Are you in the process of downsizing or anticipate downsizing in the future?

For some people, downsizing isn’t a choice; they have been forced into a position of downsizing as the only option for them. These people often have very mixed emotions about the process. However, for others (mainly those who choose to downsize), the downsizing experience is a freeing process and they approach it with joy.

Items to consider letting go

When you know you’ll be downsizing, decide how much and what you are willing to part with. Keep only those things that reflect yourself or your current lifestyle.

  • Yard equipment (lawnmower, gardening tools, etc.).
  • Tools you no longer use.
  • Old exercise equipment.
  • Entertaining supplies such as platters, extra glasses, etc.
  • Bakeware, cookware.
  • Outdated technology.
  • Clothes you don’t routinely wear.
  • Camping gear.
  • Any item you don’t use now or won’t use in the future

Simplify, simplify, simplify.

Items to keep

  • Keep things you need, things you use and things that bring you joy.
  • Ask yourself, “What can’t I live without?” Keep those items — things like a bed, a favorite chair and other seating for guests, a kitchen table, dresser and other basic living essentials.
  • Sentimental items such as pictures, family heirlooms and other mementos that, regardless of circumstances, you will not let go of until the day you die. I consider those non-negotiable, but be sure to set some realistic parameters for yourself.
  • Furniture that can serve dual purposes. A bookcase can be used to house books, display items and also hold a TV or other electronic equipment.
  • Can you get by with less furniture? Do you need Grandma’s old sewing machine or a coffee table? Could you pass along the sewing machine and use only end tables instead?

Items to give away

You will likely find yourself ready to part with some things or wanting to designate certain items to certain people in your will — written or otherwise.

  • Consider asking special friends or family members whether they have any special requests.
  • It can be a thrill for the person downsizing to give up some items before they pass. That way, they can see others enjoying their belongings now.

  • Put in writing any special requests and who should get what. This can eliminate conflict later.
  • Make sure the person receiving your item knows your intent in giving it. Is it supposed to be passed down in the family or is the recipient free to do what they want with it?

One sure way to part with some of your clutter is to return your kids’ belongings if they are being stored in your home. Once your children are grown and have moved out into a long-term space of their own, they’re old enough to take their belongings with them.

It can be overwhelming to know where to start downsizing and how to go about it. Don’t be surprised if you become emotional. Have a friend, family member or a professional organizer get you started.

Once you get going, the process will likely get easier as long as you have the time and are in good health. In the end you may find yourself enjoying the freedom of less. It’s rare that people truly regret letting go of their things even though it sometimes feels like a tug-of-war as they part with it.

I’ve found that people really enjoy the benefits of a simpler life. Even though downsizing has its pluses and minuses, it seems to be an overall freeing process. I’ve never had a client express the desire to go back to their big house with more stuff after they have downsized.

Less truly is more.

Julie Starr Hook of Salem is a professional organizer, owner of Five Starr Organizing and Design and author of “From frazzled to freedom.” She can be reached at (503) 881-4330.

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