In her best-selling book Downsizing the Family Home, nationally syndicated columnist Marni Jameson takes readers through the challenging and trying task of downsizing the family home.
In her laugh out-loud funny and moving retelling of dismantling her childhood home, Jameson shares her own experience – along with guidance and advice from experts – on what she learned from the process of moving her parents into assisted living and clearing out the homestead. Hands-on, heartwarming, and insightful, Marni Jameson’s chronicle of downsizing the family home contains tips on this transition we will all have to face.
1. SORTING THINGS OUT
When it comes to sorting through belongings, there are a few rules of thumb to work by to avoid getting overwhelmed by the task at hand:
Ask Yourself a Few Questions: Do I love it? Do I need it? Will I use it? If you don’t answer yes to at least one of these questions, the item goes.
Divide and Conquer: Tackle one area at a time and don’t move on until you’re finished in that space. As you gain control over one space, you’ll feel encouraged to take on the next one.
Choose What to Keep Rather Than What to Let Go of: Rather than going through a space, like a closet or cupboard, and selecting items to purge, start by removing everything from a space.Then choose items to put back and keep. Pretend you’re shopping, and deciding to buy this item again. This will help you cling to fewer things.
Like anything else in life, the more often you sort, organize and downsize, the better you’ll be at it. Jameson refers to this as “building your sorting muscle” and recommends making editing your stuff a way of life. Over time you will create a home “filled only with the items you need, use and love.” The mental, emotional and physical effort of downsizing can be taxing, but living with a “less is more” mentality can save you and loved ones from a larger downsizing job down the road.
2. VALUE IS RELATIVE
In the wise words of Marni Jameson: “Value is relative. Make no assumptions about what has value and what does not. When you hold an estate or yard sale, you quickly learn the truth of the maxim ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.’”
With an innovative sales platform like Everything But The House, clients truly learn the meaning of this mantra. With every item starting at $1, clients see that value is boiled down to what someone is willing to pay for an item. This may mean that a set of bone china sells for less than the owner’s perceived value, but a pile of Indian Head pennies garners three times more than the seller predicted. With a global market of over 1 million users, the sky’s the limit for your treasured items.
3. WHAT TO DO ABOUT DOCUMENTATION
When documenting family history, what matters will vary from one family to the next. You may have military metals or old family letters to honor, as well as important documents like birth certificates or diplomas. Although most of these items are paper-based and presumably take up little space, the paper trail a family accumulates can seriously add up over time. The questions that remain are what you need to keep, and what you will want to keep most. For this we turn to Marni Jameson’s wisdom on love letters, family photos and important records.
Love letters and other personal writing: For the argument of not keeping parents’ letters, a friend of Jameson’s said it best: “First, remember, these letters are not really yours. They are part of a romance between your parents and were never meant for you.” It should be said that there is no right or wrong way to handle what you do with this kind of personal writing. One family chose to share their favorite stories from their parents’ letters and then burned them, as a ritual that best suited their family’s needs. For other people, the best thing to do may be to put personal writing in a scrapbook, or select a handful of the most memorable entries to keep.
Family photos: Sorting through photos can be one of the most emotionally taxing parts of downsizing. It can feel like a sacrilege to throw away photographs until you consider the real contents of most photo collections. Multiple copies of the same image, landscapes from vacations, collections that cover every minute detail of a holiday and blurry or unclear photos can all be let go of without guilt. As Jameson puts it, “The goal of photos is to preserve memories, but no one wants to look through all the unedited photos of a lifetime.” With that in mind, save the best and most memorable photos to look back on. You can even send them to an online service for digital safekeeping, or to be turned into an album or coffee-table book.
Official Documents: Marriage and birth certificates and college diplomas are important documents worth saving and making digital records of. For trickier documents like financial statements and tax records, the prevailing recommendations are to hold them for seven years. Property records you need to keep for life. Shred whatever you dispose of for security purposes.
4. HIRING OUTSIDE HELP
“Some families need to sort and sell their family belongings themselves, but others benefit from hiring an objective outsider. Consider the culture of your family and then decide,” writes Jameson. While she did not use a professional organization to help downsize her parent’s home, she recognizes the value in services like EBTH, which specializes in helping families through the downsizing transition. There’s nothing quite like having a fresh pair of eyes to objectively assess a full house. By working without the emotional investment a family may have in the a downsizing project, companies like EBTH streamline the process for families, creating a one-stop solution for downsizing woes from organizing donations and trash to managing transactions and shipping.
5. WHAT TO FIX WHEN YOU’RE FIXIN’ TO SELL
The final step in many downsizing projects is a move to a smaller space. To prepare the property you’re fixing to sell, a handful of small improvements can make your listing shine.
Start at the Curb: The exterior of the property needs to look clean and appealing from the moment you drive up.
Tackle the Interior: Strip that wallpaper and paint the walls in popular neutral tones like taupe, slate and sage. Do away with dated design elements like popcorn ceilings and wood paneling on the walls. Replace worn flooring with neutral carpeting, hardwood or cost-effective wood laminate.
Clear out the Clutter: The emptier a space, the easier it is for potential buyers to see themselves living there. With a full-service solution like Everything But The House, sellers can clear out their listing quickly and efficiently, preparing a home so buyers can start picturing a future there the moment they walk through the door.
Like death and taxes, downsizing is a rite of passage everyone must go through. But with Downsizing the Family Home in hand and Everything But The House at your service, you can tackle your next downsizing project quickly, respectfully and even rewardingly.
Looking for more tips and tricks? Check out the rest of Marni Jameson’s Downsizing The Family Home for more insightful tips and keep an eye out for her upcoming publication Downsizing the Family Home – A Workbook, with which readers can chronicle how and where they sell or give away their items.