Monday, March 31, 2014

Empty Nester Downsizing

Four kids "launched!" Downsizing seemed like a good idea. The particulars: 3500 square feet of 30 years of marriage; numerous corporate moves (which means you move everything with little thought) and the steward of family heirlooms/stuff. I will admit that I was totally guilty of holding onto things, thinking that when each of our kids went off on their own, starting their first apartments, of course they'd need/want that chair, coffee table, TV (deep back kind), or those Brio wood blocks, or Barbie dolls and clothes from their youth...someday my grandchildren may want to play with those. Ha! I kept storing the stuff, because we had space, (a basement) and could. Well, it doesn't always work out like you think it will. Of course you can never predict where your GenY kids may live post college. Who knew 3 out of 4 of ours would be 3000+ miles away in California and one would be in Chicago?!? They don't want your stuff nor need it and there are no grandkids...yet. Thanks to Craigslist they take care of their needs quickly and inexpensively, much less expensively than if they have to pay to have it shipped. Thus, downsizing, a monumental task.
The good news? We had time to be thoughtful and planful about it.
Here are our basic downsizing tips:
First, communicate with your kids that you're doing this, downsizing, that is. Call them and spell out what you're doing and your expectations.
Our expectations: That we were moving into a 1600 square foot home (no basement, no attic) and that we were not going to pay for off-site storage after 6 months. So...
Everything in their room was theirs (bed, dresser, desk, trophies, yearbooks, etc.). That any furniture we weren't moving into our new home was up for grabs and we would communicate which pieces those were, so speak up. We were happy to donate, sell or trash things (with their guidance) for them. (I know, you're thinking, really? What? Well our kids were all thousands of miles away and timing was everything. We sold our house in a week and the time was ticking.) We would move/ship anything they wanted, but that it was going to end up at their new homes, not ours. And that we would be storing everything in off site storage for 6 months so everyone had a chance to get organized, moved, whatever.
1) Do a little bit at a time. (Otherwise this can be overwhelming). But do a bit everyday.
2) Contact moving companies and have each of them come over to give you a bid on what it will cost to pack, move and store. This exercise will motivate you to get rid of more items, pack more of your own stuff, get comps with various companies and make some real decisions about moving and storing.
3) Organize each room into 4 piles: Keep, Donate, Sell, Trash/Recycling
Keep: Who's keeping? The parents? Or the kid? Once you've determined this, then you've got to figure out  how your kid is going to get it: they come and get it, ship via USPS, UPS, FedEx or professionally move it.
Donate: To whom? Which organization? How is it getting from your house to that organization? Ideally, that organization will pick up.
Sell: Garage sale, the purchaser of your house, auctioneer, consignment shop, eBay, flea market, Play It  Again Sports...
Trash: we called the Dump Guys. They came and hauled our trash away, sorting out the recyclables (such as old electronics) and then they took it all away to the appropriate "Transfer Stations." Also, we used our designated trash/recycle days to the max! We found this route was much cheaper than renting a dumpster, not to mention, much easier on our backs. (Since the young Dump guys did all the heavy lifting!) We also  had a shredding company come directly to our home, to shred years of old statements, etc. that were  decades old (FYI, check with your accountant or lawyer as to how many years ago you should hold onto for  legal reasons). 
4) Shipping. I highly recommend USPS . You know the ad: "if it fits, it ships." At a flat rate. There's alsomedia rate, to ship "educational materials," ie., books.
5) Books, VHS tapes: If you have books and VHS tapes to donate, check with your local public library. Also check with your local college bookstore about selling your kids' text books to them.
6) Contact the various charitable organizations and coordinate pick ups. Find out if you need to move everything to an easy access location for them or if they have the "manpower" to collect the items from your various floors. 
7) Sports equipment: with 4 kids we had LOTS! Neighbors, local sports organizations, Play it Again. Again, this involves phone calls and organization of distribution.
8) Take lots of digital pictures! Thank goodness for the smartphones and their cameras. These pictures really help when communicating with your kids what's actually in their rooms, which pieces of furniture you've put up for grabs, documenting items, like trophies, that they once had before they were heaved. Pictures also help once things are in storage to refresh your memory. They also help when trying to figure out furniture placement in your new spot.
9) Personal photos and personal movies: Now's the time to digitize! We used iMemories. We boxed and shipped all of it. They've digitized it and they shipped it all back. (The originals.) Then you get to decide if you're keeping it or trashing it knowing that you've got it digitized.Once you've gone to the trouble, when you're more settled, you can download all of your digitized movies and slideshows to your own computer or storage device, rather than paying for months of  cloud stroage
10) Take measurements of each piece of furniture that you're moving so you'll have that information for your GenYer and for yourself so you can "place" that furniture in their/your new digs. Evernote is a great app for this exercise. It stores all of this info (and more) on a cloud which you can access from anywhere.
11) If you're selling items, this takes organization. Grab a friend or two to help you with a garage sale. There are eBay stores that will photograph and put your items "up." If you don't want to do it. Contact auctioneers to come out to talk to you about what they are willing to take/sell and the percentage they take for their efforts. Contact your local consignment shops and ask about their services and percentage they take and if they'll pick up or if you have to deliver.
All of this is doable. but it's a lot of organization. 
Good luck! It feels good!

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