Posts Tagged ‘downsizing’

What to do with your stuff when later becomes now

Posted by

When it comes to the stuff in our homes, I believe a  continuum exists between two points  –  keep everything and save nothing. Most people fall somewhere in between.  Yes, there are extremes at both ends – those with a tendency to acquire an excessive amount and those with an equally extreme tendency to rid themselves of anything of value, sentimental or otherwise. But for most people, myself included, we all have sentimental attachments.

The other day I was wandering through my home and thinking about what I absolutely had to keep if I ever had to make the choice. As a professional organizer, it’s an exercise I practice regularly as a way to empathize with my clients.

It turned out the things I really felt strongly about were the items I have the most sentimental attachment to.  None of it was furniture, thankfully.  Mostly letters from my parents and close friends that could never be replaced. Photographs (the paper kind) from my childhood and “keepsakes” that I don’t need but that don’t take up much space either. I also have some written work that would be difficult to replace unless I took the time to scan it and for me, that’s not worth my time.

My husband has a box of important stuff related to his daughter, my step-daughter. And of course, I have a small  “treasure box” of memorabilia from our life together.

The only time I know I would go through this stuff is if I were moving or downsizing. Otherwise it stays hidden, for the most part.   But what does it mean not to have these things? Would it feel like my life had ended? What happens when you keep things with the intention of looking at them later and then find later is now?

Even if it comes unexpectedly, now should be when you get to re-read the letters, sort through the photos, recall the memories and maybe even tell the stories.  But now is often competing with time itself. The house has to be sold. The move has to happen. The remodel is about to start.  Sometimes, sadly, the owner of these things is no longer around for the task.

As an organizer, this is the most poignant part of my work; When I realize the meaning of that photo, award or stuffed animal toy only exists because of the person who imparted that meaning.  When it belongs to someone else, you can impart your own meaning, but then you are left with the same dilemma: Keep it or let it go?

I find it’s useful to consider the truth of these questions when later suddenly becomes now.

  • Would my life really be over if I let these things go or would I just feel that way?
  • Is everything meaningful or could I pick out just the things that are most important to me?
  • By keeping everything, am I placing a significant burden on my family to deal with later?
  • Am I keeping everything as an excuse to avoid creating new memories?
  • If this or that item should disappear would I miss it or attempt to replace it if I could?
  • Would taking a picture of it allow me to let it go if I had to?
  • Is there anyone who I know for certain who would want it (be careful with this one since you don’t want to obligate someone to take something they really don’t want).
  • Do I really love it or am I keeping it to satisfy someone else’s (perceived) need – such as when you keep it not because you like it but because it was a gift from someone you care about.

Life is like walking through a wonderful art museum. You get to admire and spend a little time with the art work that resonates the most with you. You may even be able to take pictures or buy postcards. But at the end of the day, you don’t get to keep what you saw. You do however get to remember how you felt.

The little red moving truck that could (and did)

Posted by

My client, Olivia, and I were standing in the family room of her mother’s home knee deep in moving boxes and overstuffed yard bags, packing items she had decided to get rid of when I came across a small plastic grocery bag.

Olivia (not her real name) and I had been working together for several sessions and by now we’d become well acquainted with one another. I have been exceedingly lucky and grateful to have worked with many wonderful people since launching LET’S MAKE ROOM,  Olivia is one of them.

She found me through a local consignment store where she had gone to sell some items belonging to her mother who had recently died after a long illness. Olivia had spent the last seven years seeing to her mother’s care at the home she shared with her with a single-minded devotion that spoke to the kind of person I was just beginning to know.

A woman of enormous grace and compassion, Olivia had given every ounce of her being to the care of her mother so that by the time she was ultimately relieved of this responsibility, she had little left, mentally or physically, to tackle the next phase she had set out to accomplish – making a home for herself in the home that had once been her mother’s.

She told the owner of the local consignment shop about her plight, about the overwhelming work ahead of her and that was how she first learned of me.

At our first meeting, Olivia stated her objectives: Empty the house of items she felt others would enjoy more than she wanted to keep them as quickly as possible to make room for the life she needed to continue on her own.

We agreed on a plan. I would work with her to help choose what items would go, pack everything up and arrange to have it all picked up by a local estate liquidation service.  The job involved the sorting, packing and organizing of well over 100 boxes and bags of items once belonging to her mother as well as other household items. I arranged for the service, a company called Remoovit, to pick up everything including furniture Olivia no longer wanted. We were just a few days away from having the estate liquidator’s 25′ truck arrive and we were nearing the end of the process when I found a small white grocery bag tucked into a box of toys in her family room closet.

I opened the bag and poured the contents on to the large folding table we were using as a workstation. We both stopped and looked at the still unrecognizable items, about a dozen brightly colored pieces of wood.  Then I realized there was something else inside the bag. I pulled it out.  “It’s a puzzle!”

Our attention immediately shifted to these colorful shapes on the table and together, just like two children, we excitedly began arranging the pieces. It took a minute or two and then there it was: An adorable red truck with big black wheels slightly overloaded with an array of items in different colors. We burst into loud shrieks of laughter as the irony hit us simultaneously.  It was the future. At least the immediate future. What had once been a child’s toy, most likely hers or her mother’s, saved and long hidden from view, had now become real. “I’m going to have it framed,” she said.

As an organizer who has seen far too many unrealized projects become clutter, I felt obligated to press her on this decision – “It it worth your time and money?”

“Absolutely,” she replied.

A few days passed. The estate liquidator’s truck came and went, filled with the boxes we had packed on their way to new and as yet unknown owners.  I moved on to other projects and other clients until one day about a week later I got a call from Olivia.

“Can you come over? I have something for you.”

I arrived at her house curious about what she had for me. Perhaps she had neglected to include an item she wanted sold or donated? I walked into her living room and she handed me a package wrapped in brown paper. I unwrapped it and there, behind glass, beautifully framed and mounted, with the words “LET’S MAKE ROOM’ engraved on a little metal plaque below, was the little red pickup truck.

“I made it for you,” Olivia said with a wide grin. I looked up at her. My eyes widened and then of course, began to tear up. “Thank you,” was all I could say. It was the best endorsement of my work I’ve ever received.

It hangs in my home office. When I look at it, I think of Olivia and the gift she gave me just by working with her: the realization of and how much I love what I do.

How to let go of books with less tears

Posted by

You would think that with the range of digital devices available from tablets to e-readers to smart phones, most of us would have less books. On the contrary a significant majority of Americans, about 65%, still opt for a print book over other platforms, according to a 2016 Pew Research Study.

So why is it so hard to part with them?  Like photographs, books hold memories of important events or people in our lives or ideas we once had. To let go of a book is akin to letting go of a piece of ourselves.

Add to this, people generally don’t let go of their books unless forced to by circumstance, such as when they need to sell their home to move to a smaller home.  The anxiety that comes along with moving can further exacerbate the stress of having to decide what to keep and what to let go of and this is especially true of books.

So what do you do if faced with the hard reality of having to part with your beloved book collection? Fortunately, there are some things you can do to make the loss a little less painful. Consider these questions:

  1. Is it a classic or commonly available elsewhere either in a bookstore or online? One of the great advantages of the digital age is that many libraries now offer you a way to borrow digital copies of books through an app called Overdrive.  All you need is a library card and some type of digital device such as a computer, e-reader, tablet or smart phone. Once signed up, it takes just a matter of seconds to download your favorite book. If you are not especially tech savvy, you still will probably be able to find the book again at a used book store or at the library.
  2. Are you really going to read it?  You’ve had that novel on your shelf for ten years with every intention of reading it but have never gotten around to it. Consider letting it go.
  3. Is there someone you know who would like it? Gift specific books to specific people. As soon as you decide to let go of a book, assign it to someone you know or donate it to an organization, group or charity such as Books for SoldiersBooks Through Bars or your local library. You can also donate books to hospitals, the Salvation Army, Goodwill or a local thrift store. Always check with the charity before you donate and if the books are damaged, consider recycling them as an alternative.
  4. Do you have duplicates? Perhaps you have both the hard copy and paperback editions. Choose which one you prefer and donate the other.
  5. Is it a collectible? Some books such as first editions, antique books or signed books may have secondary value to another collector.  If you are not sure whether or not your collectible book has value, you can do a little research online but avoid doing online appraisals. Take your book to an experienced bookseller you trust. Note that you will have to pay for face to face appraisals for high value books.  You can also check out the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America for a list of member stores near you.

