We are finally here! The part most people associate with packing. A stack of boxes. Rolls of clear packing tape. A sharpie marker. And a whole houseful of stuff. Yes?
If you missed part two of our downsizing project, click here. If you want to start at the beginning, all the way back to part one, then start here.
Don’t worry. We will handle this part just like the other pieces. Half of the task is in the planning, I promise!
So get a drink and a snack and look through your room inventories. I want you to decide which category that needs to be boxed – will be easy for you. You need a win right off the bat here. If you get stuck on box one, it will be easy to get discouraged.
So pick an easy one. Maybe off season clothing that you won’t need for months. That would be easy to decide and put away.
Or linens. What size sheets will you need in your new home? Maybe none of the sizes in the linen closet will even fit your new bed and you will need new ones. That might be an excellent place to begin sorting.
Pick one. Then think through this category like this. Pretend you are going on a plane and you can only take carry-on luggage. Because that is sort of what is happening. You are going somewhere and you can’t take everything. There is an actual amount of space and no more. If you are working through your off-season clothing, you will want to ask this question: Which of these items are essentials? For winter or harsh climates, boots, ski pants, jeans, thick sweaters, and layers might all be appropriate. However, if you are moving your Mom to Florida, she might just need a light jacket and a medium weight, quilted one. Take what you need. Nothing else. If a clothing item crosses over into the emotional realm where you are wanting to keep it for sentimental reasons, put that item to the side to handle with other sentimental items.
Go to the room where your easy task awaits. Pull out the selected items onto the bed or floor. When they are all there, then select the best, correct-size or most essential pieces. If the essential items can be packed now because you won’t need them until after the move, then grab a box, fold the items, tape the box and mark with a thick black marker. Make sure to write what items are inside. Twin size sheets for Florida. Winter clothing for (your name here) RV.
Then look at what is left. These are the non-essentials. If you are working on the linen closet, you will need to keep at least one set of sheets that will fit your current bed. You can store these back on the bare shelf in the linen closet or under your bed. Everything else is on the loading dock. The floor is temporary storage. They are leaving the linen closet and going where? If the sheets are nice and you want to give them to family, friends, a neighbor, a charity, then pull out that set/sets and put a note on top. Next, pull out items that are past repair with loose elastic, missing pieces, sets with holes and plan to discard these items. You might have a stack to discard, a stack to donate and a stack for your sister. Once every item is in a stack, you are in the home stretch!
Now this part is very, very important. Do not be distracted by dinner or Facebook until you have given those items new homes. Take the discard items to the trash can and toss them in quickly. Don’t waver. If the item is not nice enough to donate, you need to do this. It might be painful if these sheets have been in your linen closet all this time. Tossing them out might seem extreme, but you are clearing all your items a category at a time so that you can move on to that next place without hundreds of boxes that will have to be sorted when you reach your destination. You are giving yourself a gift. Now bag up your donations and put them in your car. Call your neighbor, friend, family member and ask if they can use this sheet set you set aside for them. Don’t be surprised if they say no. Their linen closet might be full or maybe they just don’t care for rose-colored sheets. Try not to twist their arms. You are not trying to unload your things on others, you are trying to bless them. If they want the things, put them in a bag and mark them. If not, add them to your donation bag or keep calling friends until someone sounds excited! Once everything has been packed and is no longer in the linen closet or on the floor then you are free to eat. And surf.
If you are feeling extra spunky, select one more category. A smaller one this time. Complete that one too. Then stop.
Before sorting through any more categories, you will need to deliver your bagged items. When you go to the donation center, go ahead and introduce yourself. You are going to see these people almost every day. Be friendly and they will begin to wave when you pull up.
So you can see that this part will take a while. At some point, you will run into this wall. The wall of needing the items you are wanting to pack. If you wait too long, you will run out of time. If you pack it, you will need it.
Ok. So again think of this like a trip. There are items you pack a week in advance, items you can part with the night before and some items that you are throwing in the bag as you enter security.
Let’s go through two different items as examples.
Medicine. Most people have a large medicine cabinet. They have accumulated various medications over a number of years, or even longer, and as long as it fits on the shelf, it stays. That changes now. Think ahead. Are you moving into an RV? If so, then you just need a large emergency kit. Pull out Bandaids, Neosporin, cold medicine, headache medicine, Tylenol or Aleve, a thermometer, maybe a knee brace. Put those things on the counter. If you have prescription meds, add those to the pile. This is what you are taking. Check the expiration dates now and if anything needs to be replaced, note that next to the category on your inventory. If you need to replace several things, feel free to start a list of replacement items right after your room inventories. Once the item has been listed, the expired version can be discarded. Gather all the non-essential medications that are left and bag them. Old cough drops can be thrown away. Old thermometers and fabric dressings can go in the trash. The other medications should be checked before being thrown away.
