In the past several years, moving and down sizing has come up often. Friends, who have lost their parents and have to get rid of stuff, people that have moved across country and now me. I just moved again. Easy peasy I thought, I have been downsizing for the last 10 years, I got rid of a lot of stuff from my last move 2 years ago and have been giving away heirlooms items. I am almost down to zero waste, have gone paperless and have little or no furniture. Every year I have a clothing exchange, so the closet get cleaned 1x per year. I never thought I would have enough for a garage sale.
Was I ever wrong… Stuff accumulates.. and the next thing you know, you have boxes of stuff like this:
- Power cables and electronic accessories (2 box)
- Extra cell phones, remotes, land phones (1/2 box)
- Batteries (Extra, because I only use reusable batteries now)
- Old pictures you think you should keep but don’t want. (1 big box)
- Textiles, old clothes, dishrags, aprons, towels and old sheets. (1 large black trash bag)
- Shoes you might just wear again.
- Office supplies, like manila folders (you went paperless) manila envelopes (who mails?) staples, (2 boxes)
- Old make up.. you spent a fortune on and don’t use.
- Keys in which you don’t know where they go.
- Dishes, most of which I don’t use or haven’t used in years.
- Old Eyeglasses and sunglasses.
- Wrapping paper and re-gifts stuff.
- Holiday stuff
- DIY repair stuff- tools, paint, caulk.
- Tennis rackets you haven’t used in 5 years.
Here are the lessons I have learned over the last three years going through the downsizing and moves of friends and family:
1.) If you know you might be moving sometime in the near future, within a year, start your clean up now. Do not wait till the house is sold or until the new perfect house has come on the market. If you are looking for jobs in other locations, still start to downsize now. My friend MaryRose a major accumulator of stuff, house was on the market for 6 months. They did nothing until the house was sold with a 30 day escrow. Worse yet, because they were not prepared, they missed their gated community 1x per year garage sale event. Not only did they have to throw away good stuff, they ended up donating most of their goods, when they couldn’t get rid of it.
- If you live in a gated community and they only allow garage sales 1-2x a year. Even though you don’t think you have anything, put things out anyway.
- If you know you are looking, start cleaning out now. If you can have your own garage sale, do it. Put things on Craigslist, donate. Start immediately.
2.) My Friend Lynn, moved in with her mom while she was ill. Lynn did not want to rock the apple cart and left things as is. Her mom died 2 years ago and Lynn now can barely walk. Cleaning out the childhood home has become a daunting task and she hates living in a house full of dusty stuff and it is on 3 levels and difficult to clean. The house has to be sold and yet no-one will buy it as it stands now.
- As your parents-friends and relatives age, start slowing de-cluttering. The small things first. Those paper flowers from Mexico that have been there for 20 years. Help them give out their precious heirlooms now, not after they are gone. Heirlooms that are rotting in cabinets, pack them up and label for easy removal later.
- If you are interested in the historical perspective of some items, get the story, write it up and tape it some where on the item. It will make for easier resale
- Get together a list of local consignment stores that might take some of the items. If you can move some items out and slowly sell them, do so.
3.) My mother is a semi hoarder and collector. Every closet was and still is filled with stuff. She decorates for every holiday (stuff) keeps all wrapping paper and re-gifting items (she never re-gifts). Still has the encyclopedia Brittanica from 1960’s. Every wall is filled with photographs and has boxes of photographs with picture frames from a pic project she started 20 years ago. Double and triple sets of dishwater and pots and pans that she never uses. While I am fortunate that my 86 year old mother is healthy and active, her drive to keep a neat house is just not there anymore. I screwed up several years ago and pressured her into cleaning out years of accumulated stuff and having a garage sale. While she did it under duress, it was not good for our relationship.
But the good news, once she found that she wouldn’t die if 15 years of christmas paper was not in her house, she has slowly started to give away her precious stuff. Unfortunately most of her heirs do not want it and it is still sitting. It seems to go in phases.
- Some folks do not want to part with their memories. Take it slowly. Let them do it on their own time (but set a time limit, this is the date of our garage sale). Offer to take things to recycling centers for them.
That said, moving is a stressful, time consuming thing and there are many ways that you can move in an eco-Friendly fashion that make it less of a chore.
1.) Make De-cluttering a monthly event; My friendly Shirley’s husband is a hoarder. Every month, they set aside 3 hours and pick a space to purge. While they are not moving now, they think they might be moving sometime over the next three years. Their house is on 4 levels and both of them are getting older and do not want to do stairs.
2.) Ask your friends and relatives if they want anything now.
3.) Make a questionable pile and a ‘go’ pile. When you have enough in both, have a garage sale. If the ?able pile sells, it was meant to be. Donate the rest.
4.) My friend Stephanie has moved 3 times over the last 6 months. The hardest part was what to do with the family heirlooms. She didn’t want them and nor did her kids. She took pictures of everything and emailed to them to see if any interest. She got rid of a lot of dishes and silverware that way. The rest is boxed up and labeled in the garage. (They have a large garage)
5.) You may have many things already in the large plastic storage containers. See if you can condense. If they are in storage now and not being used, most likely you will never use it. As you condense, put in the pile ? or go. Put in garage sale.
6.) Collect good boxes now. On many forums and craigslist, you will find FREE Moving Boxes. Most of these boxes are perfect for moving all types of items. Another alternative is to rent Green Boxes. Green boxes can be reused over and over again.
7.) Start saving tissue paper, bubble wrap and peanuts now. You can store in empty boxes, it will save you money and the environment to reuse.
8.) If you don’t want to get rid of old bedding and textiles, you might consider using that to wrap your fragile goods. I wrapped all my wine glasses in old holey socks, it worked out perfectly. Rags and saved reused tissue paper worked just a well. I also used wine corks as padding. Pictures I wanted to keep were wrapped in old pillow cases.
9.) Keep your eye out for FREE Electronic Recycling Events in your area. What you don’t want to do is wait till the last minute and throw them in the trash. Check out the Goodwill in your area to see what type of electronics they will take.
10.) Don’t forget the DIY stuff. Tools, paint, brooms and more. You can’t throw paint in the trash. Google paint recycling in your area and start to get rid of it now. If you have a lot of paint, putting FREE paint in Craigslist works really well.
11.) Re-look at your furniture. Is it cheaper to ship or move it or is it better to get rid of it now. Most places will not take couches if in bad condition. You don’t want to be stuck with dropping it of at midnight at a charity. (That is considered illegal dumping and comes with a fine).
12.) Check out movers. There might be Eco Friendly Green Movers in your area. After you have narrowed down how many boxes and furniture, you will have a better idea on what to move and what the costs will be. You can go to Hire A Helper that lists moving companies and review to assist you in making a decision about your movers.
13.) Cleaning the home. Don’t buy new cleaners that you have to pack. All you need is Vinegar, Baking Soda and lemon to clean your house. All can be reused very easily in a myriad of other ways.
Remember the less you have to pack, the less you have to unpack. My friend Mary Rose has yet to unpack all of their stuff. (1 year later) Many reason why, there is no room for it and apparently they never needed it and most likely, it will never be unpacked. It will sit in the garage.
Moving is stressful. You are trying to pack, move, change addresses (that takes forever), work, take care of kids, say good-bye to friends and relatives. Make it easy on yourself, by starting in advance as much as possible and don’t wait until the last minute. Make it easy on yourself and the environment by reusing as much as you can, selling or donating extra products. Get rid of any nonessential items. Do you really need 3 cheese graters and 2 waffle irons?