As we prepared for our move overseas, one of the major things that had to be addressed was our STUFF and let me tell you there was a lot of STUFF. We live in a fairly large house in the suburbs with a 2 car garage, not exactly European living. Here is what we did to start getting rid of our stuff.
First, we started off by doing some research (because we are nerds like that). Of course there is the random internet advice (see Google). My husband follows a nice podcast called The Minimalist (www.theminimalists.com). This offered some great advice on how to get into the right mindset as your prepare to get rid of things and also offered advice on how to get that done. One example we used is using a service to scan your old photos to get them digitalized. Then you can finally get rid of the ton of old photo boxes you have hanging around.
I did my part too! I read the book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” by Marie Kondo. Super popular book right now and can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Life-Changing-Magic-Tidying-Decluttering-Organizing-ebook/dp/B00KK0PICK Now everything offered in this book is maybe not reasonable for the traditional American lifestyle but it did offer some great ideas that we put into practice.
- One of the first ideas I absolutely loved was waiting until the end to go through sentimental things like old photos and mementos. Start with easier stuff like clothes and books. The thought is that the sentimental stuff will pull you in and you will start reminiscing and stop decluttering.
- Organize by category not room. So get all of your coats/outerwear and get them in one room so you can see every single coat you have. If you did the bedroom and then the coat closet, you might convince yourself you need a couple extra coats because you forgot about the ones you already went through and kept in another room.
- Which brings me to the one that I think is the most important. Get everything in one room and pile it up. This is a big step! I put all of my shirts in one pile and my immediate thought was “Why in the world do I have this many shirts?!?!” This really makes you realize how much stuff you really truly have and is a gut check on how this stuff is burdening you.
- Only declutter (aka throw out) your own stuff. I can’t just go through my husbands closet and throw out what I think needs to go. That just causes sore feelings. However, I can mildly coax him in the right direction J
The book also promotes only keeping things that “Spark Joy” (which also became the title of Kondo’s 2nd book). She recommends holding each item in your hands and determining if it truly brings you joy. The idea is to take the time to really appreciate each item you have and realize that it is serving some purpose in your life and if it isn’t then it is time to get rid of it. I may have not fully deployed this tactic during my downsizing. The book is a quick read and I think everyone who reads it can take out a tip or 2 that works for their lifestyle so why not give the book a try.
Ok so what are the actual steps we took after all this “research”:
- First we got rid of everything we haven’t used in the last 6 months (think clothes, kitchen appliances, beer glasses from college). Thank you internet advice.
- Next, we got rid of everything that plugged in. Everything electrical had to go! Converters really don’t do the job so most minor appliances had to go. You should check on your TVs, computers, etc. as most of these items today can have a new power cord and ta-da they work in Europe. Always double check!
- Then we went back to the clothes and other stuff and did the plan mentioned above inspired by Kondo’s methods. Getting everything out and in the open makes you realize that you don’t need 42 t-shirts in your life. The sentimental stuff takes time and paperwork is such a pain!
- Speaking of paperwork. I felt like we were drowning in random lose papers! This is even with a filing system. We waited until the last minute for this job as it was the most dreaded task on the list. Give yourself lots of time for this step. We did an extensive amount of scanning and making items digital in order to reduce clutter. We used accordion binders to keep our most important documents in order and ready to travel with us.
- Go back to the clothes, books, toys, etc. one more time. This is called the Last Ditch Pitch. If in the final hours of packing, you don’t feel like the effort of packing something outweighs the importance of the item (meaning I don’t even want to bother packing this) then just through it away (or donate it). If it isn’t worth the trouble of packing it up then it wasn’t that meaningful/useful to you. Ditch it!
- Take a deep breath! Doesn’t that feel better! The weight of all your stuff has been lifted from your shoulders. You made it!
Quick thought, don’t forget to keep your receipts from Goodwill. You can claim up to $5000 on your taxes for your charitable donation. Just make sure to keep a list of the items you donated and the Goodwill website has a list of how much you can claim each item is worth for your taxes. A little legwork but sometimes this is easier than actually putting together a garage sale and dealing with all that hassle.