Letting go of meaningful possessions is difficult, especially when combined with the stress of having to move or downsize. Doing good for someone else is one antidote for the loss of control many, especially seniors feel, when moving. Knowing that something in your home now has a new home, can help ease the pain of downsizing.

If you or a member of your family needs reassurance or help packing, distributing, donating or selling your books, contact a professional organizer or senior move manager in your area. You still may shed some tears, but you’ll know you also did good.

 

Ten Reasons to Declutter Before You Sell Your Home

Posted by

Most Real Estate professionals will tell you to declutter your home before selling it. But why? Here are 10 reasons why removing clutter will make your home more attractive and thus more valuable to prospective buyers.

thumb_Decluttering_1024

Woman Tossing Clothes from Closet

  1. An uncluttered home looks more spacious and space is what most home buyers are looking for.
  2. A prospective buyer wants to imagine themselves in your home, not feel like an intruder. That’s why removing all personal items such as family photos, knickknacks, religious items, art work with a political theme, and excess furniture is so important.
  3. A cluttered home gives an impression that the house has not been well maintained, raising a prospective buyers suspicions of “unseen” damage.
  4. Clutter is a potential liability. If someone trips on your clutter, falls and injures themselves, you could be liable.
  5. Storage space, such as cabinets and closets that are partially empty convey the impression that the house has good storage available – a big selling point for most people.
  6. Older or worn furniture items, even if they may be important to you, can make a house seem dated and old.
  7. Clutter conveys a dirty home, even if you’re a tidy person.  If you’re not, by all means get it professionally cleaned!
  8. Too much stuff, makes it difficult to focus on a home’s best features.

  9. Don’t assume buyers will want to use your home the same way you do.  If you have a room set up as an office, take the advice of your Real Estate agent if they suggest staging it differently.
  10. Less clutter means less stuff for you to pack up and move, which will lower your cost of moving, and less stuff to unpack or clutter up your new home.

For more moving and organizing tips, visit us on Facebook.

The One Resolution You Can Keep

Posted by

If you were born between 1947 and 1964, when it comes to organizing your home, my guess is you are less Do-It-Yourselfer and more Do-It-For-ME.

new_years_resolution_listGetting more organized is a common New Year’s resolution but I believe when people say they want to “get” organized, what they really mean, is they want to “be” organized.

When you live in your home for 20, 30 or more years, raising a family or even taking care of aging parents, you’re going to have a lot of stuff. This is just reality for most people in their 50s and 60s. This doesn’t mean you are a “hoarder” – you’re just like everyone else. It’s just the idea of finally dealing with all that accumulated stuff is overwhelming and chances are you would rather spend time doing something you enjoy and that’s worth a lot!

If you’re a homeowner in your 50s or 60s  at some point you’re going to  grapple with the problem of downsizing while you can still be involved. Otherwise you’ll end up passing off the problem to your children or even to friends if you don’t have family or family nearby.

Downsizing your home is like saving for retirement. The earlier you start thinking about it, the better.

I had a client tell me recently she didn’t know what she would do if she had to downsize her home by herself.  She recently decided to move to save money for her retirement. The problem was that in order to move to a new home she had to sell her current home but her realtor wouldn’t even consider listing it until she dealt with all her stuff.

It took a crew of four professional organizers and less than two weeks to get everything sorted, donated, hauled and ready for her movers, including long forgotten items belonging to her parents in her attic and garage. When we were almost done, she told her realtor she wanted to “test the waters” to see if there was any interest in her home. Much to her delight, it sold the first day it was listed.

