I need to move, but what do I do with all of my stuff?  I hear this question on a semi-regular basis when touring future residents through new apartments.  My mantra is:  “Make the choice before someone else has to make it for you.”  We attach memories and emotions to the things we collect over a lifetime; in some cases we view them as an extension of ourselves.  The unfortunate reality is that a 3000 square foot house won’t fit into a 740 square foot apartment.  Some choose to rent a storage unit to hang onto things they deem important, for others, that’s not an option.  So how do you part with a lifetime of “stuff”?  One box at a time.

  • Experts say start small:  pack one box a day, go through one closet at a time, or spend 5 minutes a day going through a pile to weed things out.  Start on this project sooner rather than later, it will take longer than you think; especially if you go through every photo!
  • Bring in the expert.  There are a multitude of certified professional organizers out there.  Maybe you have a trusted friend who’s always organized who would be willing to help you out or at least get you started.  Sometimes it’s a relief to hand over decision making to a third party.   Their objective view can help us define what things really matter.
  • What do you want to wake up looking at every morning?  Is it the cuckoo clock your grandmother cherished or a wall covered in photos of family friends and past vacations?  If you could grab 15 things before your house burned down, what would you take?  Limit yourself to a small pile of things you really cherish.
  • Are there things you would like for family or friends to have?  Start there.  If it’s already designated to go to a loved one, gift it to the new owner now.  That gives you the opportunity to explain the history of the item and enjoy the feeling of satisfaction gained from giving it to the loved one personally.
  • In the end, they are just things and we don’t get to take them with us.  Most elders tell me that connection to people, relationships, family matter the most.

Having to downsize can be difficult; it can also be freeing.  By getting rid of things you have to take care of, you free yourself up from additional responsibility.  Think of it as letting go of obligation and buying more time!  What can you do with more time?  Visit friends, take a class, go out to lunch, enjoy family, learn a new hobby, play games, exercise, enjoy all that the world has to offer.