Thanks to Marie Kondo, downsizing is now a thing. If you haven’t heard of her, she’s a Japanese organizing consultant and author of the best-selling book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”. Her method, called KonMari, focuses on only keeping possessions that bring you joy. While the book has been out for a few years, Kondo recently starred in a Netflix series, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” reminding all of us to organize and downsize our stuff.
While I still need to read Kondo’s book, I do find the whole idea of decluttering fascinating. Neither Keith or I are big collectors of stuff, but last year when we were getting ready for our move to North Florida, we realized that we had accumulated a lot of stuff. It’s easy to do and we wrote about our experience in the post “6 Lessons Learned from Decluttering”.
To learn more about downsizing, I recently picked up a copy of the book “Downsizing The Family Home” by Marni Jameson (published by AARP). This book takes a very different (and practical) approach to downsizing in that it views it from the standpoint of a person having to downsize their parent’s (or loved one’s) home, which may or may not be your childhood home. Here are a few of my takeaways from the book:
It’s possible that we will have to ask our parents or loved ones to downsize. While some adults might decide that it’s time to downsize the house for a condo, it’s also very possible that our parents have a very comfortable lifestyle and don’t want to downsize. It won’t be until their health or age start to prompt the conversation. That means an adult child or close family member might be the person who initiates the “we need to get rid of a few things” discussion.
Getting rid of our stuff is both physical and emotional. Jameson’s book deals with both the physical and emotional aspects of downsizing. Let’s face it – all of our possessions have stories attached to them – how we got them, who gave them to us, etc. Getting rid of items that have long-term or significant memories is more than simply disposing of stuff. It’s an emotional message tied to our mortality.
Consider phases. You cannot organize and declutter your home in a day. When Keith and I were moving, we did a room every week and it took about three months. So, put together a plan. If you’re helping your parents or a loved one and don’t live close by, it might take even longer. It could also be helpful to space it out, so it isn’t a big shock when larger items (like furniture) leave the house.
Make downsizing a regular event. It could be possible that your loved ones don’t need to move or downsize into a smaller home today, but you’re thinking someday they might. If someone is apprehensive about moving to a smaller home, moving in with children, or into assisted living, it could be helpful to start downsizing early. That way someone doesn’t associate downsizing with moving away from their long-time home.
Figure out your disposal strategy. Okay, you have a big pile of stuff to get rid of. Now what? It’s time to figure out whether to sell it, donate it, or junk it. Jameson’s book devotes quite a few pages toward estate and rummage sales – how to figure out whether older items have value and disposing of them. She also spends some time talking about the difference between what parents might think is collectable and what actual collectors think.
Make a plan. One of the things I like about this book is that there’s a companion workbook (Yes, you have to purchase it extra). Instead of calling it a workbook, I’d actually characterize it as more of a downsizing journal, with prompts that allow the user to document their downsizing goals, how they feel about letting go of items, and planning for the sale of items.
It’s one thing for us to decide to get rid of our stuff. It’s another to have to help our parents part with their stuff. Especially when it’s our childhood home. We’re dealing with both our emotions and theirs. Books about downsizing, like Jameson’s, can help us bring some structure to the process.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring the streets of New Orleans, LA