We are almost done. Hang in there. Look at the medicine you are keeping. It should be a fairly small pile. You will want a clear box with lid for these items. Target, a home improvement store or your own garage should supply such a box. Move the items into the box and be sure to label it! This sounds a little label happy, but trust me. You want a bright, annoyingly bright, sticky note for this task. Write – Meds – RV – on the label with a sharpie marker. Tape the sticky note with packing tape onto the box. Now put the whole box with the lid on it back into the cabinet. If it no longer fits, put it on a shelf, with the towels, on the back of the toilet. If you have kids, make sure your medicine is secure in whatever location you choose. After your discards have been discarded and your final box is packed, you are done!
Ok. Another example. Kitchen stuff. There are several categories in the kitchen. Bakeware, Pots and Pans, Serving dishes, Prep Items, Dinnerware/Glassware/Silverware, Food Storage, Small Appliances, Specialty items, Kitchen linens/pot holders. You should consider working on these categories one at a time.
If in your scenario, your Mom is moving in with your brother, she might not need any of these items. In that case, leave basic supplies as you would find in a vacation rental and begin removing the extra items. If you are moving into an RV, then you will need tiny, really tiny, subsets of these items. Two or three small Tupperware. Plastic wrap and aluminum foil. One potholder. Three dishcloths. Consider your storage situation carefully. Pull out what you need for your next space. Box it. Label it. Downsize the remaining items. If you can part with the items that are boxed for the next destination then go ahead and remove them so they won’t get lost – pulled out and never returned. If you have two of certain items, like a can opener, box the nicer one and keep the basic one in the drawer to use until you are leaving.
One category per day is a worthy goal. If you have help or are a really focused packer, adjust your schedule accordingly. Give yourself a break after completing your task and every few days as well. Something about making hundreds of decisions every single day might make you feel like you are sleep deprived or have a newborn again. You might just stare at items, unable to even comprehend what to do with a casserole dish. When this happens, not if, but when, you will need a day off. You might feel like leaving the house at this point is irresponsible but your brain – must.have.a.break.now.
This looks different for different people. What is good for you when you are stressed? Laughing with a friend? Time in nature for a lengthy walk or a short hike? Doing something that is easy for you – like knitting, completing a puzzle, playing music, drawing. Do the thing that erases your sore brain. You are using so much creativity to design this new life. What you will need, what will fit. Giving yourself a break when you need it, is essential.
If you are following along and have questions, feel free to post them. Every scenario differs slightly but as long as you are creating a small subset of items that are essential moving forward then you are doing exactly what you need to do.
The last part to cover is sentimental items. This might mean a treasured collection, photos, art, all of your kid’s papers back to kindergarten. I’m not going to lie. This will probably be your hardest task. Consider the scope of your items. Is it just your book collection or do you have rooms of sentimental items? First, I would advise making sure you have grieved for these items. If you are a book lover – like me – but you have to come to grips with taking only a few books overseas – then grief will be there. If it is possible to keep your treasures in storage or at your parent’s home, do that. If it is unavoidable that you must part with your treasures, then ask for help. Maybe you can take pictures of your collection or recount stories of where you purchased these items. Maybe you can sell them only to people who collect books on knitting or baking, like you, so that you know they will go to good homes and not be bartered over at a yard sale. This is how I sold my baby clothing from the picture above. It was actually a relief to know someone loved my baby clothes the way I did. They were thrilled to pick through and select stacks of clothing. Win, win.
If you are holding onto items from loved ones who have died, you need to decide if the item itself is sentimental or if it is sentimental only because of who owned it. For instance, when my husband’s grandparents sold their home in Maryland, he could not imagine them selling their furniture. He volunteered to take what was left and keep it at our house. Eventually when we moved, we needed to part with those items. If it had been his grandmother’s wedding dress, that would have been a sentimental item. Instead, the item was an orange-y living room chair that swiveled. It was in excellent condition, but we did not need a living room chair. It was sentimental because he remembered seeing it in their house, remembered swiveling in it. He could remember his grandparents without keeping their chair so when we moved from that house, he let it go.
This type of sorting is the hardest kind. You need perspective. If a friend can provide a sounding board for you without telling you what to do, then let them assist. Think also of size. If your grandma always used a certain spoon and it is in good shape, then keep that. Every time you open your kitchen drawer, you will smile and think of her. It is hard to smile in memory if the item must be boxed and stored. Out of sight – out of mind. Consider framing important certificates, dress uniforms or flags so you can see them constantly. Even recipes can be framed, written in your grandma’s handwriting.
This was a very long post. If you hung in there, congratulations! The last post will cover packing more in depth. We glossed over it in this post, but will finish covering it next time.
Keep at it. You are doing well. Be consistent in attacking only one area at a time and be kind to yourself. You can do this!