Over our lives, we all accumulate a household of items. Some are practical, some are decorative, and some are sentimental. We replace worn pieces with new ones. We upgrade to nicer items. We find that perfect small table that fits in that little nook. And sometimes we collect those fun things that give us meaning. From our beautiful dining room table to the excessive summer sandal collection, we tend to find ourselves later in life with so much….stuff. The challenge becomes what to do with it all as we look to downsize our own lives or the possessions of someone we have lost. Here are some things to think about as you start to take on the often overwhelming task of deciding what to keep and what to let go of.
What Has Sentimental Value:
There are often things you are going to want to hold onto because they hold a special place in your heart. Maybe it is the fishing pole your grandpa taught you to toss a line in at his favorite fishing hole. It could be the collection of family photos that have been passed down on your dad's side of the family for generations. Or maybe it’s that silverware set that you remember using at all the important holidays. Assuming you can find a space for it, keep it. These items bring you joy and there is zero shame in keeping a space for them.
What Has Monetary Value:
Whether you are downsizing your estate, or sorting out an estate left to you, it makes sense to know the monetary value of the items you are sorting through. There are many ways to do this. The generational wealth that can be associated with the physical possessions in an estate is an important thing to keep in mind. From art pieces to nice furniture it is good to get an outside perspective on the value of things. That beanie baby collection might never bring in a small fortune, but your mom's antique hutch could have significant value. Find an appraiser to come in and give you a realistic value on your estate. Or for an at-home approach consider an app like Nemu which will help you figure out the monetary value by using their software with pictures of your items.
Do I Have Space for It:
This is the time you need to be realistic and honest with yourself. You might really love your dad’s woodworking tool collection, or the bookshelves full of nonfiction works you have polished off over your lifetime, but it's time to think about the physical limitations in your life. If you are personally downsizing you can’t take it all. Make a priority list, and stick to it. You are doing yourself a disservice trying to hold onto everything. You need to give yourself permission to let things go and let someone new enjoy them.
Does Someone Else in the Family Want It:
A great place to start is with loved ones. Make a list of everything that needs to go. Feel free to include any sentimental notes (i.e. this was the sewing machine Aunt Linda used to sew her wedding gown). And then let those items go to a new place. It is important to note, however, you can’t take it personally when loved ones don’t want items. They also have their own personal limitations on space, personal style, and individual sentimental memories. It is essential to not take it personally if family members don’t want to take certain things.
Does Anyone Else in My Life Want It:
Think about your larger circle. Maybe you have a book club friend with a child moving into their first apartment. This might be a great time to see if they need kitchen goods, furniture, etc. Perhaps that collection of Christmas decorations can go to a friend who just bought a new mountain cabin and wants to decorate. Check with the people in your life, and see if any of them would enjoy any of the items.
Try and Sell It:
If you don’t have space for items, and can let go of any sentimental attachment, it makes sense to go ahead and sell off everything you can. This can be an estate sale, a yard sale, or using online platforms. There are many services available that for a fee will take care of the entire process of selling off an estate for you. If you have the time/energy you can also manage the sale on your own. Using social media can help you get the word out, and you can make more money while helping as many of the items as possible find a new home.
Give It Away:
For everything left, give it away. There are non-profits you can schedule a pick-up with that will come directly to your address to pick up donated items. Also, consider causes that are near and dear to your heart (or that of the loved one of the estate). Perhaps there is a refugee organization in the area that could use the items or a local church with a consignment shop you want to support. Donating items feels good, and will help you get those last odds and ends out of your space.
The process of cleaning out an estate can be overwhelming. By utilizing your Nokbox, having honest conversations with family members over attachments to personal items, and not being afraid to let things go, the process can be much easier. There are so many great online resources now that can help families sell and donate their no longer needed goods, having good organization before it’s time to downsize can make the entire process as stress free as possible.