Good advice for letting go as you downsize

8 Great tips to Let GoDownsizing: china ready to pack

I recently spoke at a senior fair about downsizing. When I asked everyone ‘what is the hardest thing about downsizing?’ many answered: the memories. Another reply that resonated: the decisions.

When downsizing is a must, the time to let go of some memories has come. I know a lot of clients who save things from their children’s childhood and high school years. This is a burden for most parents, because it sometimes fills an entire room in their home.China dishes packed in a box for a move

Other times, the mementos that get saved are family heirlooms like furniture, quilts, and photos.

It is difficult for most of us to let go of possessions which stir memories. I think some of us grow more sentimental as the years pass. I know it’s hard, but sometimes has to be done, especially if you need to move to a smaller place. To make it easier, I have some advice that has helped my clients.

How to let go

  1. Ask yourself: ‘Why am I keeping this? Does it mean anything to me?’
  2. Ask yourself: ‘Do I use it?’
  3. Ask yourself:  ‘Do I love it?’ And if so, do you display it somewhere so you can enjoy it, or is it packed away in a box?  If you don’t use it or love it, let it go.

From a recent article, Organizer Jodie Watson shares her favorite trick. “In any given category, let’s say artwork that you have hung on the wall, ask this question, ‘If I could only take three pieces with me, which three would they be?’ With books, the question might be, ‘If I can only take 20 with me, which 20 would they be?’ This will help you discover the ones that are more meaningful than the others. These are the ones to take with you, the rest are negotiable.” (Watson owns Supreme Organization)*

  1. Be ruthless, not reckless. This means getting rid of all the paraphernalia from a craft you don’t do any more. Or, be ruthless by getting rid of ALL your old magazines. An example of being reckless would be to get rid of an entire box full of things without quickly looking through it. There might be money or a piece of jewelry inside. One of my clients found a check for 300 dollars in a box of old mail and magazines!
  2. Stop saving things for children or grandchildren. You are not the family’s storage unit! Plan ahead by asking children what they would like to have from their mementos and your house. Then you know you can let go of the rest of their stuff, because it is not important to them. Box up what they want and ship it to them, or give them a few months to come and get larger items.
  3. Let go of gifts from others that aren’t bringing you enjoyment. It’s hard to do sometimes. But just because someone gave you a gift doesn’t mean you need to keep it forever. Ask yourself, ‘Does this have a future with me?’ Remember the love is in the giving; you received it with gratitude, and enjoyed it but don’t need it any more.  Your friend wouldn’t want you to be burdened with toting around that gift for the rest of your life!
  4. Make it easier to let go by having a favorite charity or thrift store to donate to. Many hospitals run a thrift store, and the Gospel Rescue Mission helps people get back on their feet. Picture someone enjoying those shoes or that extra winter coat you don’t need any more! Visualizing this will be very helpful when you are letting go. And don’t forget to get a receipt when you donate. It is helpful to jot down a quick description of what you’re donating so at tax time you can get an estimate of the value. For example, I usually state how many bags of clothing I donate, and mention larger items specifically.
  5. Get help. If you find you want to keep everything, here’s a great trick. Invite a friend to come over and help you. Have them hold the item, then you decide by just looking at it whether you will keep it or let it go. Many times, touching an object like a book or a sweater will cause you to feel more attached to it.

If you’ve tried these ideas and you’re still having a hard time letting go, this means you are “stuck”. It is a good time to look into hiring a professional organizer to help you. Organizers are skilled in helping people come to decisions that they will be happy with. Downsizing is much easier and less stressful with a professional to guide and assist you. You may even start to enjoy it!

 Good things to keep:

  • Important documents like deeds, wills, medical records, birth and death records, marriage licenses, divorce decrees, social security cards, pension plan docs, insurance policies, passports, power of attorney docs, investment records, education records, genealogy records, diplomas, military service records and vehicle titles.
  • Family photos. Keep antique photos, and if you have mountains of family snapshots, scan them and keep them on your computer and on a backup disk.
  • Basic kitchen supplies.
  • Emergency supplies like first aid kits, an extra blanket for the car, etc.
  • Journals and a reasonable number of favorite books.


link to Jodie Watson’s webpage: