In 2008, Jacquie Denny posted her first sale to , Everything But The House, the website that made shopping estate sales much easier than randomly driving through your neighborhood looking for “house sale” signs. Denny, the estate sale and antique enthusiast envisioned a company that would carry on the legacy of interesting secondhand goods and change the way they are discovered, what she got was a sale mother lode that is beloved by secondhand and antique lovers everywhere. Since that time, Denny has spearheaded thousands of sales and become a true expert on downsizing, so we thought to ask her for some sage advice about reimagining our moves and our futures where less might possibly be even “more.”
You seem to support families through one of the most stressful life transitions. You must feel like a shrink sometimes. Is this difficult for you?
Listening to families is the easiest and best part of this process for me. It helps client’s “vent”, when they vocalize what they are feeling and hear themselves, it helps them sort things through, and finally, it gives me insight into what they really need from my service. I love to hear their stories.
How many times a week does someone ask you about downsizing?
Due to the fact that this is the largest generation in history going through this process simultaneously, I have a constant stream of inquiries. Our company serves an average of 450 clients per month.
How do you recognize when someone is or isn’t ready to downsize?
Several clues that a client is not ready…they cancel their consultation with us due to a “hang”nail and when sorting their possessions the “keep” pile towers over the “donate” and “sell” pile.
Is there an item you advise a family to never sell?
The one item that I hesitate to sell for a family is the heirloom item that has great monetary value (think Grandma’s Diamond necklace in a style you would never wear) Invariably, this decision may return to haunt you. This item is easy to store, easy to pass down and you can always sell it later. This is your legacy.
Have you ever downsized? How did that go?
As I write this, I am in the midst of preparing to go from large to small home. I am 63. I have raised my two children in this home with my husband. Our memories of holidays and birthdays are here. My kids love me…not my stuff. They have little connection to my mom’s stuff. We have donated, sold and said goodbye to every category from practical to emotional. The carrot for all these tough decisions is that this is the beginning of our next journey.
Do you have any “best practices” for how someone begins to downsize? Do you have a “top ten list” for how to begin?
Begin the process as soon as you can. Great preparation will diminish anxiety and regret.
Best areas to assess and address prior to your transition are:
PAPERWORK: Sort into boxes labeled Personal, Professional and Family Documents…address each category with a keep or toss measure.
PHOTOS: Sort into boxes for each family then set aside as a scrapbooking project for when you are settled or digitize them and let a service do the work.
CLOTHING, PURSES AND SHOES: Begin hanging each item you wear backwards in the closet, do the same with shoes and purses. After 90 days, it will become apparent which items you love to wear and actually use. Donate or sell the rest, as cash generated here could fund a shopping trip for an updated wardrobe.
KITCHEN: “PARE DOWN” spices, non-perishable foods, kitchen gadgets and small appliances (think bread or pasta maker you got for your wedding and never used) that are not a part of your everyday kitchen routine.
GARAGE: If you will no longer going to be maintaining a lawn and garden…now is the time to donate garden tools, pots and products to a local community garden.
ATTICS AND BASEMENTS: If you haven’t used it in 90 days (or unpacked it since your last move), donate or sell and save the room on the Moving Truck. Especially address seasonal items…is your move to a different climate?
Although we aren’t nearly as professional as EBTH, or as commanding as the joyful Marie Kondo, we at ITG have also learned a thing or two about downsizing and add a few of our best practices here. But “practice” at your own risk. Some of us have been know to “over ” downsize as in “where is my wedding album?” Oops!
A NEW PICTURE: Take a photo of your closet, your medicine cabinet, your china cupboard, your gift-wrapping room. Print them and hang them prominently. Now let fear and shame do their best to inspire you to start jettisoning all the ephemera.
NO MORE Boycott the drugstore. Declare war on CVS, Walgreens and Target. These stores are enemies of the move. Do not visit any of these stores for anything other than the truly essential. Better yet, if you do actually need soap , tylenol or toilet paper, order it online. If you can help it, do not go into these DMZ’s !
HALL PASS: Give yourself a pass for 10 items(not 11 , 12 or more) in your closet that you will never , ever give away. They are your treasures, or as Denny says, “your legacy.” Keep them because like all greats they will make a comeback!