We might be crazy but we’re really doing this!

My husband and I, like almost every other baby boomer I know have been talking about downsizing. For the past three or four years we have wanted to unload our big house in the country/burbs and the responsibilities of cleaning, gardening and the maintenance that goes along with it. Let’s be real here, two people and a dog do not need this much house.

our home

our home

The reason why we have only been talking about moving and not taking action is simple. We could not decide where we wanted to move even though I have spent more time on realtor.com than I care to admit. Here’s the problem, the towns we would like to buy a smaller home in are either too expensive (real estate has surged 50% or more in the past five years in towns close to Boston) or the towns are too far from my husband’s job.

So on new years day, after a weekend of discussing the feasibility of moving (for the umpteen time) we made a radical decision to sell our home without knowing where we will buy next. What’s that saying? ” jump and the net will appear”? We called the realtor and set a list date. Then we came up with an even more radical idea. Donate 60-70% of our belongings to charity, put another 20% in storage and move into a small apartment that is within walking or bike riding distance to my husband’s job. Crazy or brilliant?

On the plus side we unburden ourselves from the big house and the responsibilities that go along with it. Just as important, we take a huge amount of stress off my husband who currently has an hour plus commute each day, each way, in bumper to bumper traffic. Being close to work is going to be life changing for him.

On the other hand, can we really be happy living in a small apartment? Can we deal with getting in an elevator each time the dog wants/needs to go out? Will I be okay not being able to make any changes in the design or even paint the walls?

Now that we have committed to this plan I fluctuate between excitement of the future and anxiety that we are making a huge mistake. We are forging ahead though and tackling the hardest part….purging for the downsize. I have had so many friends tell me how great I will feel after it is done but I will tell you right now I don’t feel great at all. I feel overwhelmed and even somewhat depressed. Sorting through a life time of memories, family heirlooms, books, art work, photos and several china and glassware collections and deciding what stays and what goes is daunting. We have A LOT OF STUFF!!!

We are now three weeks into the process and this is what I have learned so far

  1. Purging takes time. We actually started the decluttering process over a year ago after reading Marie Condor’s book about decluttering, “The life-changing magic of tidying up”. We got rid of what seemed like half of our stuff. We were only fooling ourselves though because we realize now we only scratched the surface. When there is more than one person involved in the decision making purging can take longer and be even more stressful. For example, I donated 53 boxes of old books to the library and I didn’t give it a second thought. A box of my son’s artwork though from second grade and my shell collection is impossible to let go of. My husband on the other hand has no trouble donating any of our furniture, china or glassware yet refuses to part with old tools and some (fugly) art work that belonged to his parents.
  2. Just GET OVER how much the value is (was) of what you are selling, tossing or donating. We made a decision at the start of our process that we would not try to sell, consign, auction or have a yard sale.Each situation is different and you might decide to sell your stuff and that’s great but in our experience (and we have done everyone of those things) the amount of work and time involved is not worth the pennies on the dollar we would ultimately receive. Instead, we picked three local charities that we are donating everything to. (I did end up listing two things on Craigslist but only because they were too big and heavy to donate, and yes, I received a fraction of what they were worth).
  3. Have a safe place to store things that you can’t make a decision on for a predetermined length of time. One thing that has kept me from completely going bonkers is that we rented a storage locker for one year. Small living may or may not work for us so if after a year we decide to buy another house we will not have to repurchase everything. Plus some of the family heirlooms along with our bikes, skies and most of our artwork we plan to keep but there will be no room in a small apartment.
  4. Allow yourself time to mourn. The purging process can feel freeing but also very sad. Some of the things we are letting go of have great emotional attachment. Marie Kondo says to touch everything and see if it brings you joy. In my case, most things we own bring me joy so I have to be even more selective. The two questions I ask myself are #1. Why am I holding on to this? and #2. When I am gone will my children want this? If I don’t have a really good answer for #1 and the answer to #2 is NO, then it goes. BTW, fooling myself into thinking that maybe some day I will have a grandchild and maybe that grandchild will want…X… is NOT an acceptable reason to hold on to something. Bye bye Beanie Babies!
  5. Your kids don’t want your stuff. I have talked to many friends and acquaintances who have already gone through this process and in almost all cases, the kids don’t want your stuff. Mine don’t and even if they did, they are both living in small Boston apartments so have no space for it. So if it’s truly something they may want some day when they have a home of their own, put it into storage and decide how long you want to pay rent to hold on to it.

Finally, I believe you owe it to your kids to declutter before it’s too late. My mom passed away after living in the same house for 55 years and seemingly never threw a single thing out. To this day I am still traumatized remembering the amount of work and the toll it took on me to go through her house, large attic and a full basement and sort through generations of stuff. It was a nightmare I vowed I would never do to my kids.

I know small living isn’t for everyone and it may not work out for us. We are giving it a try though because to simplify our lives by living with less is the best way I can think of to up level our lives going forward.

I’d love to hear your opinions. Would you consider doing this or do you think we are crazy?

The home trend that has nothing to do with decorating

There is a growing trend happening in home interiors. Shelter magazines, decorating blogs and news show are all abuzz over it. What is it you ask? It is the desire to free ourselves from excess “stuff” and simplify our life by decluttering or “tidying”.

In case you haven’t heard, this is the bombshell book that has rocked the world and caused millions to jump on the “tidying” bandwagon.

Tidying book image

Marie Kondo’s book came into my life at the perfect time because a diagnosis of Cancer has a way of shifting one’s mind set. I thought back to when my mom and also my husband’s mom passed away from Cancer and my husband and I were responsible for cleaning out two entire households of belongings. It took us years and years (over ten to be exact) to finally sort through and deal with everything. It wasn’t the furniture that was the problem but all the stuff (crap) that was stored in the closets, cabinets, bookcases, attic and basement. When I think back on all the wasted time, expense and energy we devoted to first moving then storing and then moving that stuff again, it sickens me. I vowed I would NEVER do that to my kids so if not now, when?

Now let me be clear, my husband and I are not striving to live a minimalist life style which is what Kondo’s book basically advocates. Instead, we simply want to unburden ourselves and ultimately our sons of way more stuff than we need or use. I believe her book has become such a phenomenon because the over consumerism that most of us have fully enjoyed due to cheap labor has run it’s course. Boomers are looking to downsize, gen X’ers are interested in locally made quality goods and millennials prefer spending their paychecks on experiences rather than cheaply made throw away items.

Kondo’s message is very powerful and after reading her book and then having my husband read her book, we decided we were ready to take action and purge or as Kondo refers to it, “detox” our home. Kondo’s process is not about deciding what to get rid of but rather what to keep.The criteria for keeping an item is to hold it in your hands and ask yourself does it spark joy in your heart? Is it useful and if so, do you use it? Rather than go room by room Kondo’s method is to declutter by category. Clothes first followed by books then papers, then miscellaneous items and finally sentimental items.

Since my husband was off work between Christmas and the New Year we spent a good chunk of that week beginning Kondo’s tidying process. Clothing was a breeze because I have very little attachment to clothes nor does he. The final clothing donate pile was four feet high and eight feet long. The photo below are just my husband’s donations.

clothing donation

seven large trash bags of clothes were donated

Books were a little more painful as I am a book lover. Nevertheless we let go of 8 big boxes of books. We spent two full days on papers and then moved to miscellaneous and started with kitchen items.

Until I actually touched everything we owned I had no idea how many things did not spark joy in my heart and how many things I no longer used or needed. I was surprised to see we owned four Pyrex measuring cups, twenty three sets of chop sticks (we rarely use chop sticks) and a waffle iron that I forgot I even owned.

kitchen clutter

Cuisinart, pots and pans and misc. items are just some of the kitchen items we purged

Interestingly, Kondo talks in the book about how this detoxing process can cause actual physical illness. A few days after we started purging my husband who very rarely gets sick had flu like symptoms. I didn’t get sick but that whole week I felt like I was coming down with something.

Our house detoxing is far from complete but we are making progress. One half of our garage is now completely filled with donations. I will admit that I had remorse several times over the monetary valuable of some of the things were we letting go but I stayed strong. Freedom from clutter that doesn’t spark joy is more important right now as I look forward to good health, travel, and eventually downsizing.

We still have many weeks of work on the miscellaneous items and then the really challenging work will begin…the sentimental items. Kondo says her average client takes about six months to completely detox their home. We are shooting for completion by Summer so that sounds about right.

Wish me luck and I will be sure to update you with our progress.

 

Tips and Strategies for decluttering: part 3

william Morris quote

This is my third and final post about my personal experience with decluttering. In part one I explained how I sorted my clutter, and in part two I shared my experience with selling my things on Craigslist, eBay and yard sales. This final segment is a recap of my final three selling venues; an auction, a local consignment shop and a local flea market.

Auction

Pros: The auctioneer came with a truck and loaded up our items; an advantage since we have small cars. When you sell at auction you have the option of setting a reserve so that if  bidding doesn’t reach the minimum amount you are willing sell for then you can have the item back (read more about reserves below). It was a fun and exciting night, we made some money and we came home to less stuff in the basement.

Cons: If the auction isn’t well attended you can end up making very little money. Also, if your items are in the wrong auction; for example you have a collection of Chinese export plates but the big draw that night is motorcycle memorabilia then you will do poorly. Talk to the auctioneer and make sure your items are in the right auction for the crowd that night.

What I learned:The auction house takes a commission anywhere between 15%-25% so be sure to do your homework and put your items with a reputable auction house. Similar to my experience with ebay, unique or one of a kind items did really well while older furniture and vintage glassware and china did not do well. A 1940’s solid Cherry sideboard only fetched $50.00 (I almost cried)  but an old duck decoy went for over $400.00 (I couldn’t believe it)! Also, we chose not to set a reserve because if the item didn’t reach the minimum not only would have to take the item back but the auctioneer would  still takes a commission (determined by the reserve price).

Consignment shop

Pros: Similar to auction houses the consignment shop will usually send a truck to transport your big and bulky items. If the shop is heavily trafficked lots of people will see your item. The consignment shop usually styles your items so that they are shown in the very best light.

Cons: Many consignment shops lower the prices every 30 days an item doesn’t sell. You need to tell the owner your bottom line on price so that you can take the item back if it doesn’t sell. The shop takes 40%-50% of the final sale price.

What I learned: This venue for me was the least successful of everything I tried.  Of the 4  items I consigned, nothing had sold after 90 days.  I had the option of either taking everything back or the shop would donate it to a charity. I ended up taking back a set of vintage china and a lamp and donated the table and chairs to charity. In defense of consignment shops, I think I picked the wrong shop. They went out of business a short time later so I think it was more an indicator of the specific shop and not a reflection of all consignment shops. As far as profit, I think consignment shops will net you similar to what Craigslist will (after the shop’s commission) with the added advantage that strangers will not be coming to your home.

A local Flea Market

Pros: if you are rating venues based on a fun meter this one wins hands down. I set up a table with a friend one Sunday last Summer and we had a blast. The crowd was great, we sold lots of collectibles and during the slow time we browsed the other vendors treasures and had a great time talking to folks. We both made almost $200.00, caught up with lots of chatting and got rid of a bunch of stuff.

Cons: We had to get up and leave the house at 4 am, yes 4 am, because the market opened at 5 am and the hours of 5 am-10 am are the busiest and when the serious buyers are out. We spent a lot of time loading up her van, unloading at the market, reloading after the day was done then unloading back into the garage the things that didn’t sell.

I hope my three decluttering posts have answered some of your questions about decluttering and selling. I can not stress enough that decluttering is a process. Take your time and do a little each day or weekend. I am still working through my stuff and even as I type this I have a box of small collectibles to photograph and list and eBay….maybe tomorrow :)

I would love to hear your story. Are you working on decluttering in 2014?

Are you following me on Pinterest and Instagram?

 

 

Tips and strategies for decluttering and downsizing: part 2

via Pinterest

via Pinterest

In my previous post I shared my tips on the best way to sort items when decluttering and downsizing. What I found was that it was relative easy to decide on what to keep (items I loved, needed or used) and what to throw away (broken items, old TV’s, obsolete computers.) . The donate pile was easy too, (old clothes, furniture, extra kitchen utensils and small appliances).

The biggest stumbling block for me, which I assume it might be for others, was deciding what to do with those items that were relegated to the sell pile. We had items like vintage fishing lures that had belonged to my grandfather, antique linens and china that had belonged to my mother’s great aunt and a pottery collection that I had grown tired of. These things were obviously not suited to my local Salvation Army drop off. Luckily time is on our side since we plan to downsize in 3-5 years not next month. I therefor had the time to try out a combination of multiple selling venues. Listed below is what I found to be the pros and cons of each.

Yard Sale:

Pro’s: people came to us and in one day we cleared out some stuff and what didn’t sell we hauled back into the garage to deal with as time allowed.

 Cons: It was a huge amount of work getting ready for it and we made only pennies on the dollar. It also involved giving up a full day on a beautiful weekend in the Spring.

 What I learned: Yard sales are great for things that you know local folks want. Kids toys, garden supplies, picture frames, current best seller books and tools. What didn’t sell were cheap decorative items (made in China), clothes, older sports equipment, old books, and rugs.

Craigslist:

Pros: I was somewhat able to set the selling price (I got more than I would have at the yard sale) and people came and picked up the item.

Cons: Strangers come to your house, and what I found was that people would make an appointment to come and see the item and then 75% of the time they wouldn’t show up, nor would they call and cancel.

What I learned: Similar to yard sales, people shopping on Craigslist are looking for rock bottom prices. After weeks of listing and re-listing we eventually sold an oriental rug that was in mint condition for $300… sadly,we had paid close to $2,000 for it. Out dated dining sets will only sell for a couple hundred dollars and no one wants upholstered pieces unless you are practically giving them away (the bed bug scare maybe)?  What sold best for us on Craigslist were current style, well known brands; Pottery  Barn, West Elm and Crate and Barrel items all received an immediate response.

Ebay:

Pros: The items that sold, fetched WAY more than I had even anticipated. If you are listing as an auction item the listing fee is free. If something doesn’t sell it is easy to re-list. 90% of the items I listed sold the first time around and the second 9% sold the second time around. 1% of the things I listed didn’t get any bids even after several attempts. It’s also fun to watch the price go up as people bid and out bid one another.

Cons: Okay, I’ll be honest, there are a lot of cons to selling on ebay. First of all, it takes a huge amount of time to photograph each item, list it and then once it sells it is your responsibility to package and ship it. It took me a full day to photograph and list 6 items. There is a learning curve for selling on ebay and the listing process is tedious and time consuming. Lastly, since I don’t own a postage scale I lost money on almost every single item because I underestimated the shipping cost.

What I learned: Small and hence easy to ship items are the most manageable to sell on ebay. I sold some pottery and then spent almost an entire day searching for suitable shipping boxes, purchasing bubble wrap and peanuts and then packaging everything up to take to the post office. Antiques do very well on ebay as do any kind of vintage collectibles. An antique doll sold for $184.00, a pair of miniature sterling silver antique scissors sold for over $50.00 and the antique fishing lures all sold for good amounts.

My final post (part three) of my declutering experience will be up next week. I will give both the pros and cons of my final three selling venues;  auction, consignment and a local flea market. Until then, happy decluttering.

What is your favorite way to sell items?

If 2014 is the year you decide to finally love your home, give me a call.

 

Tips and strategies for decluttering and downsizing: Part One

Happy New Year! I hope you had a wonderful holiday. Now that it’s January it seems the number one focus on everyone’s mind (based on Pinterest, blogs and magazine covers) is juicing, and decluttering. Both with the ultimate goal of being thin and organized in 2014.

It makes sense that the majority of us are feeling the need to purge after a month of too much food, too much partying, too much clutter, and too much overall excess.

clutter

I have the personality type that functions best if my environment is organized, clean and clutter free.  Having said that, you would assume my house would reflect that but you would be wrong. You see, as a decorator I am by nature a collector. I have way too many throw pillows, dishes, table linens, extra furniture and decorative accessories. My husband is a high tech guy so he is equally at fault with having too many computers, monitors, cords and “high tech” stuff.

About six months ago I decided enough is enough. I had reached my breaking point (again, my personality type) and we have been slowly decluttering. I will be honest, it has not always been easy. Many items have sentimental or monetary value and deciding what to do with those items is where we get tripped up. We are continuing to move forward though so that by this time next year I want to proudly claim that we are clutter free.

For those of you who also plan to make de-cluttering or downsizing a goal in 2014 I thought it would be helpful to share tips and strategies that have helped us.

1. De-cluttering is a process. Unless you are the rare bird who can say, “just pull the dumpster up to the back door” and then start heaving stuff into the trash, de-cluttering takes time…lot’s of time. What works best for me is to set the timer on my iphone for a designated amount of time (usually 45 minutes to one hour) and work only for that specific amount of time.

2. Target one area at a time. I started with a single closet in the hallway and only worked on that space until it was done.

3. Divide items into four groups. Group one are items to keep, group two are items to be tossed, group three are items to donate or give away and group four are items to sell. When deciding which group something should go in, this is where you need to be a little ruthless. Try to keep emotion out of your decision. Just because something was given as a gift or cost a lot of money doesn’t mean you need to keep it forever. If it is not adding to the enjoyment of your life, or you are not using it then it is time to let it go.

4. When deciding what goes in the “keep”group ask these three questions.

Do I love it? (furniture, art work, accessories, clothes)

Do I need it? (tax receipts, waffle iron warranty, 20+ scented candles)

Do I use it? (ten year old treadmill, old tools, clothes 2 sizes too small)

Only things that fit into one of these three categories should go in the keep pile when de-cluttering…again, be brutally honest.

 Now that you have items separated into one of four groups what next? 

Check back later in the week as part two will address the best resources I found for dealing with things to donate or sell along with the pros and cons of each resource such as charities, yard sales, Craigslist, Ebay, and a few more.

How about you?  Is decuttering a goal for you in 2014? Do you have tips that worked best for you? I would love to hear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Tips to Achieving a Decluttered Look Without Giving Up Collecting

We all know the big buzz word for 2012 is decluttering. Everyone is talking about cleaning out, living with less, downsizing and getting organized. The fact is though most people still love to collect (myself included). So the big question is, how can you continue to collect (or even keep your existing collections) and achieve that decluttered look at the same time?

#1. Display one collection at a time.  Multiple collections all displayed at the same time will add both visual as well as physical clutter and not give your home that “living with less” feeling you are trying to achieve. Try rotating your collections and showcasing only one at a time. Maybe your basket collection can take center stage in the Summer then pack it away and highlight your collection of colorful vases in the Winter. This way your collections will always seem fresh and you will keep the clutter to a minimum.

 

 

#2. Keep your collections contained. Another way to live with your collections and still achieve that decluttered look is to keep your collection in a designated cabinet. The cabinet below houses a collection of pottery, books and globes yet the room doesn’t look or feel cluttered at all.

 

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#3. Use your collections as wall art. Declutter by getting your collections off the table surfaces and on to the wall as art. There is no rule that art work has to be flat and if your collection is colorful all the better.

 

This collection of baskets add texture as well as color in this entrance.

 

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What a fun idea for a tween or teen to use their colorful  hand bag collection as art.

 

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This colorful Anime collection seems almost sophisticated when installed along the entire wall in this dining room.

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Lastly, if you are lucky enough to be renovating or building what a great idea to actually build a display wall for your collections. Just think how much fun it would be to swap out collections on a seasonal basis;  Coral in the Summer, Nutcrackers at Christmas, a collection of Red items around Valentine’s Day, Pumpkins in the Fall… so many possibilities!

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So how about you…Are you a collector who wants that declutterd look and feel in 2012? I know I am.

Low / No Cost Holiday Decor Storage

I know there are two kinds of people when it comes to holiday decorations. Those that love their decorations and keep them displayed through most of the Winter and those that can’t wait to clean up and put everything away. I am one of the latter. By the time Christmas rolls around I am so over the extra clutter of the decorations and the dried out greenery that I have to hold myself back from pulling the decorations down as soon as the last gift is opened.

I am the type of person who likes to start the new year with a clean slate, which for me is a clean house.  So yesterday I spent a good part of the day purging the house of Christmas. I tossed all the greenery and packed away all the decorations (except those on the tree which we traditionally take down on New Years Day).

Over the years I have invested in some great storage boxes for wreaths, wrapping paper and ornaments and I have found these make organization and storage so much easier than the random cardboard boxes and paper bags I used to use.

As great as the store bought boxes are, they can be quite pricey. This year I found some great “use what you have” ideas for Holiday storage so I want to share them with you.

 

I love clear ornament storage boxes and this is  similar to the one I own.

Bed bath and Beyond

 

Here is a cleaver way to make your own using plastic glasses left over from your holiday party.

Pinterest

 

I love this light storage box  from The Container Store.

Here is the “use what you own” version. Just as good don’t you think?

Pinterest

 

Wrapping paper storage is always nice and this box from The Container Store keeps supplies organized and in one place..

However, the back of a closet door keeps supplies just as organized and even more accessible.

 

Tissue paper is usually what I use to protect ornaments and other fragile decorations

but if you own a shredder this is just as good: Shred this years wrapping paper and use instead of store bought tissue paper.

Real Simple

 

 

Here are two other cleaver ideas  from Real Simple magazine.

 

Use egg cartons to store and protect small ornaments.

Pinterest

 

and although I don’t see plastic apple crates in stores near me, they make great ornament protectors if you buy your apples in these.

Real Simple

 

 

I am always curious as to when others “undecorate” from the holidays?  Are you like me and want it gone before New Years? or like my friend who keeps the holiday decor all through the Winter?

 

 

Is 2012 the year to “love your home”?  If so, give me a call for a decorating or color consult. I will help you see your home in a whole new light so that you will have a home you love spending time in.

 

 

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