It’s an option that more and more Toronto seniors are taking: Selling that house while the market is hot and downsizing to a more accessible, more centrally located condominium unit, with enough capital left over to keep your retirement comfortable. But downsizing means weighing what to do with all that stuff—furniture and mementoes that won’t fit into a more efficient space but are legitimately hard to part with.
Here are four tips for making it through the household cull—and coming out feeling lighter.
Give yourself permission to struggle
Yes, ultimately, they are just things—and that’s the attitude many people will take when whittling down their possessions for a leaner, cleaner life. But for every person who finds it easy to let go, there’s another who picks up that tablecloth and remembers the friend who gifted it, and every wonderful family dinner that started with putting it on the table.
Sometimes this can be hard. And it’s okay if it’s hard. For some of us, it’s hard to feel like losing the touchstone we’ve attached all those good memories to is losing the memories. You’ll still have that friend, and you’ll still have those family dinners, but if you need to grieve a little when passing that tablecloth on to a new home, don’t let anyone tell you that’s wrong, or unnecessary.
Evaluate the usefulness of everything
Old closet-cleaning tips can really come in handy when downsizing to a new space: If you haven’t used it in a few years, you’re very unlikely to use it again.
While it’s important to set reasonable time boundaries for yourself, pick a boundary and keep it firm: If you haven’t worn that jacket, played those old board games, used those office supplies, or read those books inside your chosen time span, hold yourself to finding them a new home.
Likewise, think about quantity. It’s easy to accumulate multiples of things when you have the storage space to keep them, but downsizing inevitably means choosing fewer things to keep, which are used more often. Decide on how many coffee mugs you will realistically ever need at one time, and cull down the ones you’ve got until you hit your target. Don’t worry about the what-if: In the sheer eventuality you need one more, you can always go and get it once you’ve figured out what your new space will accommodate.
Send it to a good home
Downsizing for a move doesn’t have to mean never seeing those items again. Children, siblings, and close friends might be happy to give the items you don’t want to take home—especially if they have their own sentimental attachments to a favourite teapot or family heirloom. If you have grandchildren or other relatives just starting out on their own, they may be happy—or may not, depending on whether they’ve got a strong sense of personal style—to take in that set of dishes as they begin their own household.
The rule of thumb here is to make sure that offering items to friends and family members will alleviate a burden—in time or money—rather than create one in storage space or obligation. Respect a no, but check within your close circles in case someone will give you an enthusiastic yes.
At its best, passing on items to willing friends or family members can make them feel considered and loved as do your downsizing, and make sure the possessions that have served you well can have a second life.
Do good with the things you shed
One of the hangups that often comes with downsizing is the idea that anything you can’t repurpose in your own networks, you have to keep. Unfortunately, like many major cities, Toronto is a city that has a lot of need—and rather than keeping those things friends and family don’t want, but you can’t throw out—you can help alleviate that need by donating them.
The City of Toronto has great listings for social service agencies seeking housewares, furniture, books, clothing, and more on its ReUseIt program website. Each listing clearly states what an organization currently needs, their contact information, and enough background to get you started on supporting causes that matter to you with a donation of the things you no longer use.
Best of luck!