It’s hard to think about how to start the downsizing process. There’s so much wrapped up in our treasures: difficult emotions, unmet dreams, things we haven’t finished, bad decisions etc. Change is hard and a next life transition might not always be our choice. Despite all the emotions, it can be a freeing and rewarding experience to let go of those things that fill up our time and space.
In the end, you want to feel good about your decisions and be a part of the process so that you can rest easy into this next chapter.
In between holidays, most of us aren’t working…a great use of some of that free time is to get a little organizational housekeeping out of the way. Here are some great, easy steps you can do to start 2019 off on the right foot!
December 31 is the deadline for getting all of your donations together, whether it be financial or stuff. With the new tax laws in place, try tracking donations using It’s Deductible to easily track what has been donated. If it is stuff you want to donate don’t wait until the 31st. I have seen donation centers unable to accept items toward the very end of the year.
Do you look at your holiday cards every season and have no idea who you need to send them to?
This is the time to update your 2019 Holiday Card List! Document who you sent cards to and who you received them from. Keep a record so that you can just pull out your list next year and start addressing. You can do that on a spreadsheet or if you really want to be ahead of the game, you can make a document for your labels so that all you have to do next year is “edit” and ‘print”, easy peasy.
Do you find old gift cards all over your house? Gather your gift cards together in one place so that you can easily find them. If you have a lot, put them in an envelope and label it with the cards you have. This will help save you from letting them expire. Use them before the restaurants that you have them for go out of business (this happened to me this year). I made a reservation and the next day they closed, annoying.
Put your Christmas decorations away properly.
Give away any decorations that you haven’t used in a while. Decorating time will be more pleasant next year if you are only dealing with pieces you really love.
Store the things you love in nice containers that reflect their value to you, There are great containers for wrapping paper, ribbons, wreaths, ornaments, dishware, glassware. Check out The Container Store, Amazon and Frontgate for a wide selection, but don’t wait too long they sell out.
Paper Clear Out
One thing my clients do (actually I do it for them) is to pull all of this year’s bills, receipts and other documents out of their files, we separate the tax documents for the accountant and the most of others get tossed/shredded/filed. The result: clean files ready for the New year to begin and all your papers are gathered for your accountant…yes!
Thoughts for the New Year
Take some time for yourself to review this year’s events (use the photos on your phone to quickly do this).
What was great about this year?
What would have made it a better year?
How can you make the New Year better?
And finally….For ribbons, bow, cards and other miscellaneous items try the Organize It All Christmas.
For your special ornaments try Snapware Snap ‘N Stack Square Layer Seasonal Ornament Storage Container
For your LED lights these are great and they stack very well Christmas Light Storage Wheels with Bag
For your Christmas china and wine glasses we suggest Household Essentials Dinner Plate Holiday Storage Chest
Dessert Plates and Small Bowls
Spring is finally springing up all around us, daffodils are blooming and the forsythia is blossoming into that amazing yellow color.
Easter and Passover are a time of new beginnings. April is also the month we celebrate the earth. Earth Day began in Philadelphia in 1970 (Belmont Plateau anyone?). In the organizing and productivity industry, we consider every day Earth Day! When we work with clients on a home organizing project, we teach our clients about recycling. There is so much that we recycle to help preserve our earth. Here are some of the resources that we use to locate the most appropriate place to donate and recycle in our area:
However currently there is an abundance of stuff that people are getting rid of, they are very picky, so what you try to consign has to be in very good condition.
Depending on what you have there is usually an auction house or specialty sale that items can go to. When you sell at auction houses and consignment shops there is a fee usually between 30% and 50%.
Being a “baby boomer” with aging parents (we don’t use the “O” word) is a challenge. Someone has to manage their finances, medical care, etc., in addition to managing their own lives. Some people transition into this next phase easily, while others may struggle. My mother-in-law blossomed when she moved into a continuing care community. All the people, the activities, and the fine meals prepared there… visiting her seemed like geriatric camp.
The ideal situation is when parents make the decision to plan ahead, before something “happens.” They will have a say on how things will unfold and won’t be feeling left stuck. Communication is key. Remember, this is a huge life change for them so check your ego at the door. If you can’t communicate, get a mediator to help you through the process.
What if they don’t want to move?
The longer our parents wait or the more they postpone the process, the harder it will be. Period. As children, we can be a blessing and a curse. They want us there, but they don’t want our opinions. Personally, I was not invited to help my mother when she downsized. It was emotional and difficult to understand. I, the expert, was banned from doing what I do best.
Don’t wait for a crisis to happen; being prepared for every scenario is key. Think about the worst case and consider all the events that will follow: transportation, after care, meal preparation, hygiene and so on. These are all possible circumstances that will need to be addressed after a crisis. Once you are in the crisis, things move very quickly. This can be very disorienting and stressful for your parents (and you too).
Where to go?
Transition is hard for everyone. Finding the right place will give your loved ones peace of mind and security. A member of my family couldn’t return home and moved to a facility that was chosen by their kids. It was ok, but the quality of care quickly declined. This resulted in moving an 85-year-old with Parkinson’s twice within a few years. Very disorienting.
How a facility is managed can tell you a lot. For my mother, we opted for a place that is managed by the community or a residents board of directors.
What about the stuff? Where do you start with a lifetime of possessions?
Start as soon as possible. What does that mean? As soon as your parents start warming up to the idea of moving, talking about moving, or looking at new places, begin to sort.
Implement deadlines. Set a goal of when decisions need to be made, and if the deadline passes, the stuff goes into the trash or a donation bin. Start in the attic, basement or garage. The big things are easy (we call this cherry picking)— extra furniture, appliances, or things they no longer use. Then shift into the smaller items, like things they will no longer need in their new place: bikes, shovels, tools, etc., can all go…
Excess items are easy to let go. In a small space, you will only need so many household goods. Entertainment items can be paired down to just the basics.
