When you are a family of five you acquire quite a few items. Even as those children start to fly off to start their own lives they end up leaving a hoard of items at your house. Somehow you end up with more than ¾ of all the stuff they couldn’t bear to get rid of that is cluttering up your home. That might not seem like that much if you have only 1 child, but when you have 2,3, or 4 children it becomes a mountain. I once had things stashed in my mom and dad’s storage unit and at my own home. It was out of control and it was finally time to act.
However, once all your children are gone and you take stock of everything that is left you will probably feel overwhelmed. That is ok. But once your children are gone you may decide to downsize your home and when you do, you’ll be left with mountains of items and decisions of what to do with all this stuff.
Don’t worry though we are going to help you figure out what to do with all of the items you have acquired over your lifetime….and even the stuff that you inherited from other people.
Tell anyone who has used your home for storage that they have one month to get everything they want out because you are downsizing and you just won’t have the room for it anymore. This is, of course, your home and you are not running a storage unit. First try reaching them by phone, then make sure you send them a letter and put a delivery confirmation on it, so you can confirm they received it. After all, you do not want to accidentally get rid of something that is really important and make someone very upset. Worse case scenario you can always bring it over to them and see if they still want it.
Start One Room At A Time
Take one room at a time. If you look at everything throughout the house that has got to go, it will only give you a headache and make you feel overwhelmed before you even get started. At one time in my life I had an entire room filled with clothes that had built up over 18 years from a family of 5. I even still had baby clothes from my first born. Looking at it all made me want to lie down and take a nap, but I just started by picking up one piece at a time. Within a few days, I had finally gotten through every single piece. I ended up donating 20 bags of clothes to Goodwill and the Women’s Abuse and Battered Shelters.
So, focus on the one room or area at a time.
Our clothes are probably the biggest collection of any one item most of us have to purge. Some of us (myself included) might even still be hanging on to stuff from high school. If you look at all the clothing-related items that we hang on and will never actually be worn again: momento baby clothes, wedding dresses, a Christening suit/dress, and on and on. It is no wonder we are all drowning in a mountain of clothing. It is time to pare down that mighty mountain into a mini mole hill.
Here are the suggestions for what you should keep and get rid of when it comes to your clothes.
- Create three piles of clothing you want to: (1) KEEP – (2) TOSS – (3) DONATE
- Keep everything you still love and still wear
- You have probably heard this one before but here it is again. Some say 6 months – I say one year…if you haven’t worn it in a year (even if you love it) get rid of it. Even if it has that rip you swear you are going to fix or a missing button you promise yourself you are going to get to one day. We’ve all said it and yet it has sat on a pile of to-dos for 2 years or more. Just donate it and give it to someone who will actually use it and love it.
- If it is stained or torn beyond repair get rid of it. I mean how many “I might need this for painting the house or doing a project” shirts do you need? But do consider ripping up some of those cotton t-shirts for cleaning rags.
- Keep clothes that are simple in design and can be paired with anything.
- If it is out-of-style or doesn’t match anything else you own, put it in the donate pile.
- If you are really desperate to hang on to a few things put the items in a box or storage container. That way they are there in case you really want to wear them. Write the date on the box and store it in an accessible area. In a year, go back – and if you haven’t needed, missed or even thought about an item in that box within that year, then it’s time to donate or toss.
- There is an exception to all these rules and that is the “I can’t live without” rule. We all have that one shirt or pair of sweat pants that is just our go-to comfy wear. I, in fact, break I believe, three rules with my “I can’t live without” item. I have a flannel from my high school days, that is ripped and missing buttons that I will wear over tank tops to be comfy. So if you too have an item that is torn, stained, missing buttons, out-of-style or whatever – but you wear it because it is your “go to-comfy wear,” then keep it.
- If it doesn’t fit, get rid of it. Sure you might lose those 10 pounds but if you do then go out and buy new stuff. Hanging onto it is just cluttering up your home.
- I keep a donation bag in my room. So as I am putting clothes on and I realize “WOW. I look awful in this now.” I can take it off and throw it in the donation bag. Once it is full I donate it. You could even splurge and buy a nice donation hamper, so your closet looks nice.
Literally – this is a firesale. Close your eyes and imagine that everything in your home has been destroyed by a fire. Nothing is left and you have to start all over again. Really think about it. Now, what would you actually replace that is important to you and what could you live without?
Make a list
Make a list and break up the categories into must have, can live without and I can replace.
- Must Have
Your must haves, will obviously be coming with you to your new home.
- Can Live Without
Your “can live withouts,” are the items that you can sell, donate or get rid of entirely in some way. At the very least, they are not necessary. This doesn’t mean you have to get rid of them. It just means that if space becomes an issue, they will be the first to go. If you are so inclined you could also number these on a sliding scale from most desirable to keep to least.
