Downsizing, Part 2

How to Purge what You Don’t Need

Downsizing Part 2The thought of moving or dealing with years’ worth of accumulations of personal belongings can strike fear into the hearts of many. In fact, I am quite certain the mere thought has prevented a large number of folks from even attempting it.

Like eating an elephant one bite at a time, you can do this. A plan is important and a system for deciding what to do with each item is very helpful. Keep in mind, at the point we really dove in, we had committed to moving from 3,300 square feet to 1,138. So we needed to be very clear about what was important to us.

Here is the plan and system I used.

First, I will say it is helpful if you have an area that you can sort to. A garage, spare room, etc. This makes things much easier, so clear a spot that will be the sort/storage/holding area.

Every weekend or a few nights each week, I would focus on one space. A room, closet or both — and get as much as I could get done, then come back to it on the next weekend or night I had set aside. Enlist some help if needed or if you tend to really hang onto things.

The goal is to look at everything in the room and make a decision. Every. Single. Thing. No passing over things for “later.”

The items we were keeping were left in place until the move if we needed them; the other things were sorted as I will detail below.

When looking at each item, focus on a few questions:

  • Do I love it?
  • Do I use it often?
  • Can I easily replace it?
  • Would someone else get more use out of it?

If you don’t love it or use it, or actually both, consider getting rid of it.

Each thing you touch will fall into one of these categories I call the four G’s:

Guilt: These are things you keep because you feel like you should. A bowl someone gave you at your wedding and you have used twice in 20 years. Your grandmother’s anything that you are keeping just because. They went away.

Give: Something you can easily see someone else owning. We all have plenty of this stuff.

Get some cash: Something you no longer want, but could sell at a garage sale or on eBay if it is more valuable. Box up garage sale items as you go, so they are out of the way and set aside to sell.

If you are unsure of an item, box it. If you don’t go to look for it in the time you have gone through your house, you don’t need it.

Go ahead, store it: There are going to be some things you have to or want to keep, so just pack them up for storage NOW. Label the box clearly as to contents.

How did I tackle it? The guilt stuff I had to give some serious thought. Things of Grandma’s that were not special to me were passed on to other relatives or friends of the family.

The “give” category was easier, but it is very important that the giving be done swiftly. Put it in your car and deliver to your local charity once a week before it piles up and you change your mind.

The “get some cash” items were quickly listed on eBay or Craigslist to get rid of. They were set aside in an area designated as “for sale.”

And the “go ahead and store it” stuff was packed up and clearly labeled as to the box contents, then stashed in the storage area. These boxes all got a large, neon-green, 4-by-6-inch sticker from the office store, indicating that they were intended to be “long-term storage” not to be unpacked at the new house.

Any items that needed to move with but were not needed until after the move were boxed up for the move and appropriately labeled.

If you honestly assess each item you come across, you will give, sell or donate a lot of stuff. While the purging part is hard, remember the goal. And, even if you have just 15 minutes, go through a cabinet or two. You would be amazed what you can cover in that time.

And don’t worry, even if you really pare down, there will be a round two purge when you move into the new smaller home!

This is Part 2 of 4 in a Series on Downsizing: