We’ve been talking and debating about downsizing for a while. Stay or leave? Age in place or not? Put money into our home of nearly 33 years, or buy something newer? It’s different for everyone, but for us it came down to this. We aren’t getting any younger, so waiting didn’t seem like the best option, as packing and moving will only get harder. If something happened to one of us, the other would never stay alone in the house, and the task of moving would be overwhelming.
We’ve lived in our house for close to half my life. Yes, thinking about leaving can feel daunting, and I’ve shed a tear or two, preparing the house to go on the market. But hard as it is, it feels right to be downsizing.
Did I mention the process can be daunting? Denny and I are both savers. Our house made that easy, as we have a large attic and a pole barn. Three years ago we sold our lake home, and the buyers didn’t want the furniture. We gave most of it away, but a significant amount of items from the lake ended up here.
We’ve been talking about going through the attic for years, but there was always something that seemed more important, or more fun. We didn’t expect to find the perfect home for the next phase of our lives so soon. We swore we would not build a new house. Surely there was something already built out there that would work.
So Aug. 25 we signed on the dotted line and committed to building a new home. Since then it’s been a whirlwind of trips to the storage facility, Goodwill, and photographing items to list on Facebook Marketplace.
Our real estate agents walked through our house weeks before we found our dream home, to help us estimate its worth. Basically they advised taking half of the furniture out of our home before putting it on the market. At that point we decided we needed at least a year to get our house ready for listing. Don’t today’s home buyers have any imagination whatsoever? They also suggested painting the dining room and the guest room.
So step one for us was renting a self storage unit. We went with a 10’ X 15’ unit, which I reserved online. I got lucky and was able to take advantage of a Labor Day Sale, and got it for half price. Then we found a moving company and booked them to move the heavy furniture to our storage unit.
That led to about a week and a half of packing like crazy all the stuff in 2 hutches, a secretary, a couple of desks, and a coffee table with a couple of drawers. Once we had all the extra big stuff moved into storage, it was time to take a close look at what was left, and come up with a plan. Denny and his friend Wayne decided the only way to manage the pole barn was with a dumpster. I’m not sure I’d ever taken a look at what was out there. I thought of it as Denny’s domain.
What I’ve learned is the more space you have to store things, the more you store. Things like the stroller we bought in 1975 for our first born. Sadly all that time in hot and cold temps did a number on the upholstery. Into the dumpster it went.
Over the years we got a little casual or maybe just sloppy. Things we use every day, we left on the counters. Why put away the frying pan on the stove, when we knew we’d be making scrambled eggs the next morning? Now that we have to put things away, I decided to make some room by getting rid of coffee mugs. I pulled them all out, and decided which ones we could live without. Eight mugs should be more than enough for two people, right? At least another eight were donated. I told Denny no matter how cool a place we travel to is, we have no business bringing home a mug from there. Ever.
Picture day for photographing the house for the MLS arrived. Family pictures were packed away. Covers off the furniture. Kitchen counters cleared. The house looked great, but the closets and laundry room were strictly off limits. Not to mention the attic. No sense in scaring anyone or having something fall on someone.
Tips for Downsizing
- If you think there is even a small chance you will be downsizing, start going through whatever you are storing soon.
- Get your kids to take their stuff. A great way to encourage that is to tell them you are opening an Etsy shop, and you would be happy to list that “whatever” for them.
- Sell the items you no longer need on Facebook Marketplace. Or Craigslist. I prefer Facebook Marketplace because you can see the profile of the buyer. This has been magic for us. Not everything sells, but I’ve been surprised more than once how quickly some items sell. And the big bonus is you don’t have to haul it anywhere but to the door.
- Find out what Goodwill or other organizations will and won’t take. You don’t want to load up a heavy treadmill, and find out it’s not accepted.
- Prepare to be surprised by how little your “collectibles” are worth. Right now I have 20something Bing and Grondahl Christmas plates on Facebook Marketplace for $5 each or 5 for $20, and no one has expressed any interest. Signed and numbered limited edition wildlife prints? Forget it. Grandma’s china? Nope.
- As you pack, ask yourself, “how will I feel when I unpack this in my new home?” Will I be happy to see it again, or will I be asking “where the heck do I go with this?”
The house hit the MLS, and we had two showings the first day, and an offer within 24 hours. Now the challenge is finding interim housing for six months that is dog-friendly! Join me in my Facebook Community and I’ll keep you posted how it goes!