- I Can Replace
This list is reserved for the items that you can sell and buy something better or even smaller than what you currently have. For instance, do you currently have a 65-inch flat screen TV? Well in a smaller living area such a large TV isn’t necessary. Do you have a huge sectional couch with recliners? You could sell those and instead, buy a smaller couch and love seat combo that will suit your new space better. Do you own a large extra capacity washer and dryer? Without all the extra clothes from the kids, you could get away with a smaller stackable combo.
****FYI this also a perfect time to make a detailed home inventory for your renter’s or homeowner’s insurance.
So. We’ve finally figured out what you don’t want or need. Now what to do with it right? There are a few options and really it comes down to how much work you really want to put into it. We have Ebay, Craigslist, Facebook, Estate Sales, Yard Sales, and Donation (for tax credit). We will look at each one a little closer to give you the ins and outs and pros and cons. One great thing about Ebay and Craigslist is that they both have phone apps and phone notifications when bids are made or messages are received. So you are always in the know. That isn’t the case with the other options.
If you have never used Ebay before, you will want to find someone you trust to help walk you through the ins and outs. Because one mistake can cost you a lot of money and headaches.
It is easy to sell through Ebay. In fact, I sell a lot through Ebay. However, it also helps to accept Paypal which is the preferred payment method, so the person that helps you with Ebay will need to help you set that up too. Once, you get the hang of it, you can make some nice money. I would do some research on Ebay to make sure that what you are selling is actually selling on Ebay. People post things all the time that just sit there and never sell, so you will want to do a little research and determine which method is the best way to sell your item.
Craigslist used to be a great way to get your items seen by a lot of people. It has fallen a bit from its “Heyday” due to some unsavory folks, but it is still a useful tool. If you have never used Craigslist this is also a time that you can enlist the help of someone who knows the ins and outs. However, unlike Ebay where one tiny slip up can cost you a lot of headaches Craigslist is pretty straightforward.
After signing up for an account. You simply chose the category of your item, describe it in detail, put down your price, add your pictures (this is key – listings with pictures outsell listing without pictures 5 to 1) and leave contact info. I recommend leaving the contact info as Craigslist has it. Craigslist generates a temporary email to mask your actual email when people want to contact you. I also recommend that you remember to click the “I do not want to be solicited for anything other than my listed ad.” When meeting someone who comes to your home to purchase your item – I recommend taking precautions, and always having someone with you. After all, you don’t know this person and you are inviting them to your house. If you aren’t comfortable having them to your house meet them at a neutral location. AND never, ever accept money orders, wire transfers or Paypal over the phone/internet. Craiglist strongly encourages CASH only transactions, made in person.
If the internet isn’t your thing and you want to go the tried and true way, there is always yard sales. Be sure to advertise well and price things ready to go and enlist the help of your friends or family for extra eyes. If you do not relish the idea of all the work bringing everything out into your yard, pricing everything, haggling, dealing with strangers and such, consider an Estate sale company.
Estate sale companies make their living by helping others who need to sell items but who don’t or don’t want to spend the time doing all the work associated with selling their items. They will take care of researching any items that need to be authenticated, pricing your items correctly, setting up everything for the sale, and handing you over a nice big check at the end. Of course they do take a portion of the profits.
If the thought of the hassle of selling your items gives you a headache you might want to consider donating your items. Donating is a great way to give back to your community. Plus it is a nice tax right off. Below is listed some good places to contact to donate your items to.
Goodwill – There is a Goodwill almost everywhere you go. If you can’t find a Goodwill there is also Goodwill bins. They then sell the items to help out the local community.
Local Church or Temple Organizations – There is usually a local organization that supports your area. For my area, it is the St.Vincent De Paul. They accept donations and can even do pick ups for the bigger items. Check your local area for what organizations are in your area. They then sell the items to help out the local community.
Women’s Shelters and other such places – Maybe you just want your items given to people who really need them. Places like a Women’s Shelter for the Battered and Abused take in items and then give them away to help the women start a new life. With a little looking, you can find plenty of places that are willing to accept your donations.
Once you get into that nice new space with all your downsized items it doesn’t mean you can never buy anything new again. So you’ll need some ideas on how to keep your new small space organized.
Here’s a few life hacks for storage
- Use a metal shower caddy for organizing your office supplies.
- Is your bathroom tiny? Install a wooden plank above a doorway as a storage shelf.
- Don’t have room for a bookshelf? Try hanging metal baskets on the wall for book storage.
- Don’t know where to store wrapping paper? You can store it on the ceiling of your closet by attaching two separate pieces of frame wire to the ceiling and then sliding the wrapping paper through the two pieces.
Downsizing it a big step to take but hopefully with these tips – that major step will be downsized to a few minor steps for you.
By Alisa Bashaw – for the 50 Plus Report