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?

68 Responses to We might be crazy but we’re really doing this!
  1. Cathy Reply

    I just downsized by 1200 sq ft and boy what a process it’s been! But after 25 years in the same too large home and yard it was time. One thing I’ve referred to in the process is a “Clutter Clearing Mantra” that I pinned from your website a few years ago. But even still as you are finding out, purging is a very personal chore.
    I also found purging to be a long slow process. I’ve been going through things for the last several years and thought I had my stuff under control. Nope. I purged again when I staged the house to sell, there was another purge when I was packing and now I’m purging again as I unpack. I sure hope this is the last time but only time will tell.
    I wish you luck. And yes, it will be worth it in the long run.

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks for commenting Cathy. I think “time” is the biggest factor people don’t consider. Not only does it take time to go through everything (and we found we can only do so much a day) it takes time to get things sold or to the charities you decide to donate to. We have three weeks till the house goes on the market so time for us is quickly running out.

  2. Barbara Pirie Reply

    Linda, I won’t lie to you. At times we wish we still had something we let go, but in the end it was just stuff! Our new rule, if we want to bring in a new piece, the question then is what is going? We love being “stuff” free, but still need to purge (actually Kelsey needs to purge!). Good luck in your new adventure and enjoy your yard maintenance free weekends! 😘

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks Barb. It’s funny you say you still wish you had something. This past weekend I looked everywhere for the Cuisinart. It was only after a frustration 5-10 minute sea arch did I realize we gave it way. I’m sure there will be many more of those moments.

  3. Jeffrey Johnson Reply

    Awesome post. You have a very exciting new chapter. You will free as a flying bird.

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks Jeffrey, that is the intent!

  4. Marlene Devine Reply

    This post is right on the mark! As a personal organizer I’ve helped many people go through this process and I couldn’t have said it better myself. There IS a little bit of mourning that goes with it, but I will tell you, all of my clients have loved their new situation. Being “unburdened”is such a relief. Good for you… And good luck! I’m just a few years behind you in the process!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thank you so much Marlene. It’s amazing the amount of things we accumulated over the years. It’s sad to admit but we even have boxes from our move 12 years ago we never opened!

  5. Carla Aston Reply

    I love this….”get over the value of it”. So true! No one sees the value of your stuff like you do. I hear the “But I paid $____ for that!” all the time from clients! 🙂 Good luck! I’m downsizing the studio and I’m waiting to hear back from my landlord today, he’s going to try to meet my offer from my new place that I’ve almost signed on. I kinda just want to move anyway because it’s smaller. 🙂 We’re purging samples like crazy!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Carla, I too hear this same lament all the time from clients. The ones I find most humorous are the clients who have dust ridden elaborate window treatments from the 80 and 90’s. They always stress that they paid “over $1000.00 for each window”. It’s as if they think the original cost makes them still relevant today.

  6. Betty D Reply

    Kudos to you both for making this leap! Our lives get so burdened with stuff, that we spend much of our time accumulating and we move from place to place, that it hinders life.
    I’m certain that once this painful purge is over you will just breathe and take in all that life has to offer. Best wishes for your future happiness.

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thank you so much Betty for the words of encouragement. I can’t wait to write my final post when the ordeal is behind me!

  7. Jody Reply

    Linda, I totally agree with what you’re doing, and, have attempted to start doing this myself. Like you, I finally admitted my kids don’t want my things. And, my parents are in their mid-80s and are trying to “dump” so much of their things on me that I don’t have room for…what a vicious cycle! So, my moods for cleaning out come and go, but, I’m becoming more and more ruthless as I get older (mid-60s). Thank you for your encouragement and good luck! I love your idea, especially for your husband’s sake!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks Jody. It took me quite a few years to get to the point where I was ready to do this. I still have moments of doubt and plenty of sleepless nights of anxiety but in 6 months time it will all be behind me…except for the storage locker.

  8. Kelly F Martin Reply

    I’m fascinated, Linda. Keep the updates coming!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks Kelly. The post I am most excited to write is when this ordeal is over!

  9. linda Reply

    Oh I really feel for you as this is a daunting task. I keep putting my own off for another year (after year)..Now I’ve given a date 2018. We’ll see….

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Linda, it took us four years of talking about it non stop until it finally felt like the right time. When The time is right, you will know it.

  10. Janis Hill Reply

    Almost 10 years ago my husband and i gave away, sold or donated all, but 1 small U-Haul truck full of clothes, books, bed linens and kitchen basics (pots and pans, dishes, etc.) We drove from the Boston area all the way to Belize in Central America. We stopped in Dallas and had our truck load of “stuff” shipped to a real Estate agent in Belize and off we went driving through Mexico.
    The only thing I missed were my spatula’s. Yes, they were gone as well and I could not find good replacements.
    Before we left we spent 3 long days in front of the fireplace burning papers. Thank goodness it was a cold January!
    A few years later we returned to the Boston area. That was after having sold, given away or donating all we had acquired in Belize.
    I say all of this to tell you “GO FOR IT!”
    Yes, you may find you should have kept this or that, but you will soon find the other to replace it.
    And if you find you aren’t happy in your new surroundings you can always find a smaller house in the burbs…

    Wishing you all the best (and if you have a yard sale let me know!)

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Janis, this is so inspiring to read. I have not heard one negative response to purging and reading comments like yours gives me momentum and strength. Thanks so much for the pep talk!

  11. Leslie wood Reply

    Sounds like a brilliant plan! It sounds freeing to let go of all the stuff! I can’t wait to follow along on your journey! Xo

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks so very much Leslie. I’ll keep you posted!

  12. Jennifer Colleran Reply

    Linda, I love what you’re doing, it feels so brave and freeing. As someone who has moved A LOT I have developed almost a phobia about accumulating too much. And it happens so quickly. Good luck , I can’t wait to hear more about it.

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks Jenn, I’ll keep you posted!

  13. Dorothy B. Reply

    I envy you. What you’re doing is my dream. Our big, beautiful, spacious home has become a cluttered albatross we would dearly love to get off our backs. My husband and I foolishly thought youth, health, and boundless energy would be ours much longer than they have been. I look forward to downsizing to a small condo or apartment soon. The benefits will be enormous. Congratulations and all the very best of luck as you move forward on your wonderful adventure!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Hi Dorothy, It’s definitely a big decision to make and one not for sissies! I think I felt like you. The amount of stuff we had stored in the basement, closets and garage was like a huge albatross holding us back from moving into the next chapter of our lives. Like I said in the post though, it took four long years of thinking and talking about it before we took action.

  14. Sandy Reply

    Hi Linda,
    I just look at all the “stuff” that has accumulated in my “house of five”, and decide the task to purge is overwhelming!
    I finally tackle the master walk-in closet, but to my dismay, after a days work, it is still over-flowing!
    I know how great I would feel with less stuff!
    “A place for everything and everything in its place” would be liberating.But finding the time to truly minimize is a chore in itself!
    You are nearly done,,,I’m jealous 🙂
    Good luck with your new adventure!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      I can so relate to that Sandy. When we purged a year ago I felt like we made such headway but now that we really have to clear out I realize we barely scratched the surface!

  15. Liza Reply

    Thanks for writing…I hear you about your mother’s place. When my mom passed she had been living in the house I grew up in (57 years) and she was somewhat of a hoarder. We had two very large dumpsters filled with crap that no one wanted.

    It is hard to let go…some things bring back a favorite day, and special friend. But in the end, it is freeing to not hold on to the physical.

    I think my art would be the hardest thing to let go of if I had to downsize. But, I know one day I will be too.

    Best of luck in your move. Look forward to hearing more about it.


    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks so much Liza. The memories are just that, memories. The stuff has been holding us down from moving forward so it’s time to let go and yes, I never want my kids to have to go through what I did with my mom’s house.

  16. Jan Reply

    Good for you! We too downsized about 7 years ago and getting rid of stuff does take time. However, I found it actually very freeing and have had no regrets with any of it. As you approach retirement you dream of treating yourself to the life you have worked so hard to achieve and at last the time to do it. Enjoy this chapter.

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks Jan, I am looking forward to it and love hearing from those that have already done it and that they have no regrets.

  17. Claire Jefford Reply

    I’m excited for you Linda! I don’t imagine it will be super easy to transition after being so long in a large home with a lot of land (your place is AMAZING by the way!) however, I am a big believer that ‘Change is Good’. I love that you thought about your children when purging. My dad passed away more than 4 years ago now and the boxes of items we had to go through was overwhelming, in fact we still have some boxes in my sisters garage that we’ve got to go through. My mom and step dad have a lot of stuff too, but they have made full arrangements for their funerals including paying for them and choosing sermons etc, so that is all taken care of. My step dad insisted on that as he was left organising a family members funeral and that really was tough on him. Anyway, sorry to get so depressing, but I figured it was along the same lines. I’m looking forward to hearing more of your journey, you are doing great!! xxoo

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks so much Claire. Going through our own stuff is hard enough but going through a dead loved one’s stuff is traumatic to say the least.

  18. Heather Reply

    Your description, conclusions, and advice are right on the mark. I struggled with the reality of having spent a lot of money on certain things that it turns out has no resale value. Had to tell myself “suck it up” get rid of it. I can also tell you that once in a rental apartment, which may or may not be temporary, I have been surprised that I do not miss what has been given away or what is in storage.

    • Linda Holt Reply

      So happy to read this Heather that you didn’t miss anything. Once it’s gone I don’t think I’ll miss it either. I agree too that the perception of the value of some items can really hold us back.

  19. Sue West Reply

    We get so much clarity, too, after going through major events, like you’ve written about your health, Linda.

    It’s almost like once we’ve conquered or lived through something big, downsizing is almost a necessity. It’s almost as if it is a last step in shedding what ‘was,’ for ‘what will be.’

    Sue West

    • Linda Holt Reply

      I had those exact same thoughts Sue but didn’t want to drag up my cancer and get too philosophical about the whole thing. I think you are spot on though. I want a complete fresh start including my living space.

  20. Paula Gaull Reply

    As a stager up here on the North Shore, I help clients purge in preparation for selling/moving all the time…and what you’re going through is VERY typical–but I can also tell you that on the other side, it’s very freeing! Some of my clients who had the hardest time letting go of things are the same ones after who LOVE how it feels to have less stuff and decide to live like that from now on. I always equate it to someone who resists cutting their hair for many years because they’re scared, and then one day they finally go and do it, and they love it and wonder why they waited so long! I think your plan is a good one–having the safety net of the storage unit is key and should help ease your anxiety. Best of luck–I know this will be a great move for you!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks so much for sharing that Paula, i too think this current pain will be well worth it once we are settled in a smaller home surrounded by only what we love and need.

  21. Kathleen Reply

    I learned a wonderful lesson from my mother-in-law when she finally felt it was time to sell her house: it’s a lot easier if you decide you are moving TOWARDS a new life rather than AWAY from your old one. And she had seen plenty of her contemporaries stuff their new digs with bulky old outdated pieces and miles of books, “art”, and tchotchkes. So she chose a view, underground parking, convenience, and pretty, new furniture, decluttered her life, and never looked back! Hope it can be that way for you. (And me, in two years).

    • Linda Holt Reply

      I’m trying to do the same thing Kathleen, imaging what we are moving toward and not dwelling too much on what we are leaving behind. I know in the end we will be happier with less stuff and way less responsibilities.

  22. Deborah Hollister Reply

    My husband and I did this three years ago and have never looked back. We moved from a half acre and a big house to a tiny condo in an old candy factory. My husband says his second favorite day ever was the day he sold our lawn mower. We got much quicker at making decisions about what to keep as our moving day got closer. Of course we still had tons of stuff to donate once we moved in. I LOVE our place and love owning very little. My kids have already thanked us for saving them a ton of work in the future. Best of luck and have fun!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks Deborah, I hope that is our end story as well. Although I will be honest and tell you my kids are not in favor of us selling the house. Hopefully they will come around.

      • Deborah Hollister Reply

        We have four kids, who were 33, 32, 22 and 21 when we moved. The two older ones got to say good bye to our house, but the younger two were away at university when we decided (in a one-minute conversation) to sell and move. (It really was the quickest decision I’ve ever made in my life!) They were not able to say good bye to the house they had been in since they were babies. I did feel a bit bad about that. They love our new place though. It’s downtown instead of in the suburbs, and when they are home visiting, their friends love to hang out here. Way more fun for them, especially with the city right outside.

        • Linda Holt Reply

          Deborah, That’s good to hear although my two live right in the city so they of course love coming home to the country. I think once they see how much happier we are I think they will get over it. Plus, this house is not the house they were raised in. We sold that one 12 years ago and THAT was hard on both of them and they’ve recovered just fine!

  23. carol Reply

    I totally agree with you ! Mother and Daddy’s generation saved the china the antiques the diamonds and heirlooms and now I live in their big huge home still purging as my only child does not want it Charity is a good idea and also regifring precious Lenora with a soil of their own to some of Moms friends not nitsomgbhe residents who like a little bling in their lives stoll brings a smile to my face at work Reaching our fifties and sixties as baby boomers you reflect on parents values and yet admire the millenials with their carefeee existence in Pats and temporary homes both domestic and foreign as they don’t let the grass grow under their feet for long It’s a very ambiguous existence wanting to “leave” something for your kids. To make their lives easier than ours yet trying to encourage them. It to be like us. And live free and travel!! Good luck to you and God bless u in your humble abode ❤️

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks so very much Carol. You are so right, our parents lived with way to much stuff and never purged. My parents grew up in the depression so it was ingrained in them from a very young age that someday they might need it so better to hold on to everything.Sadly, leaving all that stuff for me to have to sort through was a burden I don’t think they ever even thought about.

  24. JoannKandrac Reply

    You are such an inspiration Linda and so wonderful to share this. I’m not quite there but I know the time is coming. Thank you for your honesty and insight!’

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks so much Joann, feeling better and better about this downsizing with each supportive comment I receive.

  25. Kelly Reply

    Excited and happy for you Linda! xo

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks Kelly!

  26. Rosanne Palazola Reply

    Excellent post, Linda!! I too am trying to purge as an early start to our next chapter. Some items are so difficult and some are no-brainers. I still can’t believe I got rid of my grandmother’s beaver coat. It’s the only winter coat she ever wore. I inherited it but it never fit and the pelts were so dry, they almost cracked. It hung in my closet for over 30 years. It was time. But I still get a “twinge” when I think about it. But the more I purge, the easier it gets! I want to live by my mother’s motto, “Go lean and mean!” And, as designers, it gives us a new challenge in a new space! Don’t look back! Good luck!!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      I agree Rosanne, the more I get rid of the easier it gets. We still have packed a lot into the storage locker so I know that will be phase two as soon as we are settled in our new apartment. There are things we put in there early on in the process that I already am questioning why we decided to hang to them.

  27. Susan Reply

    We can have a support group…we’re doing it too!
    We’ll survive (I hope )

    • Linda Holt Reply

      We really do need a support group!

  28. Heather Bates Reply

    Great post! When My Father and Father-in-law passed away, two years later both mother’s downsized to condo’s, and took too much stuff -after cleaning out the houses they’d lived in for YEARS.
    Then when the two of them passed away, we had to do it all over again. This has been a big reason we sold off our dining room, and concert grand piano. I don’t think we can downsize to a condo, simply because my kids live out of state. When they visit us, we want them to stay with us. Plus our 2nd grandchild will be born late August/early December. As it is, we don’t have space for both kids to stay here at the same time.
    My hubby also drives an hour both ways to his CIO job. However, even he doesn’t want to live in the areas close to his employer. They aren’t great.

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Hi Heather, my kids live in Boston and after the move we will be moving a stones throw from them so luckily that’s not an issue with us.As far as buying in the town when my husband works, he doesn’t want to buy there either. That’s why renting makes the most sense for the time being.

  29. Linda Pakravan Reply

    Great post, Linda, and great advice. Best of luck in your new venture!

    I worked with two clients who were children of hoarders. Both were borderline hoarders. It was painful.

    And then I helped one bona fide hoarder “clean up” because her real estate agent told her they couldn’t show the house until she did. It was a monumental project. But as we progressed through “mountains” of stuff she felt better — especially after I started finding money, lots of money, in envelopes. That made her happy!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Hi Linda, Money would be a big motivator for sure. Unfortunately, no money or undiscovered treasures are hiding in any of our things 🙁

  30. Laurie Leavitt Reply

    Hi LInda,
    I”m excited for you. I know you’ve been contemplating this for a long time and trying it out is a great solution! You can’t go wrong because you’re not buying. I think this is very wise and I’m excited for you as you approach this new adventure! And I’m glad you’ll be a lot closer! 🙂

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks Laurie, we are excited and I really do feel we are making the right decision. Right now though we are at the point where it is overwhelming with purging and I just want to get that ordeal behind us.

  31. Gail Mcleod Reply

    Hi Linda
    Wishing you much happiness in your next chapter. I am steeling myself for this next phase – not so hard to junk the attic – half of which came from my old house 17 years ago – it is my cherished garden that I cannot leave. Part of me is out there and always will be.

    Meanwhile I spend a lot of time on Rightmove.com! I think my time has not come yet but the next few years may change that.


    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks Gail, It was definitely something we discussed for many years before we both were “on the same page”. You’ll know when you’re ready and the time is right. I don’t think such a dramatic change like this should be taken lightly. Purging a life time of memories is brutally hard. As far as your garden, I totally understand how you feel about that.

  32. Sherrill Reply

    After doing something similar, I always advise people if you think you’re going to move anytime in the next 20 years, start purging now. Not kidding. The other useful tip: move cross country. The movers charge by the pound so that helps with some of the decision-making. Finally, to those who are buying their first home, when the real estate agent lists “lots of storage” as a great feature, run!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      OMG, Sherrill, everything you said is SO very true. I wish we had started this process at least two years ago. It might not have been any easier but I don’t think I would be the basket case I have become as our time remaining to purge is running out.

  33. Veronica D Reply

    I support your decision 100% a new life is fun.
    About the stuff I do have to say that when my Mom suddenly passed away, it was very dramatic for my brother, my sister and me. And we cherished almost all of her things. I know SHE is NOT in those things but part of it yes for us three. We donated all her clothes, but we use often her jewelry and scarves. I have a coffee table and side table that I actually bought for her with my first payments at work. And I can’t tell you how cool is to put a Christmas ornament that she hung while growing up or purchase together. While your kids may not want a lot of things now, later they’ll like something. So storing a few things might be a nice idea. I do agree that they are not going to want a whole house full of things or your collection of yarn perhaps 😉 although my sister managed to even use that haha, but it was a bit too many things that my Mom used to save and I’m trying not to be like her so much hehe. Hope I don’t confuse you more and affect the process. Is just a different opinion.
    Lots of love and hugs for you.

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thank you so much Veronica. I’m very sorry about your mom but grateful for your words of support. We are about 75-80% done and now we are down to the really hard stuff full of emotional memories. We have almost filled our storage locker so either we have to just give the rest away or pull things out of the locker that aren’t as important as we thought. It sure is a long process and I will be so glad when it’s behind us!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Subscribe to my blog

Browse by Category