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When our nest became empty, my husband and I started thinking about down-sizing into our “forever” home. Because we are both Baby-Boomers with retirement looming on the horizon, we decided to build our dream home with one-level living in mind. Where we finally landed is in our little log home with two bedrooms on a small patch of land in the country ten minutes away from everything. It’s paradise. Source: NLG

What we hadn’t planned on was how we were going to deal with all the stuff we had collected during our 20 years in our previous home: a 3-bedroom house with an attached barn and 4-car garage full of items we really thought we had to have. Turns out, we really didn’t need most of those things after all. Now we are faced with having to decide what to keep and what to let go of.

After bemoaning this situation to friends and family and listening to their advice, I finally decided that I would keep what matters and let go of what doesn’t. Sounds pretty easy, right? But how do you let go of those things that your Mom kept for you all those years before you were out on your own and then bestowed upon you when you had your own home? Or those yard sale items she thought were “cute” so she bought them…for you! They must have some special meaning, so surely I should hold onto them. Turns out, that’s not true.

And what about all those things you have been storing for your (now adult with their own home and family) children? What should you do with them? Easy. If they are local, ask them to come take them away and give them a deadline to do so. If they aren’t local, give them a list of those items that are still straggling and ask them how they would like them dealt with, but limit options to throwing it out, donating it, or packing and sending it to them. And give them a deadline, too.

It’s a lot of work to sort through and decide the fate of all those treasures you collected over the years, so I decided that I would pack and move only those things that I was excited about seeing or using in my new space, things like my family photos, craft items, choice pieces of furniture, and the tea cup collection I boxed to give to our granddaughters someday. But not all of those items were included, either. I mean, do I really need to hold onto that bag of pine cones I collected and might want at some point in the distant future? No. How about that teapot with a few chips in it that I never use? Nope, I don’t need that either. Back to those things that my Mom stored for me all those years. Do I need to keep and store my report card from the first grade? Uh, no, I don’t think so.

If you see yourself being in a similar position in the near future, here’s my advice to keeping what matters:

  1. Start the downsizing process now.

  2. Start going through those boxes that have been in storage since you moved into your current home and haven’t been opened in years.

  3. Sort through your treasures and think about how you would store them in a smaller space if you decide to keep them or how excited you would be to see them or use them in a new home.

Do the items really mean something to you? Or are you just holding on to them out of guilt, or because you’re afraid that as soon as you throw it out you might find out you need it when chances are you never will if you haven’t yet?

You will find that the amount of satisfaction and, more importantly, relief that comes from knowing that you are only going to take with you those things that are truly meaningful to you; this is well worth the time it takes to prepare ahead of time.

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