It’s not just stuff. It’s memories, hobbies, and identity. How do you downsize your life without going crazy? Is it even possible to downsize without stress?
Planning To Downsize
My beautiful, Indian print duvet was walking out the door. Tools I had used on myriad projects attracted the eye of my neighbors. I was saying goodbye to sentimental items I’d owned for years. And I felt good. Great, really!
How did I go from mourning the loss of things I had acquired over decades to feeling joy that they were finding new homes?
I created a plan—a plan that found new homes for all my belongings, kept me from feeling stressed and created a foundation that eased moving onto our new boat.
My plan involved:
- Building a sales website
- Encouraging polite buyers
- Creating a spreadsheet
- Holding a house sale
- Repurposing my spreadsheet to ease moving aboard
Here’s how I did it. Maybe some of the tools that helped me will ease the transition to your nomadic life.
Build A Website
When we put our house on the market, I created a free website on WordPress to promote it.
The website allowed me to keep pictures of my home for my own memories. I also used it to promote my house on the market.
But once the house was sold, I updated the website to help me organize the sale of my belongings.
On the website, I placed pictures of rooms with furniture and other belongings in use. I created a gallery of individual items. And most importantly, I laid out the terms so there would be no confusion or conflict on the day of the sale.
Encourage Polite Behavior
Years earlier, we sold the contents of a storage unit that had belonged to my mother-in-law before she died. Toward the end of the afternoon, two families started arguing over who would get the bedroom suite. I announced to everyone at the sale that this was a difficult task, getting rid of items that had belonged to someone we loved who had passed.
The quiet reminder encouraged the arguing families to reach a solution between them and we conducted the rest of the sale free of conflict.
That success encouraged me to add a few lines to the house sale terms reminding people that selling all our possessions was a stressful process and asking them to be kind to us, our home, and each other.
It worked. Most people at the sale were on their best behavior.
If you’ve spent any time at yard sales or auctions, you’ll understand how amazing that was.
It certainly made my day nearly stress-free.
Create A Spreadsheet
Creating a downsizing spreadsheet was the smartest thing I did.
I listed every item in the house, from furniture to books. I added columns where I could track which items were for sale, which ones were going into storage, and what we would be taking onto the boat with us.
I also listed prices for items which I then used to print out price tags for the sale. Having everything priced (and a spreadsheet as backup), also helped to alleviate stress.
The actual house sale was very nearly a breeze.
Hold A House Sale
One reason my house sale went so well was that I had lots of help.
Besides my husband and me, my dad, sister, and brother-in-law helped to staff the sale. I hired a neighbor to keep an eye on things while my family and I were busy with customers.
We had a cash box with plenty of change. But I was also prepared to accept PayPal payments for larger items. Most people were prepared with cash. But in a few cases, taking credit cards via PayPal helped me make sales I would not have otherwise made.
I invited the woman who bought my house to the sale. We were able to keep the items she bought in the house so they were waiting for her after settlement.
Of course, we placed ads in the local newspapers and I put up flyers around the neighborhood. We had hundreds of people attend the sale and got rid of most of the items. The few items remaining went to an auction house.
In my land-based life, I worked for a nonprofit organization helping low-income families buy their first homes. I was especially pleased to see several of my former students and clients at the sale.
In fact, knowing that items I had loved were going to help young families make a good start in their own homes made the sale particularly joyful for me.
I believe that much of the stress of downsizing comes from internal pressure to make as much money as possible from a sale. The truth is that if you buy items new, you’ll only get a small fraction of their value when you sell them. Because I bought many items used, I didn’t have that particular stress.
And helping other people get high-quality, gently used items for their homes made the whole process much more fun.
Repurpose The Spreadsheet
My handy dandy spreadsheet helped me stay organized during my sale. But after nearly four years on board, it’s still helping me.
My sister kindly agreed to store a few items in her attic. My spreadsheet reminds me that’s where they are.
I updated my original spreadsheet with entries for every locker and storage area on the boat. Every item I own is on the spreadsheet associated with its location. When I need to find something we seldom use (like replacement parts), I search for it on the spreadsheet until I find the exact shelf in the forward hanging locker or which side of the quarter berth it’s stored in.
There may be prettier ways to organize a boat. But my tool is simple. And best of it, I’ve been using it ever since I started organizing my downsizing project.
Other Easy Ways To Downsize
I’m a hands-on kinda gal. So naturally, I’d want to oversee the entire downsizing process.
But maybe you’re different. You can’t imagine presiding over the disposition of nearly everything you own.
Other easy ways to downsize are
- hiring an estate sale company
- sending everything to an auction house
- donating it to a charity.
Only you can know which approach will make downsizing easier for you. But if you can find the process that brings you joy as you shed your belongings, how much better is that?
Your Turn: What worries you the most about downsizing to set out on your nomadic life?