Emptying the nest


Downsizing from your family house is a time of mixed emotions. Some may be looking forward to the next chapter of their lives, others want to hold onto the past. Others still may have the move forced on them through death, money concerns or ill health. For downsizers moving house can raise specific challenges particularly around de-cluttering – you will have accumulated a lot of ‘stuff’ over the years and much of it will have a sentimental value to you.

Ask yourself the following:

Picture this new chapter of your life. How do you want to live (or need to live)?

What do you want to bring with you?

What do you need to let go?

Think through the following options and form an action plan of the downsizing that is right for you.

A. Taking it with you

1. Store whilst your house is on the market: Think about what you’d like to take with you but that should be packed away whilst your house is on the market as it is too personal or takes up too much room.  Examples include photos, collections, religious items, some books, clothes, kitchen items, pieces of furniture. Resist storing boxes in your own house as this will take up valuable space. Options are storing with family, storing at a self store company (you can hire a van to take the boxes or get a removal firm to take the boxes for you). Another option is PODS (Portable on Demand storage). A POD is delivered to your door, taken away when you’ve filled it, then delivered to your new house when you’re ready.

2. Keep on display: Keep anything that will help sell your house. Furniture needs to illustrate the purpose of each room and provide an overall feeling of space and flow. The rule of thumb for accessories is to show pieces that are larger than a football and pack away pieces that are smaller than your fist. Think about the most likely buyers of your house and show it with them in mind.

B.  Letting it go

1. Give it back: If your children haven’t already taken their belongings tell them to come and get it and give them a deadline. If you have items or pieces of furniture that you are holding onto for anyone now is the time to give it back

2. Give it away: Family, friends, local schools and clubs and charities could all be the grateful receivers of things you no longer need. In Australia look at www.givenow.com.au for a list of charities that you can donate to. Many of them offer a collection service.  One easy way of matching item to person is to send round an e-mail with a list of items and tell people that it is first come first served but they need to collect by a certain date.

3. Sell it: For higher priced items or if you want to sell as a ‘job lot’ then auction houses and second hand dealers are a good option. See www.auctionfinder.com.au for a list of companies that will auction your pieces. Advertising in the local paper and on the trading post is generally free for smaller cost items. Gumtree and ebay are further options. If you don’t have the time then ebay have trading assistants that will sell on your behalf for a fee. The most common option is a garage sale but you will find that not everything sells. Make sure you have a plan in place so that the unsold items don’t come back into the house.

4. Throw it: Depending on how much you have to throw out your options are skip hire or a rubbish removal service -basically you point at an item and they’ll take it away. If you are removing the rubbish yourself then check with local refuse centres as to what they will take.

A couple more tips to keep in mind:

  • Set yourself a deadline but know that the process with take time
  • Deal with a room at a time starting with the most difficult and reward yourself for progress.
  • Use colour coding for each action – e.g. black bags for rubbish, yellow boxes for storage, orange stickers for selling, pink for giving away, green bags for charity etc.
  • If you are finding it difficult ask for help from someone who knows you well.
  • If you are resisting letting something go then take a picture of it or you with it so you won’t feel it’s completely gone
  • Think of how the  things you have let go are now helping other people
  • Think of the money you have made and what you will spend it on

Good luck and best wishes with the next chapter of your life.

(Picture credit: Nils-Udo “The Nest”, Earth, stones, birch branches, grass, Lüneburg Heath, Germany, 1978)

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