As spring is just around the corner many people will begin to think of downsizing and getting rid of some things they seldom use any more. I think the popular term today is “de-clutter.” Whatever term you use it’s a good thing to do from time to time. After all, you don’t want to appear on Hoarders. And, even the most avid collector sometimes realizes that it’s time to depart with some of his or her collections.

I realize it’s difficult for some people to let go of anything. I recently spoke with a friend of mine who owns some storage units. He told me he was getting ready to build 90 more. Another storage facility near me recently added about 300 more units to their site. These storage facilities are popping up everywhere because people want to hold onto their possessions, but why do people want to keep things they aren’t going to use any more? I think it’s really important for people to decide whether it makes sense to pay monthly rent on a storage unit or just let some things go. As I’ve written before, there are times when having a storage unit makes sense. I have one myself, but it’s to store the items I need for my auction business such as totes, boxes, carts, signs, etc. I have no personal items in that unit.

If you’re ready to downsize, start by looking in your garage, your basement, your attic, and every room in your house to identify things you haven’t used in the past year. What are the chances you will ever use those items again? If you haven’t used it in the past two years the chances are slim you really need to hold on to it. Perhaps some things have sentimental value due to having belonged to a family member, but even then, you can’t  hold on to everything forever.  If you have items in a storage unit, really take a hard look at those to determine if you need to keep them.

Start making four piles. One pile will contain those items that would have some value at an auction. You might as well earn some money while you’re downsizing. A second pile consists of things you will ask others if they want. A few years before she died my mother gave each of us kids some of the items that had belonged to our grandparents. While today’s younger generation is generally not interested in such things, it doesn’t hurt to ask. The third pile will have things you will donate to charity. Once you determine a fair market value for those items you can deduct them from your taxes. Finally, the fourth pile is the junk pile: these things are going directly to the dump.

Once you have identified your piles, begin to box up the items and deliver them to their destination. I would check to see if the things you are offering to others will be accepted or not. If not, they will then go into one of the other boxes. Your second stop should be the auction house. You may find that the auctioneer will advise you to donate or trash some of the things you bring. Then you can donate your items you’re giving to charity before making your final stop at the dump.

The first time through this process may be difficult, so you may want to start it again in a couple of weeks. The second time through it should be a little easier to let go of some things as you realize it didn’t hurt as bad as you thought. This is especially true if you’ve received a check from the auctioneer! You may be even have to do a third time before you really get control over your clutter, but when you finish you will probably feel good about the process and the end results.

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