Let’s talk about “letting go”.
Most of us carry around considerable baggage. I’m not referring to the emotional stuff, but rather the stuff that fills our spaces. Some of it we genuinely need, use daily, care about, and enjoy. Most of it not. I’m talking about the stuff that takes over closets, hides behind doors, covers surfaces, holds the garage hostage. Doesn’t really matter how it got there, whether purchased, inherited, or dropped by the mailman. We still spend countless energy units dusting, maintaining, processing, fretting over, tripping over, managing, insuring, storing and moving it all. Frankly, the excess in our lives weighs us down and gets in the way. We readily admit we have too much stuff, but rarely do we do anything about it. We just keep adding to the pile.
Today’s homes bulge because we’ve literally bought into the notion that more is better. Boomers (and our parents) have more discretionary income and more marketing messages bombarding us with way too many choices. And because our homes are often the repository for ancestral keepsakes and the treasures the kids left behind, Aunt Ada’s wordly possessions occupy the attic and Jr’s camping gear is still in his childhood closet.
Yet we resist parting with the unwanted stuff that crowds our spaces. Because downsizing and letting go is hard. It’s a lot of work, physically and emotionally. It requires a thousand decisions (Keep? Sell? Give away? Toss?). Uncertainty creeps in (Did I make the right decision? What will my kids say?). And what do I do with it all once I’ve decided? Do I even have the time and energy for this?
Downsizing smacks of loss. Loss of money spent wisely or foolishly, loss of memories and pride of ownership, loss of self reflected in what those items represent. For some, downsizing feels like letting go of pieces of themselves. For others, it’s a reminder that time is short.
We don’t need to be told too much more: we can feel the stress as we contemplate the process. Downsizing is not something we really want to do. So how can we make this process of letting go easier?
Our least-stressed clients tend to focus on the benefits of letting of letting go, rather than dwelling on feelings of loss. Not that they deny those feelings. They just see the glass half-full. They choose to be honest with themselves about what they really don’t want, and give themselves permission to keep what’s truly important. This helps them feel in control and not robbed of their possessions. They choose to feel good about reclaiming the dining room table, having time for other pursuits, perhaps moving with a lighter load. They’re see themselves actively preparing for the next chapter, rather than as victims of their current circumstances.
These same clients heartily congratulate themselves on taking decisive action: getting started, making decisions, setting dates, formulating concrete plans. And they should! They actively note the progress as their home becomes letter cluttered, more accommodating for guests, ready for the realtor to list.
Of course not everyone claims these “joys of downsizing” as their own. But it sure helps while you’re at it.
For some, downsizing should have started yesterday. Then a health crisis or pending move creates sense of urgency, panic and denial about the time and energy required to meet the deadlines. Add to that unrealistic expectations about who will happily absorb your unwanted possessions, or what at they’ll sell for. Now you’ve got an Rx for stress.
Downsizing usually takes time. If you have to rush, something’s gotta give. That may mean rushed decision making about what to keep prior to a move, liquidating unwanted contents for less than you wanted because a closing date is looming, or paying to store what your son didn’t have time to claim.
When rushed, we become stressed. And under stress (and despite our best efforts to council otherwise) our clients have convinced themselves that “it will all fit”, they will definitely finish sorting through the attic before the movers arrive, and mom will be back before closing to decide upon the Christmas decorations. It’s not pretty when it doesn’t work out that way.
So let go of the expectation that there’s plenty of time, and start downsizing NOW.
And let go of the idea that anyone, even family, will love your unwanted stuff as much as you do. Family heirlooms may go unclaimed, even if they’re free. And unrealized financial expectations often stymy the best of plans to let go. Prepare to expect far less than what you paid for that dining room set, since you probably didn’t buy it as an investment. When in doubt, check with a Certified Estate Liquidator or Certified Personal Property Appraiser for unbiased valuation services and advice on the best way to liquidate.
Letting go isn’t easy, but it’s inevitable. Do it while you can and try to embrace the journey!
By Bridget Donnelly, Owner
Donnelly’s Estate Liquidation & Appraisal Services, LLC
Bridget Donnelly is the founder of Donnelly’s Estate Liquidation & Appraisal Services, a Centre County, PA-based business that has helped hundreds of people cope with the stresses of downsizing, moving and shedding unwanted possessions. Bridget is certified as a Senior Move Manager, Estate Liquidator and Personal Property Appraiser. She’s happy to listen to your downsizing challenges: email her at delas115@ImSoOverwhelmed.com.
Donnelly’s Estate Liquidation & Appraisal Service, LLC
Estate Liquidation, Appraisals, Senior Relocation Services