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Downsizing and decluttering

By: Lois Wagner

We all end up collecting and hoarding things sometime in our lives. Over the years I have collected hats, masks, butterflies, pewter mugs, antique corkscrews, and long-playing records. We buy souvenirs and ornaments or are given gifts with sentimental value. We get given items that we feel we must keep.  As a trainer I was often given ugly thank you gifts of ornaments that I had to keep as my students would come to my apartment and I would hate to disappoint them. I created what I called my kitsch display that I could explain away to my friends and that would impress my students. We store our best crockery and table linen safely in a back cupboard wating for that extra special occasion. We keep clothes for when we lose that weight one day. And scarves that may match an outfit yet to be bought. The books that we will get to and that look impressive on our shelves. That pretty tin that came with biscuits and that we will find a use for one day. All those plastic take-away dishes and ice-cream containers that will come in so handy for storage or picnics.

Then there are the big-ticket items. The corner table left to you in Granny’s will. The first garden swing you ever bought. The broken side table that you love and will get fixed as soon as you have the time. That huge unsightly artwork that your favourite aunt painted for you. That useless uncomfortable chair that looks so artistic under the window. The third television that nobody ever watches.

A fun way to downsize is to gather a few friends and create a downsizing or decluttering Facebook or other social media group. The idea is that every day for a month each member must post a photograph of what they are removing from their homes. They can announce whether they are selling the items, giving them away, or throwing them away. This keeps you motivated and accountable.

On day one of the month, each person must remove one item.
On day two of the month, you must remove two items.
On day three of the month, you must remove three items.

At the end of a 30-day month, you have removed 465 items.

The first few days of the month are usually easy. One, two, or three things that you really don’t want anymore. You start with small kitchen utensils and unused clothes, shoes, and handbags. I had around ten airplane travel kits, you know the ones with socks, an eye mask, toothpaste, and a toothbrush. And all those hotel soaps and shampoos. I remember on day 21 I got rid of 21 plastic straws that I was keeping, for what, I have no idea.

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But it gets more challenging as the numbers increase. And when it moves from decluttering to downsizing and those sentimental big-ticket items need to be considered. By having the social groups watching and encouraging you, maybe even offering to purchase one or two items, you become motivated to take the plunge. You find a good home for the unwanted painting and the loved but unused corner table and pretty chair. And it feels so good to know that you are making someone else happy with your pre-loved items. Your broken table finds a new home with a handyman who has no table, and that amazing contribution of a television to an under privileged family is so appreciated.

You may shed a tear when something you have valued is wrenched from you, but the more you see the happiness you give to others, the more determined you are to start looking for additional gems to bestow on the less fortunate. The more items you sell and the more cash you accumulate, the more you want to sell. The more space you create around you the more time you have as you don’t have so much cleaning to do and you realise that experiences are greater than possessions.

I did this for three months. My employment was unexpectedly terminated but as I had around 1500 items less than before, it was so easy to pack up and move on.

You may now decide to downsize your living area and move to a smaller home that is more cost effective and easier to maintain allowing you more time to enjoy more experiences.

Lois Wagner

496 items from an old television to a couch to a desk to books to…

Idea created by Susan Sarada.

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