By Jane Moore
Photo courtesy of Unsplash
Downsizing is a commitment to a simpler life, unburdened by the clutter of accumulated possessions. It means living in a smaller home with more manageable living expenses and reduced property taxes. It also means paying lower mortgage payments, which is welcome in an area like Denver where home prices have jumped (up nine percent since last year). If you’re looking for more freedom, a smaller home also means less maintenance and upkeep inside and outside. However, it’s not always an easy change to make.
Getting rid of belongings that have personal meaning and which elicit memories can be a daunting emotional challenge, and it requires a commitment to see it through. That’s why it’s important to have a plan and to approach the task methodically so you don’t become overwhelmed by its psychological and physical demands.
Take Your Time
Take the time to do it right. Go room by room, handling each item before deciding whether to keep, donate, or throw it away. Ask yourself why you purchased this object in the first place, and whether it’s serving any useful purpose. Will anyone miss it? Does it have too much personal meaning to get rid of? Do you have room for it at your new home?
Once you’ve answered these questions, make separate piles and follow through on your intention with each pile. Don’t just leave items you intend to get rid of piled up in a corner or shoved in a closet. Put the objects you’re going to donate in your car so you can drop them off at Goodwill or the Salvation Army. If you have belongings you just can’t decide what to do with, consider putting them into storage for a while before making a commitment.
If you have a lot of papers to go through, make a pile for official documents, receipts and things you need to keep or can scan and store on your hard drive. Take the old bills and other papers you can purge to a shredding facility if you aren’t able to shred them at home. Remember, the majority of your papers aren’t important enough to hang onto.
Know Your New Space
If you don’t know how much space you have, you could end up with more stuff than you have room for, so take measurements in your new home before jumping into the downsizing process. If you’re moving into a considerably smaller space, it may be necessary to get rid of a few pieces of furniture or place them into storage. Knowing what you have to work with will also make it easier on moving day, since you’ll know exactly what pieces can go where, and which rooms each box should be left in for unpacking.
Keep Up the Good Work
Once you’ve purged yourself of all those duplicate items, the old keepsakes you can’t remember why you kept and ATM receipts from three years ago, maintain the good habits you’ve begun by downsizing. It’ll keep the clutter under control and help you reap the benefits of fewer belongings. Keep papers separated according to importance, and clean and organize things immediately rather than allowing them to pile up. Go through your clothes at the beginning of each season and decide what you can do without. Throw away or donate all those old ties you haven’t worn for years. And once you’ve finished, consider hiring a maid service for a one-time cleaning, which can cost you between $25 and $50 per hour.
If you still have a few things that you want to keep but simply don’t have room for in your new space, consider renting a self-storage space to house them. However, keep in mind that you’ll need to pay a monthly fee for this service, so make sure there’s room in your budget and that you research rates in your area. For example, in Denver, you’ll pay around $80 a month on average for a 10’x10’ unit, but you can find a same-sized unit for $35 per month.
Be Discriminating with New Items
Be careful not to undo everything you’ve achieved by piling up new objects you may not really need. When considering a new purchase, think through how often you’ll probably use it, how much you really want it and whether you have room for it in your smaller home. This is good advice for young people who don’t have as much experience managing a home as their elders. There’s no sense moving into a smaller house with less storage space if you continue purchasing things you don’t need.
Be Honest with Yourself
Downsizing is a lifestyle decision that can help people of all ages live simply and more efficiently. Be honest with yourself and be ready to ask yourself tough decisions as you assess whether you really need each item. Above all, take the time to do it right. You could easily make mistakes and lose things you want to keep by trying to do it all in one day.