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Fri, March 22

Column: Downsizing is often easier said than done

Have you moved lately? I am a Realtor so I know about moving. It might be fun, even thrilling. But mostly, it is the sorting, packing and cleaning that make grown men cry.

Statistically, Americans move about every seven years. Why? Make a list. We need a bigger house, a smaller one, a better view, want to be closer to family, or far away from family, a job is beckoning, we want to be closer to town, would rather live in the country, have health issues, retirement is looming, weather is killing us and that neighbor's barking dog is simply unacceptable! Yes, it seems there are a lot of reasons to want to pick up and move.

I have noticed one common denominator in most moving scenarios: We have too much stuff! I love to go to people's homes who are downsizing. Really? If you can barely cram all your belongings into a 3,500-square-foot home, how do you suppose that will work in a 2,000-square-foot abode? While it sounds good to "downsize," many people are shocked to find that they actually like the stuff that they have collected over the years. And parting with it becomes painful.

I went to a home that had a room filled with books and magazines. Thousands of them. Stacks of magazines were piled high to the ceiling. Books filled every shelf and the room had dozens of bookcases! When I asked the man who was selling what he planned on doing with all of his reading material, he shrugged and said, "I guess take it with me." Ha! This is the funny reality of moving. Sometimes we are forced to get rid of possessions. Moving can be tricky.

There is a fine line between being a "collector" and just an ordinary hoarder. I know, because I have a grandson with autism, who struggles with "letting go" of everything and anything. He likes to keep old birthday cards, socks with holes in them, stuffed animals that he never plays with (he is a teenager now) and even throwing out a pair of shoes that are worn and no longer fit causes him to want to "save them" for a rainy day. I point out that holding onto things you don't need or use is silly, but it just gets him mad. Well, maybe that is autism. But I have a feeling "collecting" is a common human trait.

I went to a lady's house who had a complete "rooster" kitchen. On every surface, windowsill, counter, pot shelf and table she had some form of a rooster. It was actually frightful. Statues, cookie jars, small china rooster figurines, plates, pictures ... it was like walking into a chicken coop! When I told her (kindly) that she would have to pack up the roosters before we listed her house, she gasped. "But I love them and I am taking my collection with me!" Yikes, where would all these roosters go? She wants to downsize! Which makes me think that we like the idea of downsizing, but not necessarily the reality of it.

I love going to garage and estate sales. It is sometimes thrilling to find little treasures that people are willing to discard. Other times, it is shocking to see what is being sold. I recently saw a family photo album being sold for a dollar. I asked, "Why?" The young owner shrugged and said, " We don't know who any of the people are in these photos."

Dear Readers, label those family pictures soon because the next generation may have no clue as to who the strangers are staring back at them in all those vintage images. We don't want Grandpa and Grandma's wedding album being sold for a buck to a stranger!

Of course, it's not just the stuff we have collected and want to keep that can make moving complicated. It is how to organize and pack that can make a move go smoothly. It seems inevitable that something important gets placed in the wrong box, mislabeled and never to be found. A lady in Prescott emailed me to say that her passport was kept in a "special purse" and evidently that purse got stashed with about 40 boxes that her husband marked "kitchen, closet or bedrooms." A trip looming, a recent move and no passport can cause panic to set in.

Dear Readers, never put cash in a teapot. One lady I know liked to keep stashes of cash in odd places, like teapots, shoes, vases and coat pockets. But when she fell ill and ended up in assisted living, her "helpful" daughter-in-law took care of donating items to charities. Sadly, many beloved possessions and about $5,000 went to various organizations around town. Better to sort through our own things and keep our money in the bank!

A recent survey by the National Association of Professional Organizers reveals that 54 percent of Americans feel overwhelmed by clutter and 78 percent have no idea what to do with it. Okay, so today I am going to clean a closet, sort through papers and label photos. It is never too late to get organized and de-clutter. I think I will start with my husband, Doug's stuff, since it is always easier to organize another person's belongings. (Hope he is not reading this).

We don't need to move to get rid of some of our stuff. Just the will (and time) to do it. Good luck to all us.

Judy Bluhm is a writer and a local Realtor who lives in Skull Valley. Have a story or a comment? Email Judy at


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