We have a guest blogger today whose insights we know you'll enjoy hearing. Kathy Vines is a colleague and a fellow organizer near Boston. You can count on her for insightful input, whatever the topic, and today she shares a taste of the content of her brand new book with us, “Clever Girl’s Guide to Living with Less: Break Free from Your Stuff Even When Your Head and Heart Get in the Way.”
Read on for some FAQs from Baby Boomers about downsizing & getting organized. Then be sure to download a copy of Kathy's book on Amazon and read along with Holly who is reading it right now, too! One thing Waco Home Organizers has in common with Kathy is our love for Baby Boomers and a desire to help them "rightsize" (some say downsize) and live their best life, no matter their age and location (or relocation).
As a Certified Professional Organizer, I’m lucky enough to get invited in people’s homes every day to help them live with less clutter, less chaos and less stress.
Some of my favorite clients to work with are Baby Boomers who are starting to plan out their next chapter. They see that downsizing is in their future, and they know it will take a while to get to where they’re ready to move. When I start my work with these clients, they seem to have similar concerns, uncertainty, and questions, all of which I hope to address. Here are some of the most common questions I get, and how I help my clients think through the answers:
It’s all so overwhelming. Where do I start?
One way to start is to begin with something easy. Something you don’t have an emotional attachment to. Something you think you can tackle in one sitting. Start getting your decision-making muscles in shape! What’s something you think for sure you can address easily? If you’re moving to Florida, maybe start with your winter coats, hats, gloves, scarves. If you’re moving to a home that is already furnished, start making a list of the furniture you know won’t go with you.
You may also like to start by making a master list, go room by room throughout your house to start to identify categories or spaces that are going to need your attention. This may help you develop a plan, a timeline, some priorities that can help you manage what you’ll focus on between now and when you move.
Some of my things I’d like to try and get some money for. How do I do that?
Many people start out thinking that they may want to sell things, but come to the conclusion that it may not work out for them, and they’re better off just donating and taking a tax deduction, if they’re eligible for one. In my book, Clever Girl’s Guide to Living with Less, I focus a chapter on this and talk about how to take the ideal of “I’d like to get some money for this” and break it down into whether or not this is practical, feasible, and worth your time. Some key questions for you to ask yourself:
If you’re able to say “yes” to these questions, you may be in good shape. If you’ve got a fair amount of “no” answers, then selling may not be realistic or feasible for you.
I have a lot of keepsakes, and it’s hard to part with them. How am I supposed to choose what to keep?
There’s no doubt that for some people, this is the hardest part of downsizing. Going through the memories and willingly parting with items that remind you of people and moments can be excruciating for some people! But you’re probably going some place with less space and less storage, and when you need to choose between space for things you need and use vs. space for things that hold only sentimental value, it becomes clear that some tough choices must be made.
Going through these items can take time. Pace yourself, give yourself time to reconnect with some of the memories, but not so much time that you get lost in your stories and you become more attached to the items, even though you hadn’t laid eyes on them in years! Work with someone who can help keep you focused and make progress, and can help keep you honest with yourself about the difference between something being memorable, and something being important. Not all things that are memorable are important; letting go of the things that aren’t as important is a place to start. Sometimes, it is helpful to ask yourself the question, “What is the role I see this item playing in my future?” Photos of family members may generate a very different answer than the tassel from your high school graduation cap.
I don’t know where I’m moving to next yet. How will I know what I need?
Well, there are 2 things to think about: Assumptions you can make for sure, and how you think your lifestyle will be different, given those assumptions.
What are some assumptions? Well, first, it will probably be smaller, maybe with fewer bedrooms. If that’s the case, you might think about what size beds you’ll have in the future, and what size linens you’ll need for them. If you currently have 3 or 4 different sizes, you can streamline that. Smaller probably also means less wall space, so you can think about the different things you put on the wall now (artwork, televisions, mirrors) to see what you’d choose if you only had half the wall space in the future.
Your lifestyle may also shift, for instance, you may not be entertaining as much or for large crowds, or you may not need work-from-home space for work and storage like you do now. How would you review what you owned for those categories if you kneow it was going to be “less”? If you’re less likely to host Thanksgiving in the future, are their entertaining and cooking items you have now that you only really use for Thanksgiving now, that you just wouldn’t ever use again if that holiday weren’t at your place anymore? Start there, and start reviewing those “occasional” items for that lifestyle view.
But the best advice I can give is to brainstorm for items: “If I did need this item and I no longer had it, what is the worst thing that will happen?” Could something else you own do what this item does for you now? Can you borrow something to do the job? Could you rent something? Could you replace it easily without having to store the item in your valuable real estate from now until that imaginary day where you might happen to need that thing?
I have so much stuff that is still good. Why would I let go of it if it is still useful?
As with anything else, you’ll need to think about your future, even if it isn’t totally clear, and imagine what role it may play. Often, I find that things we call “still good” are things we’ve long stopped using even in our current homes, and unless they’re unique, they’re not likely to get more use in the future. Sometimes, they’re items that remind us of who we used to be – our former careers, parenting when our children were younger, hobbies we used to enjoy. Sometimes, they’re items that were intended for a different future – the treadmill we were totally going to use to get healthier, the crockpot we were definitely going use for make-ahead cooking, the keyboard we were going to start playing again… all “someday.” This is an opportunity to reevaluate the priority of the activities that these items represent, and how likely you are to revisit those activities. Just because an item is still good doesn’t mean it has value in your life. And with all the choices you need to make for what remains in your possession for your future, letting go of the items with less value is going to be important!
Kathy Vines is a Certified Professional Organizer® and Productivity Specialist and the owner of Clever Girl Organizing®, based just north of Boston. Kathy works with her clients in person and virtually to help them untangle their relationship with their stuff and to create a plan for living more simply and more organized every day. She is a speaker for corporate and community audiences on reclaiming productivity and organization. She is the author of the new book, “Clever Girl’s Guide to Living with Less: Break Free from Your Stuff Even When Your Head and Heart Get in the Way,” available in print and Kindle on Amazon.