But now, everything has been packed away and moved out the door. We have one truckload in our condo, and another has been sent to storage -- to await the time when we settle down into a house or condo that is bigger than what we have now, but smaller than what we had before.
How did we do it? Honestly, a month ago it seemed like an impossible task. But it happened. So here are eight tips from personal experience on how to declutter and prepare for downsizing in retirement.
1. Call the kids. The first thing we did was put our four kids on notice that we were moving, and we expected them to come and sort through their things, take what they wanted and dispose of the rest. One son had already moved 800 miles away and had taken most of what he wanted. We sent him photos of the rest. He told us what to bring him when we met him at B's mother's 100th birthday party. The rest we got rid of. We were lucky that another son had recently bought his own house. He came with a U-Haul and not only took all of his own stuff, but loaded up a couple of extra pieces of furniture into the back of the truck.
2. Donate to the church rummage sale. Our church has a big rummage sale every April. We donated two carloads of clothes and kitchen equipment. Plus, church volunteers came with a pickup and took away several bookcases, a TV case, a dining room sideboard and a few other pieces of furniture.
|A work in progress|
4. Shuttle to Goodwill. We have a Goodwill store near us; others have the Salvation Army or some other thrift shop. They accept free donations of clothes, books, CDs and small household items. My Goodwill does not accept rugs. We had three rugs that I had to cut up into strips and throw away.
5. Find your pickers store. There's a second-hand store in the next town over from us. There's probably one near you, too. I called the owner and made an appointment. Then I loaded up the back of our small SUV with tools, framed prints and a few knickknacks, and the woman there picked through my pieces, took what she wanted and gave me $140. I made a second trip a few weeks later, and she gave me another $60 for the lot.
6. Trash, trash and more trash. Some towns offer bulk pickup a few times a year. Our town does not. We have a limit of two full garbage cans, twice a week. So we didn't miss a trick. We filled two garbage cans to the brim, twice a week, for six months straight. Plus, we sneaked in a few extra items when we thought we could get away with it.
7. Call the junk man. There are people who will come and haul the last of your stuff away, for a fee. They advertise on community bulletin boards, or leave their business cards in local shops. I found a card at the second-hand store. Fortunately, using all the other methods, we never had to call the junk man. But it's good to know he's there, if and when you need him.
8. Have a heart-to-heart with your partner. None of this works if you are furiously disposing of things while your partner is agonizing over whether to throw away a Christmas card from 1985. Most relationships, it seems, consist of one hoarder who has piles of possessions, and one simplifier who owns one coat, one book and one photo. To avoid working at cross purposes, you need to sit down and talk things out. The hoarder must realize that many things (VHS tapes, a record player, old sports equipment) are outdated or can easily be replaced. The simplifier has to appreciate that some things have sentimental value and can't be replaced, and if you get too enthusiastic about downsizing you might end up regretting what you've lost. So don't be like our dysfunctional politicians. Respect your partner's point of view, realize there are deep emotional issues embedded in this whole process and be ready to compromise.