It’s just stuff! Maybe so, but sorting through it all and quieting the emotions that downsizing stirs up is difficult—whether you’re going through your own or your parents’ home. This indispensable list provides valuable advice as you are learning to let go to create freedom.
1. Clothes: If your wardrobe has outgrown your closet and dresser, start by purging enough pieces so that everything will fit. Get rid of unwanted clothing at yard sales or online, or by donating items to charity.
2. Anything in Off-Site Storage: According to the Self Storage Association, there are about 50,000 self-storage facilities in the U.S. That's more than five times the number of Starbucks! Vow to eliminate storage fees by getting rid of enough stuff so that all your possessions fit in your own home.
3. Exercise Equipment: If the exercise bike or treadmill in your bedroom has morphed into a permanent clothes rack, donate it to a local thrift store or charity.
4. Kitchen Appliances and Gadgets: Ask yourself: "When was the last time I plugged that in?" If it's been more than six months since you've used the waffle iron or bread maker, it's probably time to find that appliance a new home. While you're in the kitchen, eliminate unused culinary gadgets and non matching tableware.
5. Car: Besides downsizing your home and eliminating debt, getting rid of one — or all — of your vehicles could result in the greatest savings. According to AAA, it currently costs an average of $8,558 annually to own and operate a vehicle in the U.S. if you factor in all the costs, including depreciation. If you're a two car family, getting rid of one set of wheels might make sense once one or both partners are no longer working. You might be able to get by with public transportation or a car-share program, or at least downgrade to less expensive vehicles. If you're planning to relocate in retirement, there are communities where owning a car may not be necessary.
6. Childhood Memorabilia: If your kids or other family members don't want keepsakes from their own childhood (or yours) now, they're not going to want them when you're gone. Hold on to a few precious, symbolic mementos, such as those that truly spark memories and joy and digitize images of the other things.
7. Furniture: Filling, and too often, overfilling a room with furniture is a common mistake. Doing so makes the room seem smaller and gives you more unwanted places to store and display more stuff. Start by eliminating a couple of pieces from a room and see how much more spacious it feels.
8. Books, Magazines, DVDs: Unless a book has sentimental value or you're going to read it again, put it back into circulation via a yard sale or thrift store so that others can enjoy it. Or donate it to your library, where you can always get free access to books, CDs and DVDs. You can store countless e-books on an tablet that's smaller than a single print volume, and you can easily digitize your music and movie collections.
9. Files: Consumer Reports advises organizing your important files into four categories: "papers that you need to keep for the calendar year or less; ones that can be destroyed when you no longer own the items they cover; tax records, which you should save for seven years; and papers to keep indefinitely." You can access copies of many documents (e.g., bills, bank statements, user manuals, etc.) via online accounts. Consider storing digitized documents on a web-based storage service or an external drive.
10. Decorations: While holiday decor has some sentimental value, consider getting rid of the decorations you haven't used in the past five years, particularly bulkier items such as outdoor decorations and holiday tableware you use just once a year.