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“Picking the Best, and letting go of the rest!”

It’s human nature to save and tuck things away just in case we need them. A move presents a perfect opportunity to simplify…a chance to free yourself from all the “stuff” you really don’t need or use. As we get older, our lifestyle simplifies when we transition to a smaller home. We cook less, have little or no yard maintenance, and change many of our activities. The sorting process for the move shifts from picking a few items to discard, to “picking the best, and letting go of the rest.”

Take time to look around your home and think about the items you love and use – these are the first to go with you. They can be sentimental or practical. If you value them, take them. Surrounding yourself with the things you love will help you feel more at home when you move.

Here are Tips to keep in mind while you’re sorting:

If you can’t decide on individual items, ask yourself these questions:


  • Have I used this in the past year? Yes/No
  • Am I likely to use it in the near future? Yes/No
  • Would it be difficult or costly for me to get another one? Yes/No

There are no right or wrong answers, but a NO answer gives you a good reason to let go.

Remember the 80/20 Principle.  

Most people only use 20% of what they have. The other 80% is just taking up space. For example, we really wear 20% of our clothes; the other 80% is clogging our closets.

The following list of “challenge spots” is what we’ve learned in working with our clients. We see these as challenges either in the time it takes or the emotions involved in sorting through each area.

The TOP TEN Challenge Spots . . .

The key to a later life move is realistically assessing your new storage space, and then discovering what is still truly important for you to keep and what you are ready to let someone else enjoy.

Number 1: Financial papers.

We all know we need to keep important papers, but we don’t need to keep most of them forever.

  • Ask for advice from your attorney, accountant, and/or family.
  • Keep only what you need, and get rid of out-of-date records – bank statements, cancelled checks, utility and credit card statements, tax returns older than 7 years.
  • But remember, you should allow time to shred these old files (or contact a shedding company to come to your house).

Number 2: Photographs – loose photos, photo albums, and framed family photos.

You don’t need to discard photos, but you do need to consider how to organize and store them.

  • Organize pictures by each family member, keep some favorites, and return the remainder
  • Remove some pictures from their frames to store with other loose photos.
  • Make sure you have a place to store old photo albums – either on a book shelf or in a storage closet.

Number 3: Clothes and shoes; linens and towels


  • Remember the 20/80 rule: people wear about 20 percent of what is in their closet.
  • If you haven’t worn it in a year, let it go – even if it was expensive.
  • Focus on things that don’t fit or need repair – and any clothes, shoes, belts, purses, ties, and other accessories you no longer need (business suits, formal wear, or extra winter coats).
  • Many people continue to stock their linen closets like they did when raising a family. Bring two or three sets of bed linens and up to six bath towels, hand towels, etc.

Number 4: Toiletries, cosmetics, medicines, vitamins, bandages

Why do people keep those little bottles of shampoo and conditioner from hotels?

  • Pull everything out, and discard expired medicines and unwanted cosmetics.
  • Organize the rest into small plastic bins by category – hair care, nail care, bandages and ointments, over-the-counter medicines, etc.
  • Store prescription medicines in a separate location: kitchen cupboard works well.

Number 5: Keepsakes

Keepsakes are things from our past that hold our dear memories intact: old letters and cards, children’s artwork and baby books, report cards, and achievement plaques.

  • Look through your old letters and cards, and let go of all but the most important.
  • Keep a clear plastic “memory box” for the very special items you want to keep.
  • Consider giving some keepsakes to your children.

Number 6: Heirlooms

Many families pass down china plates, clocks, silver candlesticks and other items.

  • Make sure you have a place to store and display these items so you can continue to enjoy them and keep them safe.
  • Consider passing them to the next generation.

Number 7: “Just in Case” items


People keep things just in case they might need them someday. Mix masters, power tools, electric fry pans, pressure cookers, craft materials, sewing machines, record albums.

  • If you are really going to use any of these items, keep them, but make sure you know where to store them.

Number 8: Special Collections

Some people collect items over the years: sea shells, costume jewelry, books, video tapes, tea cups, and owls or angels.

  • If there simply isn’t space to display them properly: set a limit and take a portion.
  • Pass the rest on to children, sell them, or donate.

Number 9: Gifts

We receive gifts for all kinds of occasions: holidays, birthdays, anniversaries.

  • It’s okay to let go of well-intended but not-quite-on-the-mark gifts.
  • When storage is limited, think about “re-gifting.”

Number 10: Bargains and Bulk Purchase Items

People love to stock up on bargains: a lifetime supply of toilet paper and paper towels, laundry soap, coffee and canned soup.

  • Even though you saved on these bargains, you might not have room to store them.
  • Stop stocking up now, and share with neighbors and family.