Home downsizing is an emotional endeavor. It not only involves you, but it involves your family. In this post, I’m sharing 5 things to consider that will make the process easier!
Just the thought of packing up your current home, and moving it, is enough to make most of us want to hide under a pillow. It’s not easy, it’s filled with many different emotions, and there are literally hundreds of decisions to be made. If you make the choice to move to a smaller space, some of those decisions revolve around the issue of downsizing your possessions. The fact has to be faced that if you are reducing your space, you must declutter and reduce your stuff. So where do your belongings go?
In times gone by, family possessions were handed down from generation to generation, as were many actual houses. Home downsizing wasn’t even a thing. In today’s world, that’s no longer the case. Generally speaking, our kids don’t want our collections, our no-longer-needed furniture, or our sets of china. They don’t want the 25 mason jars in the basement, or the packed-away plates that belonged to Aunt Betty in the attic. We live in a different time now…and a minimalist lifestyle is very prevalent with millennials. Our kids don’t entertain by serving five course meals on a dining table laid with fine china. Most of them don’t even have china…so the question has to be asked…why would they want ours?
Well, the answer is simple. They don’t. So what do you do with everything that doesn’t fit in a smaller home when you’re faced with downsizing? How do you reconcile with the fact that some of your stuff has to go? More importantly, how do you understand when your family doesn’t want your stuff? What follows are five ideas that make this whole issue simpler to cope with. They all won’t work for everyone, but my hope is that you come away with a nugget or two to make moving to a smaller new space easier.
Make the offer with the condition that there’s no obligation.
Our biggest downsizing problem was that we could not use our heirloom dining set in our new place, so it had to go. My husband was a very good sport about this, because he really didn’t want to part with it. He felt that keeping it in the family was the right thing to do, and that thought also helped him with the transition. We knew our daughter couldn’t use it, but there was a slight chance our son might want it.
When we asked him, we made it very clear that there was no obligation, but that we couldn’t pass it on to another family member without asking him first. I think he appreciated that, and he and his wife did think about it. In the end, it just wasn’t a good fit for their dining room, and they declined. It’s a unique set in that there are two corner cabinets. They only had one appropriate corner, so that basically made the decision for them.
The next option was our nephew and his wife. She loves anything vintage, and when I sent them a picture along with the offer, they answered “yes” in just a few seconds! Not only was it a relief that the set had someplace to go, but it was going to a good home.
In the end, we were at peace. The initial indecision was nerve-wracking, but that’s where patience comes in. Just take a breath, and wait it out. Things have a way of working out the way they are supposed to.
Don’t take it personally when they say no…because they will.
Just because your kids don’t want the stuff in your closets, doesn’t mean they don’t love you.
OK…read that sentence again!
When we moved, both of our kids drew a huge sigh of relief. They were both very happy that we were getting out from under a house that no longer served our needs. They were also relieved that I was in charge of the clean out process and not them! In our case, I already knew there was really nothing that they wanted. They didn’t need our things, because they had things of their own. Our situation actually made the process easier because I didn’t have to take the time to consult them when it was time to make a decision. My husband and I were in charge of the decisions, which made things so much simpler.
If this isn’t the case with you, and your family wants to be involved in the decision-making process, my best advice is to give yourself extra time. By extra time, I mean months. That way you won’t be rushed into making decisions that you will perhaps regret, and you will be able to give your family the opportunity to be a part of the process.
Don’t use the “guilt trip” method.
Leading up to our move, both of our kids came home to go through their own stuff that was still being stored at our house. They each had stacks of bins filled with everything from their growing-up years. To be honest, I was surprised that they were ready to part with almost all of it. At one point, we ran across an Anne of Green Gables doll that I had given my daughter one year for Christmas. Clearly she didn’t want it, but she could tell by the look on my face that I wanted her to want it. She said “I can tell you want me to keep this.”
The last thing I ever wanted to do was to guilt her into keeping something she no longer wanted. So I told her it was fine, but would it be OK if I kept the doll…and of course she said yes. So that was a compromise we were both willing to make. When a compromise isn’t possible, just let them let go.
This also applies when they don’t want family heirlooms, or sentimental items. It’s better not to mention the fact that “your grandmother brought that all the way from Italy!” Let them say no without worrying about your feelings. In the end, it will be so much better for all of you, because guilt has a way of eating us alive…and that’s the last thing we want for our families.
Do be prepared to sell and/or donate.
As you are packing/sorting, keep in mind that you don’t have to throw away what you don’t want, or can no longer use. Some things need to go in the trash, but not everything. Two great options for recycling your things are to sell them, or donate them. Selling takes considerably more time and effort. Facebook Marketplace, garage sales, consignment shops, eBay, or Craigslist are great options. I chose not to go that route, and donated what we didn’t want to a local Goodwill store. Most towns and cities have multiple options for donation destinations, so check around until you find one that you are comfortable with. Knowing our stuff was going to improve someone else’s life made me feel so much better about the whole downsizing process.
When downsizing, do consider an alternate storage situation.
No matter how hard you try, and no matter how determined you are, there are going to be things that you cannot part with. At least not in the moment, during packing and moving. These are the things that it’s better to keep. In our case, my husband had mountains of sports memorabilia, and other things he just couldn’t let go of. In his defense, I sprung our move on him very quickly, and he didn’t have enough time to process everything before we started the clean out. Instead of pressuring him, and making the situation difficult, I chose the path of least resistance.
I decided to get a storage unit, and honestly, it was a relief to have a place to put our can’t-part-with items. The decisions that have to be made during a move are varied and many. Having this storage space let us postpone some of those decisions until we weren’t so rushed, and could take the time to find the appropriate place for our things.
We moved several months ago, and yes, we still have the storage unit. I’ve been over there a few times, but have not dealt with what’s in it. You know what they say…out of sight, out of mind! I’m OK with that, because in my experience, everything gets decided eventually. I’ve built the minimal storage fees into our expenses, and the cost is totally worth the peace of mind that it gives me.
As OSP readers, you are always generous and kind with your comments. If you have a downsizing or moving story, please share it below. You are a wealth of experience and information, and we would love to hear from you!