A friend posted on Facebook the other day that she was having no luck figuring out how to downsize. In fact, just the thought of parting with any of her beloved mementos and her (now grown) kids' memorabilia was making her physically ill.
I'm a Senior Real Estate Specialist and a Boomer myself, so this isn't the first time I've encountered this situation. In fact, I'm sad to say it happens often. In fact, people hate the idea of going through their stuff so badly that they wait until illness, an accident or other outside events force them to move - often hurriedly.
When fate steps in and forces them to make quick choices, they often find no good ones available to them.
So, my very best real estate advice is this: when you know a move is inevitable, sell/move before you're forced to.
When you decide to be an adult about this and take the reins of your life in hand, you can hire a professional organizer to help you downsize, or you can do it on your own. Either way, you can do it fairly painlessly if you don't force yourself to part with things you truly love but let go quickly of those you don't. Seriously, how much could anyone truly care about a can opener?
With that mindset, here's the order in which to tackle this project:
1. Pack up all your treasures first, and label the boxes so you can find them later. Don't even think about getting rid of cherished mementos; it will just make you miserable. Encourage your children to pick up boxes of their memorabilia. But if they won't and you can't bear to part with the stuff, rent a storage space or find a spot in your new attic. Do whatever it takes, but don't let keepsakes keep you from moving on.
2. Set aside books you can't bear to live without, then donate the rest. If you discover later that you need a book, tons of used books as well as new editions are available online. Plus, the Internet is full of information!
3. Leaving only the bare necessities to get you through until your move-out date, pack the kitchen. I'm guessing at least 80% of your moving boxes will contain kitchen equipment, sets of dishes, serving pieces, glasses, crystal and silverware. Cull it mercilessly. If you're moving across town, you will find moving day far less stressful if you've moved -- and unpacked -- everything needed in a working kitchen in advance. If you're moving cross-country, first pack up your heirlooms. Then, sell the rest of your kitchen stuff at a garage or estate sale. It makes no sense to pay people to move banged up pots, chipped plates, and old linens. Yes, you will need some of those things in your new home. But how attached are you really to your pie pans? Wouldn't it be fun to have new stuff? And less of it?
4. If you have a garage, pack it next. Be ruthless: only pack the necessities and stuff you LOVE (which, we hope includes your car) and donate or recycle the rest. Do the same with your home office. Plan to replace items you miss with new stuff post-move. But don't pay people to move old printers and reams of paper!
5. Only move the furniture and accessories you absolutely love. Seize the opportunity to upgrade your furnishings and decor. Get rid of worn-out mattresses and box springs. Take those mismatched towels to the animal shelter. Ditch that beat-up recliner. Leave the stove and refrigerator behind. Moving bulky/heavy items is expensive. Don't do it if you're not in love. Promise to give yourself a treat with the money you save: buy new bedding and other furnishings and have them delivered to your new home.
6. Only move the clothes, shoes and accessories you absolutely love. Replace any items you miss after you move.
After you've done these six things, decide how much you love whatever is left. Pack the stuff you love and get rid of the rest.
Letting go of excess "stuff" is really the only way to move on when you move out. Best of all, you can start now and do it over time with virtually no pain at all.