Too much stuff. There was no way that accumulation from three kids, 32 years of marriage and a big home was going to fit in our retirement island home. We had been flirting with downsizing for a few years. Now it was time to get serious.
A friend told me that downsizing would be liberating – it is – and that it would be time-consuming – also true. Some specifics did give me pause. One big one? What would I do with the wedding dresses that I carted around for my entire married life. One dress belonged to my mother, who wore it when she married my father almost 70 years ago. The other is my own dress that I wore 33 years ago. My mom’s dress is loosely packed in a cardboard box (horrible storage, especially for a Florida home) and mine is dry cleaned and sealed in a $100 box, which seemed like a fortune at that time . I’ve never opened that box. Wouldn’t it be a hoot if it wasn’t even my dress?!?
My niece wants her grandmother’s dress. I packed it tonight and I am shipping it out tomorrow before she changes her mind. I am happy that the dress is with family and its destiny is now in her hands.
So we are down to one wedding dress. Someone told me to sell it on eBay. Have you looked at the almost 10,000 pre-owned wedding dresses on eBay? A beautiful dress costs less than $100. A “vintage” dress (which is sometimes just a nice way to say outdated and old) is $10 – $50. Oh, and no one is buying them.
Which brings me to my “aha moments” about downsizing:
- Things are only worth what someone is willing to pay you for it. People aren’t collecting like they used it and our children are not using china and crystal. My kids don’t want excess possessions. They are spending their money on experiences, not “stuff”. Outstanding!
- If it means something to you, keep it. No one is judging you. Well, at least until you die and they have to go through the mess you left. . . . ! And then, who cares, right?
- Be generous. If a loved one wants an item, give it to them now unless you’re in love with it or using it. Much more fulfilling than sitting in a forgotten box.
- If it means nothing to you, don’t waste your precious storage space on it. One of my friends takes a picture of her stuff when she says goodbye to it. She eventually deletes the photos too.
- Take a realistic look at your closets. If you haven’t worn it in a year you should probably get rid of it. Set out what you would pack if you are on a two separate month-long trips. One trip is summer and one is winter. If it doesn’t make the cut, you probably don’t like it enough to keep it.
- Adjust your attitude about donating items. You are donating it because someone else is able to use it NOT because there is something wrong with it or because you don’t like it. An added bonus is that your local charity is benefitting from your donation. Remember to get a tax receipt. The deduction isn’t much, but it all adds up!
- Throw away those things that you are pretty sure no one can ever use. Goodwill does not want your chipped mug or your Lily Pulitzer sweater with the bleach spot. C’mon! YOU really don’t even consider it usable/wearable! You will save time for the donation centers who sort and throw away unusable items.
- NEVER pay for storage space!!! Your used furniture is worth next-to-nothing. Sell the furniture on Craig’s List! Have a garage sale! Use the money for a fantastic trip! Put the monthly storage space rent in a fund for next year’s vacation! The only exception to this would be our friends who sold almost everything and are living on their boat. They did keep a storage unit but still win the Outstanding Downsizing Award. Imagine fitting everything you own on a boat! My husband dreams that we will do this one day. . . .!
I’m a work in progress. I still have too much stuff. Everyone has a different twist on what’s important to them. Life events certainly play a part. I’ve lost loved ones. I’ve settled many estates and disposed of belongings, houses and farms. One of my brothers lost his life and worldly possessions, including many family heirlooms and keepsakes, in a tragic house fire. Random stuff just doesn’t seem that important now. At the same time, the important – meaningful – things in my life seem priceless.
And if there’s a point to this rant, that’s it. We simply have to decide what is important enough to stay in our lives.
So as you contemplate your own downsizing strategy and you’re deciding what’s important . . . . remember to live a little. Take the Trip. It can even be a day trip to a nearby park with a picnic basket. Buy the shoes (you’ve gone through your closet and made room for them, right?) and certainly eat the cake. Always eat the cake.