I always advise my clients to start the downsizing process by tackling the hardest task first — sorting and purging the things that mean the most right at the start. Why do I advocate this? Because by dealing with the most sentimental items first, everything else that follows seems easier to let go. But easier does not mean easy!
This blog therefore focuses on how to get rid of unwanted items — because this one issue causes about 95 per cent of my clients the most stress and worry. I’ve been helping my clients sort and dispose of unwanted goods for 20 years, and now my husband and I are in the process of downsizing too, with a renovation thrown into the mix, which I can assure you adds whole new levels of stress and worry. For our recent downsizing move, the task I started first was culling my much treasured old cards and letters.
Unfortunately, we are a throwaway society. Our children and grandchildren don’t seem to value things the way we did and still do. During my downsizing presentations, I ask my audience: “How many people here have children and grandchildren that say, ‘Oh yes, please, I will have your well-made Chiswell or Parker furniture’.”
Or, ‘Let me take all your lovely silver, Grandma, I would love to stay home on a Saturday night and polish the silver until it shines’… ‘Fine china — no way — it won’t go in the dishwasher!’ Around the room I see heads nodding and those wry smiles that tell me it’s a pretty common problem.
I think back to when I first married and was offered Mum and Dad’s old vinyl lounge. We stuck to it in summer, it chilled us to the bone in winter, but we were so happy to be given it. This just does not happen anymore.
Kids today can go to one of the furniture shops and buy a house full of furniture, crockery and linen and pay it off (sometimes interest free) over a period of a year or two — so why would they want our old, pre-loved things?
Stuff and nonsense
The bottom line is we all have too much ‘stuff’ — and ‘stuff’ is the nicest term that many of my clients use. We have stuff because we want our homes to look nice, we have it because we inherit it, and we have it because, well, we just can. The bigger the house, the more we fill it, right?
Then, we decide to downsize. Now what? What we have will certainly not fit into the new, ‘smaller’ home.
I’ll outline the options for disposing of unwanted goods below, but the one thing I must stress is the need to start early to make decisions on what you want to do with your unwanted items. It may sound harsh, but if you don’t start working on what to do with your unwanted items right away, you may find that it all becomes too much and, before you know it, it’s a week until moving day, you haven’t been able to get rid of the items that won’t fit and it ends up being taken to the tip. If that was your plan all along, that’s fine — but what if it wasn’t? This can make the final days of your move incredibly sad and it certainly adds to your stress levels.
So my number one tip is to start thinking about what you want to get rid of long before the downsizing process starts. If you would like help with this, DWE has 20 years’ experience in helping people get this complicated process started and seen through to a happy end.
Where to start?
Family and friends — Ask if they’d like the items you no longer want. It’s OK if they live near you, but what if they live in another town, state or overseas? What will the cost be to get the items delivered? A good removal or downsizing company can help you source out the most cost-effective way to deliver these goods.
Garage sales — These can be fun if you have loads of help from family and friends, but they are a lot of work, and the rewards can be few. A successful garage sale involves endless organising, including setting up a float and promoting your event. One of my clients had the best weekend with her daughters and friends; she spent the day and night beforehand pricing items and readying them for sale, and finished the weekend with a bottle of bubbly and a good laugh. But it doesn’t always go like that. There is so much preparation involved — you must get up early to beat the dealers, I am talking four or 5am, to get the items out ready for sale. A rush of keen people at first is usually followed by a long, slow day. By the end of the day, you’re exhausted and you may have made some money, but then, you have to fall into bed exhausted, ready to get up again at daybreak to set everything up for perhaps a dozen buyers the next day. And when it’s all over, you still have things to get rid of…
In the end, only you can decide if you are up for organising and holding a garage sale — and will you get rid of plenty of stuff and make enough money to justify the whole process?
Auction houses — Because we are such a throwaway society, items that go to auction are not as valuable as they once were. We have taken the most beautiful items to auction houses on behalf of our clients — but by the time they pay our delivery fee and the auction house takes its cut, the owners do not make much, if anything. Again, if you start early, as part of our packages, we can source the best places to sell your items.
Charities — Donating goods to charities requires a lot of early organisation. Charities are overrun at the moment and if you have items to donate (if they will indeed agree to take them), you need to give plenty of notice to book them to pick up your unwanted goods. If you work with us, we will always do our best to find out if one of the many charities we support can use your pre-loved things.
Online forums — Many of our clients have achieved a great deal of success in selling their unwanted goods online via Gumtree, eBay and their local Buy, Swap and Sell sites on Facebook. The benefit of using these forums is that stuff tends to move pretty quickly if it’s priced cheaply, and people are often willing to travel to you and will dismantle and load items themselves to grab a bargain. However, if, like me, you struggle with technology, going online is not always a great option.
Let go with grace
In the end, sorting through and discarding your unwanted goods is a complicated and time-consuming task that you can do yourself or with the help of family and friends. However, sometimes it’s easier and less stressful to get a professional in, one who has helped hundreds of people over many years, to see you through this difficult process. This is your move and it should be as stress-free as possible.
Remember, in the end, the things that fill your home are just ‘stuff’; it’s better to hold on to the years of happy memories you have associated with those items you can no longer keep or use — let them go and allow someone else to gain pleasure from them.
I have so many stories and solutions to help people get rid of their unwanted items — I’d love to hear your success stories on what you have found hard to let go and how you did it!