Need a Clearinghouse to Clear the House?

Fingers crossed. A friend is trading her suburban house for an urban condo, which means the baby grand has to go. It has had no takers. At the last minute, I see a post from a gentleman who orchestrates neighborhood events seeking...a piano! He can handle the move and tuning. I rush to contact both people and arrange an introduction. They share a dream of keeping the music going; neither can fathom a baby grand being left at the dump. It might work out.

Welcome to the new world of downsizing...where anyone can be a matchmaker.

Downsizing a large household used to mean filling two or three dumpsters for the landfill, but only after the kids gathered up the bulk of the furniture and heirlooms. The elders of the family streamlined their material worlds for easy living. The mantle was passed to the next generation of hosts of large family gatherings along with all the trappings. The legacy remained intact, staying in the family.

Lifestyle changes and concern for the environment have altered the way people see the bountiful home. Millennials, coping with less money and space, are saying no thanks to traditional decorating. As a result, yesterday’s collectors find themselves scrapping the plan to give everything to the kids as they embark on an angst-filled search for anyone who might take their stuff. And to make matters worse, it now seems one needs a crash course in waste management to navigate the landfill.

As a downsizer, it is okay, perhaps essential, to take a moment to mourn whatever piece of the past might get lost as you face your belongings. But do not panic. Remind yourself again and again that you are lightening your load to free your spirit and renew your own vitality. Embrace the process in ways that serve you best and engage with others to expand your understanding of the possibilities.

Pay attention to your own feelings as you explore new surroundings. Find the best of your belongings to take with you so that you have what you need and what you love. Then build a community to help you take that deep dive into the discard pile from your material world. People from local charities, consignment shops, and online message boards in your neighborhood can become your new best friends.

And remember...your family may not want your stuff, but they can still help. Cleaning out the house can be a nostalgia-fest with your kids, your siblings, cousins, friends, anyone you need by your side. Learn to say yes to anyone offering help with the sorting and packing, and enlist the tech-savvy to gather research on remote donation sites or specialty recycling. Soon you’ll be strutting your stuff - even at the landfill - like a pro.

Kathleen Wright operates Essentially Yours Boston, a downsizing company in the Greater Boston area where she lives with her husband. After careers in healthcare and education, she is hoping to help clean up the planet one house at a time.

*I was delighted to write this post as a guest blogger to where it was published in March 2018. Many thanks to Kimberly Johnson, editor and co-owner of the site.

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