Good heavens, it seems like the term “downsizing” has been a part of our lives for nearly 10 years. That’s because it HAS been. It was in 2008 that we decided to embrace a big transition from a large two-story suburban home in Illinois with four-bedrooms, 2 ½ baths, a full basement, a two-car garage with attic, and a garden shed in the backyard. We moved to Colorado in 2010. Our household has been moved SIX times after having been in our former house for 19 years! It’s been pretty crazy. If you want to read more, go to our 12mph.com posts from August 2010.
I have been reading blog posts by people who are “full-timing” in their RVs. Some are retirees who have downsized for the first time from homes filled with belongings. Other folks are millenials, working while “full-timing” and have little accumulation of belongings before hitting the road. Two points of relief that Steve and I share: #1 it’s good that we did so much downsizing back in Illinois; and, #2 by the time we’re “full-timing” later this year, we will have minimal to handle when we settle again down the road.
We live in a rental home in Denver that is about 900 square feet. It’s a one-level, no basement, no garage, and no attic. It does have a nice storage shed in the backyard. The second bedroom of the house is what we’ve coined “The Archive Room”. Other than a closet for my clothes, the rest of the room holds the family archives that I inherited from my parents and grandparents plus from Steve, me, and our children. The archives have books, photos, slides, scrapbooks, genealogy files, quilts, afghans, blankets, dolls, artwork, china, cookbooks, tools, slide projector, musical instrument and music, old letters and cards, documents, and antique/vintage clothing.
Last summer, knowing that we were shifting gears in 2018, I worked feverishly to identify items for a yard sale, price them, and then have a one-day sale. The hours of pricing and sitting in the heat on sale day was frustrating. In the end, we had a lackluster sale. Everything that was left, we immediately loaded into the car and took a trip to Goodwill. The rule of the day: what wasn’t sold, could not come back into the house, but had to go for donation. Suffering from the 90+ degree heat and late afternoon finish, we didn’t research for the best place to donate. In hindsight, we should have taken items to ARC with its wonderful mission.
The one very positive aspect of last summer’s yard sale was that a latecomer to the sale was introduced to the 100-year old piano (formerly my Grandma Geneva’s) that was FREE for the moving. It was heart-warming to find this lovely grandmother named Marilee in the neighborhood to take my piano. We were pleased knowing that her grand-daughters would enjoy it. Steve and I just had to be realistic. Each move has been hard on this treasure plus expensive to move and/or store.
In late October, a number of items went with me to Iowa to be sold as part of a fundraiser for a medical benefit. It was a wonderful way to help a cause and see some special belongings find a new home.
Before taking a December trip to visit family in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Steve and I went through our coat closet. We had an opportunity to donate coats, jackets, and gloves to youth in Santa Fe. The donations were timely as temperatures were frigid and youth needed staying warm. Youth Shelters & Family Services of Santa Fe is a Santa Fe-based non-profit organization dedicated to helping at-risk and homeless youth in the region find a way home and a path to a productive, happy life.
Earlier this month, we sorted through our Christmas decorations as we took them down to pack away. I took photos of items we no longer wanted and shared them with our children. They let me know if they wanted something. We filled a tub for donation.
I have sorted through my clothes: socks, shoes, purses, sweaters, slacks, dresses/skirts, jackets, tops, shorts, and jeans. From that gleaning, I contacted the Act II Consignment Shop in Littleton, where I’ve purchased numerous items of clothing the past five years. Of the 36 items that I took for preview, they took 20 items that are now on consignment. For the time spent driving to and fro, plus the 40% that I will receive (they are also having a 25% off sale, so it cuts into profit), I’m not going to realize as much as I hoped. I don’t plan to consign again, unless it is furniture or high-end antiques.
Today, I took the remaining clothes, Christmas décor, and some bedding to ARC in Denver. ARC is a tax-exempt, non-profit organization dedicated to creating and funding programs that serve those individuals living with intellectual/development disabilities, with complex and evolving needs.
Last week I did a round-up of my “Joy Gang”. I’m a former preschool teacher. Between my children and me, we collected some cute puppets and stuffed animals over the years. I coined them the “Joy Gang” because they brought joy to my preschool students when I used the puppets and stuffed animals to help tell stories or reinforce themes. I researched what organization in Denver may take gently used puppets and stuffed animals. Not too many as it turns out. Near our neighborhood though, I found a perfect place. Firefly Autism is a non-profit and Colorado’s premiere autism therapy and behavioral support program. Featuring Applied Behavior Analysis techniques, in the classroom, and in the home. I explained that the puppets and animals were gently used and have been packed away for nine years. They were pleased to take them. These cute classroom aids will either remain in-house for classes or be used for their home-based program. My heart was full knowing they’d bring love and joy to more children.
Steve and I have gone through some of our books. Books have been a staple in our lives and in the lives of our parents and children. In fact, we visit our Ross-University Hills neighborhood branch of the Denver Public Library at least twice a week. They accept one box of donations per week, so today they received a box filled with books and a handful of DVD movies. Denver Public Library connects people with information, ideas, and experiences to provide enjoyment, enrich lives, and strengthen our community.
- For tax deduction purposes, take photos of donations and create a spreadsheet. (Although, we do not itemize these days, we used this method in 2009 for our major downsize. It was a huge help when completing the tax forms).
- If you are going to “miss” the item, take a photo to look at later. Sometimes I return to photos just for the fun of it. It’s a good reminder for what “stuff” I do not miss from our big house!
- Take a photo inventory. If you don’t have time to spare, then later look at the photos to create an “Inventory” list. This is helpful for insurance purposes.
- Create a numbering system for boxes or tubs. We had something like 200 boxes or tubs in the first move in 2009. It REALLY helped knowing what items were in each of the boxes/tubs!
- Your time is precious. I’m realizing now that the time I invested into the yard sale last year and into taking items to consignment recently, could be better used elsewhere. Selling items from my household may bring in a few hundred dollars (not thousands for sure), but that doesn’t necessarily help if I/we invest many hours to realize that amount.
We’re keeping our sights on a 10-feet by 10-feet storage unit, a travel trailer, and pick-up truck. Stay tuned as to our progress!
2 Replies to “Making Progress in This Downsizing Stage!”
Your insights gleaned through experience are so valuable! I’ve heard that garage sale buyers expect very low prices, almost giving the item away, and your experience bears this out. Some years ago I and others did a garage sale to benefit the homeless project “Denver’s Road Home.” I calculated that we would have made more money and worked countless fewer hours if every family (not person) in the church had donated $2.00.
Thank you, Carol. It’s so good to hear from you. Time is precious. I think that we don’t often value it as the commodity that it is. A volunteer organization where I devote my time values each hour volunteered at $24.14/hour.