The Double D: Downsize and De-clutter

By Debra Lueck

[November 2019 | San Juan Silver Stage]

What better time than the holidays, when family and close friends gather, to sit down with them and talk about all the treasures you’ve collected over the years. Where will it all go when you’re ready to downsize or simply de-clutter? (And, we all need to de-clutter, whether we want to admit it or not).

Sometimes, we have to accept less may be better: empty nesting, too much house and property to maintain, prefer to travel rather than stay home and do housekeeping and garden work. Maybe declining health or a newly-widowed status fuels the “Double D” decision. Whatever the reasons to downsize and declutter—they are your reasons, first and foremost, so you can share your decisions, but don’t let someone else make them for you. When the gang is “home for the holidays,” carve out time to talk about what you want to do, where you want to live (if moving is one of your choices), and where, when the time comes, your treasures might find a new home.

Mooving Store, Montrose CO

The Mooving Store in Montrose is a great place to consign and sell what you no longer want or need. AND to find something else you might want or need. Win- win! Photographed at the Mooving Store. © Tammy Molone

That discussion could be painful, or filled with happy surprises. Great-grandma’s antique soup tureen you’ve saved for your daughter? Now you know she doesn’t want “that ugly monstrosity.” Nor does she want back every Mother’s Day card she’s ever sent you or all of her old report cards from 20 or 30  years ago. That collection of hand tools collecting dust on the pegboard out in the garage? “Yes, please,” says your brother, who you never thought of as “handy.” The box of baseball cards you’ve collected since you were a kid? “Don’t give that away!” says your son, who wants it.

Learning what their views are when you are all together helps a lot when you start the de-cluttering process. Walk your future heirs  through your collections. Make a list of who wants what and what things they have no interest in. If you’re ready to let go of your treasures now, they could take them home with them or have them shipped and, hey, you’ve saved on Christmas shopping! If you’re not quite ready to let stuff go, why not  do what my grandma did: put a sticker on the bottom of things with the person’s name on it, or make a list and have them sign off. That way, there will be no confusion or fighting later on when somebody discovers that gaudy painting that hung over the sofa for years was actually valuable!

If you want to sell some of your things, Internet sites, like E-Bay, Amazon might be an option. Use “due diligence” when picking a site and considering pricing, shipping, etc. Don’t list your address, and be careful of having strangers coming into your home to view things you’ve listed on local buy, sell, and trade message boards, or Craig’s List; you don’t want to become some low-life thief’s next target.

A better choice might be to donate, consign, or take to a resale store. Many local non-profits like Salvation Army, Habitat ReStore, and Heirlooms for Hospice will gladly take the surplus from your years of collecting all those “must-have” items.  Most will pickup, especially the larger items. And, you even get a tax donation receipt to boot.

For more valuable items or bigger pieces, like furniture, appliances, tools and equipment (and even small stuff, too), consider selling them locally. Ginger Cat and Heirlooms for Hospice, both on Main Street in Montrose, and The Mooving Company will pick up. The Mooving Company  will also help you pack, haul things to storage for you, move what you want to keep to your new location and sell the rest in the Mooving Store, their consignment store. (See ad next page.) Consider them a one-stop-shop and address-change source! My friend used them when her mother went into residential living. They packed and moved what she wanted to keep, hauled her donated items to Habitat and Heirlooms, and sold the rest in their Mooving Store. When she passed, they did it again, which was an enormous help to the family and heirs. (Our family had already met with mom to see how to disburse her things.)

Heirlooms for Hospice

Downsizing can be liberating- and it’s a great chance to find something that better fits our new lifestyle. Photographed at Heirlooms for Hospice. © Kathryn R. Burke

When you are downsizing (or clearing out a house after someone is gone), another option is to go the yard sale route. Be smart about it. Price things of value individually, have everything sorted to type and arranged on tables. Nobody wants to scrounge around on the ground looking through piles. Be willing to barter and most importantly, don’t plan on taking any of it back inside if it doesn’t sell. (Donate what’s left to Salvation Army or one of the non-profit resale stores).

Sound like too much work? How about hiring an expert and have an estate sale or auction? They manage everything from sorting and pricing to handling the sale and publicizing it.

Sometimes  it’s hard to “let go.” You get so bogged down in what to keep and what to let go, that everything grinds to a halt. A managed sale lets you step back and have someone else take care of it. They also take part of your profit, but are likely to get more than you would doing it all yourself. Get references first, and discuss a plan of action, so you know what to expect. It’s probably best not to be there the day of—hearing someone calling your favorite chair hideous can damage the ego.

Ok, if you are downsizing because you plan to sell or rent the family residence, where will you go? The answer may depend on how much compatibility you would like. You might buy a smaller place, move into an apartment, or choose to live in a residential facility that offers a options from independent living to assistance in varying degrees. This is often a good choice if you want to unload the big house, move somewhere that will provide you with socialization, but not too much of it. Some residential communities offer independent housing; all offer apartments in a main, communal building. You could still have your own space, but join in residential community activities, outings, and meals, for example. Housekeeping and laundry services are other options.

If you still a little more freedom, but a lot less space, talk with a Realtor. Many specialize in senior living options and can steer you in the right direction. Whichever direction you take, move or stay put with a reverse mortgage, seek professional advice. Before you sign any documents or make final decisions, consult with your financial advisors. And remember, ultimately, the decisions are yours to make—not your family—you.

If you are moving, you may want to refurnish the new place to fit with your new lifestyle. Those same stores, like Heirlooms, and the Ginger Cat, both on Main Street in downtown Montrose,  Habitat, or the Mooving Store, where you sent your treasurers or consigned and sold the “old stuff” are great resources for affordably furnishing your new home. What fun it is to start fresh (although you will probably still keep some treasures), and pick out new furniture and accessories.

Whatever your choices, stay or move to a new place, downsizing and decluttering can be a liberating experience. Being free of all the things we tie ourselves down with opens us up to new adventures. Whether you decide to move into a residential facility, become a snowbird and head to Arizona for the winter or finally give in to the travel bug that’s niggled at you for years, now you’re free to go. Just lock the door (remember to winterize first so you don’t get a nasty surprise later), forward the mail, and enjoy the future. The Double Ds could be the best Christmas present you could give yourself!