Kids, our parents are not responsible for our stuff from high school and college. Help them make the decision to let go of your old things.
Emotional items are more difficult. It’s ok to leave those to the end. Pick your battles and make realistic decisions. Small stuff is good, but the bigger stuff might be more difficult. Find a balance.
To store or not to store?
The storage decision is hard. Be realistic on what you need to store. I have a client who has spent $50K on storage since her dad died. I am sure that what is in there is not worth the storage cost.
The only time I recommend storage is if there is no way you can get your parents to change their minds. Have the hard conversation, but know that sometimes it’s not worth the battle.
If it’s a non-negotiable decision, respect your parent’s choice. It’s okay to revisit the conversation later. Suggest going through the unit in six months. They might feel better about making decisions once they have settled into the new space and relaxed.
My number one word of wisdom is— do not bring everything to your house to sort! Too many people have called me with a basement or a garage full of their parent’s things. My aunt died thirteen years ago, at the last minute we packed a couple of boxes to sort through at my mother’s house… they are still there.
This is a difficult time for everyone. We need to drive the process, learn to listen and be supportive while maintaining a good relationship with our parents.
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I had the privilege of speaking with a 2nd generation auctioneer yesterday, and I want to share the information I learned with you. The premise of the call was to help professional organizers learn what does, and does not have value in the auction market so that we can give our clients the most up to date information. After all, we are not experts, but we need to be able to direct our clients to the best solution to meet their needs.
The most important thing I learned was that this is not a good time to sell your household items, furniture, or collections. That being said, if you have things to get rid of, you NEED to get rid of them, so you should at least try. Also, unless you have a Tiffany lamp or other valuable items to store, it’s not worth paying for a storage unit to hold onto things until the market has improved as it could be 20 years before that happens. This may sound grim, but I think we all (myself included) have to be realistic.
In one instance, I took some diamonds to a well respected auction house and was disappointed by their estimates. I ended up getting a better price at the local jeweler. In another instance, I took a 1920s English sterling silver set to a well respected auction house and the range that they gave me was less than if I melted it. I haven’t done anything with it because the idea of melting something so beautiful makes me ill.
The comments below are general, and things may vary depending on the geographic area. Also, specialty auction house results may be better than general ones. Please remember that the words ‘value and valuable’ are relative terms.
Watercolors are usually not that valuable
Contemporary art is valuable but difficult to price
Artwork featuring people and animals is more valuable
American silver plate has very low value (due to mass production)
English silver plate has more value
Most silver value is in the metal, unless it is from a quality name like
Tiffany or Georg Jensen
1% of what is out there is valuable
Hummels and Royal Doulton, that are signed, are valuable
Other collectibles are worth 50% less than ten years ago and 75% less than 20 years ago
World War I more valuable
World War II has some value
Have value since people are still collecting coins
Less value because there aren’t that many collectors looking for them
First editions and signed books, in good condition, have some value
Old books that are in good condition have less value
Due to less interest, religious or educational books have little value
A lot of 33RPM records have some value
78s are generally not popular
Need to be saleable
Cast iron is valuable
Original boxes add value
Need to be in mint condition
Ones with the lower cover prices have more value
Handmade, 60 years and older, with silk content from Iran, have the most value
Machine made are less valuable
Sells for 1/3 of its appraised value
Signed jewelry has some value
Old watches have diminished value
Tiffany, Lalique, Herend and Royal Crown Derby are hot
Some signed art glass has value
Values are much less than new
Real bronze is extremely heavy
Has value, but there are a lot of knockoffs
Mid Century Modern
High quality is valuable
An appraiser can help you select a good auction house for you to sell your high value items. Also, it is important that you work with reputable appraisers and auction houses. The American Society of Appraisers is a great way to get started.
Situational disorganization is when an event occurs that we cannot control and we are not prepared for, causing our organizational systems to fall apart.
The cause can be as simple as returning from vacation to find that there is a flood in the basement. Everything needs to be moved or thrown out; the space needs to be repaired and workers are coming in and out. In the meantime, everything gets out of control. Sometimes a second crisis will come up, an illness, an elderly parent gets sick or needs to move…something that needs your immediate and ongoing attention. It becomes more than you can handle. Priorities need to be reassessed and action taken on the priorities. Sometimes your organization falls to the bottom of the priority list. Situational disorganization.
People will often blame themselves. They feel that they should be able to maintain their systems. Since it is situational, it is temporary. When the issue is resolved, it will be time gather your resources and get reorganized.
I have experienced this so many times, personally and with my clients. When my mother-in-law downsized at the same time I was moving, I ended up with a 20×17’ room full of furniture. I could have opened a store. It took a couple of months to sort through and decide what we were going to keep, sell and donate. Then we had to assign homes for what we were keeping. Situational disorganization.
When I broke my wrist earlier this year, I had limited use of my right hand and could not put things away. I would put items on a table, and as my mobility improved, I would put them away. This went on for about three weeks and there was a lot to put away. Situational disorganization.
Other causes of situational disorganization that I have seen are: a client being treated for cancer while undergoing a home renovation; people blending households; a business taking off before the owners were ready; a caretaker prioritizing a parent’s health, resulting in bags and bags of paper after five years of caregiving; a divorce resulting in depression and an inability to manage the home; and accidents leaving people physically unable to deal with day-to-day activities for a period of time.
This may be you. If it is…know and plan that when you get through the crises that led you here, you will get back to your familiar, organized world!