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Downsizing Dilemma - A Story

01/15/2017 10:37 AM | Kathrin Shenk

 “Are you sure, honey?” he asked, excitedly. “I totally am, yes!” she replied. “The kids are long gone, and this house is too big for us anyway. If we sell now we can make enough money to finally get that dream home on the water we’ve been talking about for years!”

Meet Norma and Gregory. They are finally able to realize their dream of moving from the big 4,000 sf home they raised their family in to a waterfront cottage with boat slip. How awesome is that! There is only one problem – the home they have their heart set on is tiny. 1,000 sf of space. That’s it. “It’ll work out somehow.” Gregory says. “I’m sure the kids want a bunch of our stuff. And the cottage has a big basement. And, we can always just rent a storage space if we have to.”

The Realtor comes and assigns homework: Too much stuff everywhere! 25 years’ worth of family possessions on shelves and in drawers, cabinets, boxes and bins. Baby clothes. Kids’ toys. Teenager paraphernalia. Sports equipment. Garden tools. Place settings for twelve. The house looks much smaller than its 4,000 sf! And, who wants to buy a cluttered house? It looks like it wasn’t taken care of. The stuff has to go! And fast!

So, Norma and Gregory call the kids and ask them to come get what they want. Daughter Ashley picks out a little Japanese tea set. Son Jason wants his grandpa’s fountain pen. Ouch. Not much progress.

The Realtor recommends hiring a Professional Organizer to help lighten their load. Norma and Gregory are not convinced. “What? Pay someone to help us get rid of stuff? No way! We can do that ourselves!”

Norma and Gregory venture down into the basement to start decluttering. 20 minutes into it Gregory trips over an errant Christmas garland and needs to go ice his ankle. Meanwhile, Norma finds an old family photo album and starts leafing through it. Oh the good times they had. This downsizing business is just too hard. She puts the album back and joins Gregory on the couch.

A few weeks later the house is halfway organized, but Norma and Gregory couldn’t bear to part with much of anything. So, boxes, bins and furniture are piled in the basement and in the garage. The Realtor is concerned. Prime listing time has passed, and prospective buyers can’t appreciate the fully finished basement and the spacious garage, because they can’t see them!

A young couple finally puts a bid on the house. It’s much less than what Norma and Gregory could have realized during prime time, and the still somewhat cluttered house didn’t show that well. But they are ready to move. They sell, albeit at a lower price, and put the money down for the dream waterfront cottage.

The moving company comes by for an estimate. “It’ll be $3,000 to move everything to the new place. Are you sure it will all fit?” “It won’t.” Gregory says. We only have about one quarter of the space. “You will have to downsize, and fast.” the mover says. “I know a good Professional Organizer who can help.”  “Oh no, we will do that ourselves, no worries!” Norma rolls her eyes. By now she’s ready for help. But Gregory isn’t. He’s a man on a mission. Craigslist! Ebay! He’s going to sell their stuff and make some money!

Alas, strangers are no more receptive than Norma and Gregory’s children. By the time the movers come only a few odds and ends have been sold. $3,000 later Norma and Gregory’s stuff suffocates their new home. Instead of being ecstatic, Norma and Gregory are stressed. “It’s like living in a storage shed! We can barely move around in here!”

They decide to rent space at a storage facility. It costs about $1,500 a year, but what choice do they have? Several weeks and many trips later Norma and Gregory finally have cleared out their new home enough to actually begin unpacking boxes and moving in.

Norma’s friend stops by for a visit. “I know a Professional Organizer who can help you get out of those boxes and start enjoying your home!” the friend says. “Oh no!” Gregory starts. “We can…” Norma cuts him off. “What’s her phone number?” “What??” “You know Gregory, I can’t help but wonder if we wouldn’t have saved ourselves a lot of time, money and headache if we had gotten expert assistance at the get-go. I mean, look, if we had decluttered and gotten rid of stuff right away, like the realtor said, we might have listed earlier, the house may have looked bigger, and buyers may have been able to appreciate it more. We might have made more money! Also, we wouldn’t have had to pay to move all this stuff we can’t really use, and we wouldn’t be paying to store it now. And, I’m too exhausted to even think about where to put all the things in the boxes that are still here.”

The Professional Organizer arrives the following week. She works with Norma and Gregory to find the best place to store their belongings in the new home, working through box after box and putting things away. She helps the couple let go of items that no longer serve them, and takes all donations away to charity to be enjoyed by others. The more they work, the lighter Norma and Gregory feel. They can finally enjoy their new dream waterfront home, unencumbered by all the baggage from the past.

Postscript: After Norma and Gregory had spent $2,000 in storage fees they hired the Professional Organizer to help them clear out the space and decide on the essentials they wanted to keep. After they were done they felt like they pulled up anchor and could finally sail away into their new, much lighter life!


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