10 Tips for Mucking Out the Memories


Yard Sale CartoonThe sequel to my Downsize This post.

So after that grisly marriage-blasting, nerve pinching experience of selling our big-ass house and downsizing our worldly attachments – here we are a year later happily ensconced in our condo. Thankfully, I no longer see that goggle-eyed, crazed woman staring back in the mirror.

Our little storage locker is chock-full of Christmas decorations, photo albums and fishing gear. Nothing else. It’s amazing how we boiled it all down to the bones and survived the madness. Do I miss the rest? Sometimes, but mostly there’s an incredible sense of relief; a simple freedom in de-cluttering our lives.

Top 10 things I learned:                              

  1. Make a Floor Plan: We measured each piece of furniture and made cut-outs so we could move them around on the floor plan like a doll house. This was a great way to see what furniture would be the best fit in our new place. Warning: not recommended for sissies. Big screen TV’s and well-loved recliners may not be condo-worthy.

  2. Test the size of your locker: Measure your locker and make an outline on the floor, like they do for dead bodies. After much pushing, pulling and pouting, we stacked the things we couldn’t part with in this space – like a precarious block of Lego’s. If it didn’t fit, it didn’t get on the moving truck. Proceed with caution: can be deadly to relationships.

  3. No storage wars!Sometimes when the pushing, pulling and pouting didn’t work and we reached an impasse on what to keep, we were tempted to cheat and rent an off-site storage locker. Fortunately, our daughter arrived in full swat-gear to talk us down from the ledge. When it’s stored, it gets ignored!

  4. Beware of auction houses! The two companies we used were shockingly dishonest by controlling bids to fall within their highest commission parameters – and by directing some sales to their friends – or to their spouses for resale in their own shops. Make a detailed list before you give them anything. Then kiss your assets good-bye.

  5. Check your collectables:  We checked sculptures, paintings, carvings, china, etc., for signatures and markings – and tried to determine the value by checking the internet. A sort-of-do-it-ourselves ‘Antiques Road Show.’ The money’s in the details; the devil’s in the dark.

  6. Get a long closing date would have given us time to sell more stuff online. As it was, we were pressured into hustling our belongings out the door, like unwanted houseguests. Remember the Rule of Three: a minimum of 3 months for closings and a maximum of 3 nights for visitors. Don’t get them confused!

  7. Have a yard sale: This was a great way to recycle. We priced to sell, grouped similar items together and the bargain-pickers were lined up around the block. We sold everything! The boxes of “Free Stuff” we put at the end of the drive was a big hit. They took that too and saved us a trip to the dump. My garage runneth empty; my fanny-pack runneth full…of coins.

  8. Hawk your stuff:  I made a list of everything I had for sale and emailed or handed it out to everyone I could. Friends, relatives, real estate contacts, trades people, the new buyers etc. I sold lots of stuff this way. Be bold. You’ve gotta tell to make it sell.

  9. Book donations: Parting with books wasn’t easy. But a targeted donation can help to ease the pain of separation anxiety. For example, I donated several boxes of children’s books to a local Ronald MacDonald House, and a collection of creative writing books to my high-school teacher-niece, who made a special library for herself and her students. ‘Tis a far far better thing I do…than I have ever done hoarding my books.

  10. Think Charities: These were great places to donate clothing and household goods. Many agencies picked up right at my door. Recycling and consignment shops were also good options, but they had lots of restrictions on what they would take. A bit of homework was needed, but worth the effort. So when in doubt, don’t throw it out.

Final word: While mucking out the memories was one of the most difficult things I have ever done, the memories themselves are surprisingly alive and kicking up dust bunnies. The good news is – I love that a lot of our stuff has been recycled to someone out there. The bad news is – I hate that a lot of our stuff has been recycled to someone out there. It all depends on the day.                                            

Now as I sit and write this rhyme,
I look back on those days in time,
Remembering how we were stressed,
And acting like two fools possessed.

So here’s the moral to my tale;
Don’t put your big-ass-house for sale!
Stay where you are until you’re dead,
The kids can muck it out instead.

See you between the lines and on Twitter @PatSkene

Check out my children’s books at www.pressheretostartpublishing.com

14 responses »

  1. Your tips are great. I’ll pass them on to friends so they can visit your site.

    My parents downsized when I lived in a condo. There were so many things I wanted that I had to stack boxes in the master bedroom, rent locker space that I’d never needed before … you know.

    My solution was to buy a house and get out of my condo. With space to move around, I’ve been able to let time and common sense dictate what gets the heave ho. Those decisions are so difficult when you are faced with nostalgia and deadlines.

    Because my parents had quite a load of “stuff” for me and my siblings, I have vowed not to do that to my kids.

    I’m enjoying your blog.


    • Thanks Mary – sounds like you’ve been there too, with a few more miles to go. Enjoyed your blog – great photography. Also remember your lovely short story in “From The Cottage Porch.”


  2. Great post! Having just moved this past summer I could relate to the challenges of sorting through everything and having to decide what to keep and what to send on its way. Although I moved in July I still think every time I’m in a store whether I’ll want to move whatever it is I’m looking at. I wasn’t able to purge any of the books though!


    • Saying good-bye to our books is a hard one Jo. And every year as they accumulate – they get more expensive to move. But then again, how can you put a price on a good friend? Thanks for reading my blog.


  3. We really liked your 10 things learned while mucking out your memories. They are all so sensible. We to moved from a house to a condo some years ago and then from there to a furnished cottage more recently where we encountered similar issues. It all requires continual maintenance and dedication to keep only the important things. Now that you have reduced and recycled …. do you want to buy an antique chair, or how about a radio?


  4. Wish I had your tips when I downsized from a house to an apartment. I thought I did a good job until the movers FILLED the large spare room with boxes, leaving just a thin path to the closet. I downsized again to move here and still have too much stuff so I’m trying to get the nerve up for a third pass.


    • Hi Nancy – try this trick to muster the courage for a third pass: one tub of ice-ceam, several squirts of chocolate sauce and one large spoon. Now stir well and enjoy – while you stare down the piles of stuff until they submit. Thanks for blogging. Enjoyed your site.


  5. I agree with Blanche……in fact…….once again, I wonder if it is time for me to sell and ended up giving the decision to God! Today, I read your blog Patti. Judging by the ending ryhme do you think He answered me so quickly?? Hmmmmmm

    LOVE your blog and am a dedicated follower!


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