Recently I gave a speech at my Toastmasters group on de-cluttering. You always know you’ve struck a chord when a few people comment that they intend to clear out their garages or closets with fierce determination. One of the many reasons they feel compelled is because our relatives will one day go through every earthly belonging we have. The idea that someone will one day scrutinize all your treasures can be motivating. It also questions what is truly meaningful and what is unnecessary and therefore can be donated or tossed.
When you accept that it’s time to downsize or de-clutter your home sometimes the anxiety that causes can be overwhelming. Unless you can afford to hire a professional organizer or transition specialist, it’s hard to get the ball rolling, as there doesn’t seem to be a clear start point. I have a couple tips that might prove handy for those of us who dread the idea of even starting a project like this. It will lessen the stress and hopefully bring you closer to your desired goals.
The first thing you need to do is call your favorite charity and schedule a pick up date 3 weeks from your start date. Some charities are booked out months in advance so that would be a bonus if you really don’t think 3 weeks is enough time. Remember to call the charity to adjust your donation amount a week before pickup. Sometime we get on a roll and exceed our own expectations (which is a good thing) but the charity has limited space on their trucks. Don’t stress that you have to do the entire house first. Charities love repeat donors! Keep in mind that just after holidays is their busiest time.
Do you have a friend who has a home that looks like it belongs on the front page of House Beautiful? Call her over for lunch! I know that some people are just more naturally inclined towards organization than others are and would love to help. I have a son whose brain is organized like that. Whenever one of the siblings moves, he’s the one in charge of packing the truck. It’s almost like watching an artist work as he puts the boxes together like a giant jigsaw puzzle. As he pulls the door closed he’s always so satisfied that there is at least 2 inches of room left yet everything is inside! Allow your friends who have those talents to help you… it’s affirming and will be an opportunity to spend quality time as you tell the stories associated with your favorite items. Another benefit is that you have a sounding board to determine what is important and what is not. Sometimes just telling the story one last time gives you the closure needed to let it go.
Start with inside of the house. Pick the least used room, pull everything out of the closet, and begin there. Allow yourself as much time as needed to examine each item. Sort the keepers, donations and trash into distinct piles. Remember take as much time as you need to go through the items… it’s not a horse race. As you decide what to donate keep in mind that there are family members and/or friends who might cherish your gems. It is always a delight to surprise a friend or relative with an unexpected gift. The opportunity to see others enjoy something you once did will provide a sense of satisfaction that it was the right decision.
One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is an organized household (and family members appreciate it too). Once you get through the first round the second will be naturally easier and your ability to discern what is necessary vs. extraneous becomes much clearer. Enjoy the memories as you go through each item and remember that there is a season for everything. Honor each memento but remember you cannot grasp something new if you are still clinging to the old.
Beth Moran is a Broker Associate with REMAX Gold in the Sacramento Valley of northern California. She has been selling real estate since 1999 and is a current member of the Sacramento Association of Realtors Professional Standards Committee. Beth holds the Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES), Certified Probate Real Estate Specialist (CPRES), and trained with Pepperdine University in Mediation and Dispute Resolution. Email Beth at Beth@SacAgent.com