Monday, September 23, 2013

I moved into a smaller home. Where do I start?

So you have moved to a smaller house or an apartment, and you have not gotten rid of enough of your things.  You were already fatigued and in pain when you moved; therefore, you moved some things that didn't ever get unpacked last time.  Then, you packed up the rest.  Who has dealt with this kind of picture and worse?  Boxes are stacked;  and, you have this nagging feeling, it is going to take forever to find anything.  I imagine most of us have been in this situation.  Just thinking of it and seeing some of these pictures, makes my heart beat a little faster -- but not in a good way. 

These are not pretty pictures of a job finished.  I think this may have been midway in my process of unpacking.  I was finally able to go through boxes that have been with us since the first through middle years of our marriage. It wasn't that I had not gone through things before, but we also had things from school and papers galore, even old plans and things from my husband's office.  After carrying this stuff around for forty years, you know you really don't need it.   Thank goodness, he agreed. 

The nagging question for most people is "where do I start?".  When you are dealing with pain and fatigue, moving feels like the straw that will break the camel's back.  First of all, make sure you rest.  You have to be patient with yourself.  It is probably going to take longer than you want it to take to get finished, but don't give up.  You can do this! 

Secondly, if you brought too much to your new home, you are going to feel cramped in this house.  It will be harder to clean, and your things may start to feel like an albatross around your neck.  I only say that because I have been there.  I am happy to say that my load is getting lighter.  Because of my particular illnesses and circumstances, it has taken me longer to get things in shape, than it has in any other move.  When we moved in August of 2011, I became very depressed and unmotivated.  Also, I was in lots of pain.  I had a hip replacement that December.  After I got past the depression and while recovering from surgery, I still had piles of boxes.

However, I was determined to get through the piles, which got worse, because of the other items that start getting added to the mix of boxes:  things like books, magazines, pill containers, bags, and junk mail.  However, I would unload a box onto a table;  and then, I would start finding a place for the various things.  While I was unpacking, I started thinking about things I didn't want in my house.  You can use three hampers to sort as you unpack.  Have one hamper marked give away, one marked put away, and one marked trash. Boxes work too.  This helps contain the items, and you have an easy way to move things to other rooms.   Also, be open to using decorative items differently.  Just because a picture or an object was in the dining room or hallway, does not mean you can't put it in your bedroom.

I recently made a list of questions to ask yourself while getting rid of clutter. These questions also fit in with moving to a smaller home.
  1. Am I keeping this object out of obligation?  Perhaps, it was a gift, but you never use it or you don't even like it.  Or perhaps, you have just grown tired of it.
  2. Have I used it within the last year?
  3. Do I still love this object?
  4. Do I need this object for a special purpose, like a holiday, wedding, etc.? 
  5. Can I substitute something else for this item?
  6. Do I have room to store this item?
  7. Is it probable I will ever use this again?
  8. Can this be easily replaced?
  9. Do I feel guilty, because I spent quite a bit of money on this item?
  10. Does this item make me happier?          
Let's focus on #1.  Do I feel obligated to keep this item?  Is it a family heirloom, but nobody else in the family wants it?  I suggest taking some pictures of it, and put them in a safe place.  That will leave you free to give it to a grandchild, give it away, or sell it.  The reason we want to keep things we really don't want or need is often that we don't want to lose our memory of the person it belonged to.  After you have taken a picture, you can write about that memory in a journal or a scrapbook.  I know that won't work for every item, but some things are too large to keep.  

Included in #1 are items loved ones or friends have given you, of which you have grown tired.  It does not fit in with your decor, or you never liked it.  Take a picture for them (if you must).  They probably won't notice it is gone.  They may assume it broke or it doesn't fit you anymore.  Now, I understand there may be a few problem items, like that picture a near relative painted 39 years ago, and you have put it on the wall in every house for the last 39 years.  I have one of those pictures.  It happens to be one of those things that I am going to hide it in a closet, until that person visits.  Believe me, this person will notice and say something.  I had that happen when it was not hung in a prominent place in my last house.  My excuse was that it fit the colors in that room perfectly.  And, it did.  But I am so tired of it.  I'm even tired of things I picked out.  

I also want to emphasize #9.   It cost a lot of money:  I have to keep it, even though I dislike it.  It doesn't fit in this house.  It takes up too much room.  It's the wrong color. Don't  listen to that guilt-laden voice.  Sell it, give it away, paint, or reupholster it.  Don't let your things use you.  You have the right to make the choice whether you need or want something.

I realize most of us cannot afford to redo everything.  However, if you are tired of that brown furniture, you can throw some colorful pillows on it or a afghan to add some color into the room.  Be patient with yourself.  Take care of the clutter.  Get rid of the things that are unnecessary and unwanted.  The table fits, but you are sick of the color.  Go ahead and paint it.  

 If you have ever been on vacation in a small place that has a kitchen, and you have enjoyed not being surrounded by the detritus of everyday living at your own house, think of that.  Do you remember how good it felt to have just what you needed, but no more?  It was easy to clean the kitchen and cook meals, and to pick up after yourself.

Finally, William Morris sums up what I believe helps to make a comfortable home:  Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.  It could hardly be said more elegantly.  

When the things you have become clutter and make you feel hemmed in, they have lost their usefulness.  Think about that when you are trying to make everything fit.  I couldn't do it after forty years of marriage and having lived in three or four bedroom houses.  Can you?   


  1. Hi Debbie, this was a great post! I chatted with you before about the same subject. The day we moved into a smaller house I was hospitalized for a week. Naturally the move was a mess because I didn't have a chance to go through things first. I still have boxes hanging around. Your post has inspired me to get back to work on them. Like you said, baby steps. I too enjoy Fly Lady.Here's hoping I can get some work done!

  2. Sue, I'm so glad this helped. This inspiration thing actually works both ways. When you get inspired, I am inspired to continue in taking care of myself and my household.
    Gentle Hugs and God bless you,


It's always lovely hearing from you. xoxo, Deborah