. They had to be safe, clean and have all parts. I kept the special baby blankets, baptism gowns and smocked dresses. If clothing was soiled and would not be wearable, it wasn’t kept. I choose some school work and art samples, special cards, notes, and vacation momentos. Scout badges, awards, horse ribbons and trophies were saved.
How I stay downsized: I purchased sturdy, stackable storage containers and allowed one for each of the children’s artwork and momentos. I kept a Lionel Train set, a Brio Thomas the Train, a few Breyer horses, an American Girl Doll and a box of favorite books which were stored in a container in the attic. I cut up old t-shirts and made a t-shirt quilts. For the special baby outfits, I found a picture of the kids in the outfits and vacume sealed each outfit and picture together.
Photos and Videos
How I downsized: I’m not one to throw away family history and pictures are a big part of that. I scanned important photos and made sure they were all sorted by date and family members.
We didn’t own a video camera for a long time, so I only had a few vhs tapes to save. I do however have a large collection of DVD movies. I ditched the packaging and filed them in sleeves. They now fit in one box just a bit larger than a shoe box. Our music CD’s were downloaded to our iTunes account.
How I stay downsized: Most everything I do now is digital. I only print off pictures I take if they are being framed and placed on the wall. I make small photo books online rather than large scrapbooks. There are less supplies to store and the books take up less space. I do still own a VCR and watch my favorite DVD’s but I haven’t bought a DVD in years thanks to Netflix and other movie channels.
How I downsized: If it didn’t work or was out dated it was donated or sent to the dump. We had fun taking the hard drives out of computers and smashing them. Maybe that was security over kill, but it was a good stress release. I do caution you to check your DVD and VCR players. I think the missing VHS ballet video was probably left in an old player that was donated.
How I stay downsized: Modern technology has helped by getting smaller. Plus, our goal is to get outside and spend less time looking at screens.
Furniture and Decor
How I downsized: This was my opportunity to redecorate and I was excited for the fresh new look. All extra tables, worn chairs, sofas and unhung pictures were set aside to allowed our children to take what they needed for their homes and then I consigned or donated the rest.
Table linens that did not fit a table were passed along. Old bedspreads were saved to wrap items for the move but were passed on afterwards. Frayed and worn towels and linens were donated to the humane society.
How I stay downsized: I don’t buy anything for the house that I don’t know where I am putting it. If I bring something in, I take something out. Actually, I say that… but you know how that goes.
How I downsized: I love dishes but knew I wouldn’t have the space or need for all I have. I kept the ones that were the most valuable and sentimental. I sorted through through extra coffee mugs, pots and pans, casserole dishes only keeping a few in assorted sizes. After my kids took what they wanted the rest were consigned or donated.
How I stay downsized: I decided to actually use the good china instead of keeping it “safe” in the cabinet. Now that my new and much smaller kitchen is set up, I have filled in with new servng dishes that fit the coastal life style better. I purchased a few really nice pieces of cookware and live by the thought of less is more.
Tools and Garage stuff
How I downsized: This was Chris’ job. Any of the tools that were farm-related were donated to friends. Our new community includes taking care of the grounds, so all the yard tools were donated. He kept his nice power tools and organized the garage. Everything he needed from the basement and a 3-car garage is now organize and stored in our 1 car garage.
How I stay downsized: Like our other purchases, we don’t get things in case we need them but instead only if we need them. We also consider renting tools or borrowing them from friends.