If your roof needed replacing would you do it yourself?

Home improvement projects, especially large organizing projects that involve whole homes or highly cluttered spaces like garages, are no different in many ways from a home remodel. It takes a plan, skill and muscle. And whatever you do, don’t just move or store what you no longer want. This will only cost you more in moving or storage charges in the long run.

Get it done, done well and done fast and you can actually check this one off your list of New Year’s resolutions.

 

 

 

7 Strategies for Downsizing Your Home

Posted by

DownsizingIf you’ve lived in the same home for 10, 20, 30 or more years, and decided to move into a smaller space, there is a term professional organizers and others such as realtors have adopted from the business world. It’s called downsizing.

In business, downsizing has a negative connotation as it generally means that people will lose their jobs. In the world of organizing, however, downsizing refers to a conscious and deliberate process of reducing the contents of one’s home prior to a move to a smaller space. Although the use of the term in this context is thought of as neutral, people who undergo the process of downsizing may feel otherwise. This is particularly true if you are older, retired or living alone as you will probably need to make decisions about whether or not to keep literally hundreds of items before your actual move day.

Complicating this fact, is that as we get older the part of our brain that helps us with mental tasks such as organizing and prioritizing, otherwise known as the “executive function,” does not work as well as it used to. This isn’t our fault. It’s just a normal process of aging.

When preparing to downsize in preparation for a move, here are a few strategies I recommend to help minimize the stress and uncertainty you may experience.

1. Plan ahead. Start thinking about and planning for your move at least 6 months before you put your house on the market. This could include talking to family members about your plans, determining your needs and goals for your next home and perhaps even researching or visiting other communities you are potentially interested in moving to.

2. Take the time to survey your belongings. Make a point of sharing memories and stories they evoke with those who have offered to help you get ready to move. You may even wish to record those stories in writing or with the use of a tape recorder well before you start packing.

3. Don’t try to do it all yourself. Delegate physical tasks such as sorting, categorizing, packing, transporting and moving to professionals or trusted friends. Elicit ideas and suggestions so you can benefit from the expertise and experience of others who do this professionally or who are knowledgeable about the process.

4. Keep only what you need, love or can’t replace. Don’t become a hoarder. Hoarding is distinguished from collecting in that collecting generally involves objects considered by others to be both interesting and valuable. Hoarding, on the other hand, involves keeping large quantities of things that appear to be useless or of limited value so much so that it compromises your ability to use your home as it was intended. The decision about what to keep and what to sell, donate, or dispose of is yours but only keep what you truly love, will use again or can’t easily replace.

5. Make your wishes clear from the start. If you prefer to be consulted with on certain decisions let others know that in the beginning. Talk openly about how you appreciate help and be willing to accept it when offered. However if you are feeling anxious, say so and take a break. The less anxious you feel, the easier it will be to make decisions you can live with.

6. Conserve your energy. While you think you may be able to work for four or five hours at a time, in reality you may only be effective for two. Commit to doing a specific number of tasks such as packing three boxes, instead of a whole room. If you enjoy it, do so while watching your favorite TV show or listening to music.

7. Don’t hold back (or apologize for) your emotions. Moving is stressful for everyone at any age. As you prepare for your move, you may experience everything from the joy of remembering a happy event to the sadness of grieving the loss of a loved one. Give yourself permission to feel these emotions and recognize that they are a normal response to the circumstances. Your emotions won’t hurt you but suppressing them may. If possible, talk to someone you know and trust who can listen and empathize.

Lis Golden McKinley, M.A., is CEO of LET’S MAKE ROOM, a professional organizing company serving clients in all five counties of the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. For more information, visit their website at http://www.letsmakeroom.com or call them at 510-846-1976 to schedule a complimentary phone consultation.

11398_The Container Store has Stocking Stuffers YULE Love! Spend $100 and they'll ship for FREE!**