Downsizing Dilemmas

“Keep the memories.  Let go of the stuff.”  

We live in the age of stuff.  Never before have there been so many people on this planet with so many things.  And fewer and fewer people know what to do with all of it.  Younger folks are living in smaller homes (this explains the popularity of IKEA), have almost all of their books and music digitized, and are more interested in acquiring experiences than say, great-grandma’s collection of milk-glass.

And for those of us that already have said yes to all that stuff  (I speak from my own personal experience of inheriting a fair amount of art, antiques, and tchotchkes from parents and grandparents) I know the feeling of being weighed down and frustrated at the clutter and inefficiency.

“Clutter is having its moment in part because we’ve accumulated a critical mass of it. The cascade began 25 years ago, when China started to export huge amounts of cheap clothes, toys and electronics. Cut-rate retailers and big-box stores encouraged us to stockpile it all”

–Pamela Druckerman, The Clutter Cure’s Illusory Joy

As appraisers we have seen clients cry in distress over what to do with a household of things that they either acquired over a long lifetime, or inherited from a loved one. It is this stuff that can weigh people down, and it often comes at a time when they may be less able to deal with the physical and emotional toll–due to deteriorating health, cognition, guilt or while suffering from loss.

Freeing yourself from much of this stuff can be hard.  In their book Moving On, co-authors Linda Hetzer and Janet Hulstrand give great examples of how to go about planning for downsizing:

“Honor the items that belong to your family — talk about them, take photos, write down your memories, tape record family members sharing stories. Then let go of the item. Studies have shown that people are able to let go of their possessions more easily if they have been given the opportunity to talk about them first.”

I like the idea of creating a virtual collection of your items, [Appraisley’s App is coming soon and you will be able to do just that!]  I would expect it would be satisfying to be able to easily revisit something you owned a while ago, rather than digging through “Jack Benny’s closet”.  After all, our books and music are essentially virtual, why not our stuff.  Memories we associate with our stuff are right there at our fingertips, if only we could get to them easily.