Downsize-Mode De-Cluttering – An Extended Process

I have developed a pattern now. Most of my stays back in the “big house” in Brentwood now include at least one trip to the county dump and/or to Good Will. The alternative is to do it all at once, when we sell this house in a couple of years. But I have also learned that I do not want to wait until then.

Once you get past discarding the obvious trash (stuff that is broken, clothes that are torn or that will never fit, etc.), it become more difficult. No one likes to get rid of something that is in perfectly good shape, even if it is doing nothing in your life but taking up space. We rationalize keeping it because “I might need that someday” or “that was a fun thing for me to use – ten years ago.” Giving it to someone who could use it now may be painful because it establishes that maybe we shouldn’t have purchased that object to begin with.

On the other hand, after you give away that first item that has some historical significance to your life, there is a twinge of anxiety followed by a much larger feeling of liberation. The dam of reluctance breaks and each succeeding separation becomes much easier.

Last summer when I went into Craigslist downsizing-mode, I also decided to sell two large objects that I have carried around with me for 45 years. I have been an Amateur Radio operator since the 8th grade. For $50 dollars (an advance from my parents), I acquired my “dream” radio receiver in 1965 (used, of course). In 1967, I acquired a radio transmitter that I had lusted after. I used these throughout high school. When I went to college, this equipment went into boxes. Since that time, I have fired them up only once.

I loved the memories of using that equipment. But they were outdated (remember vacuum tubes?), needed to be refurbished, and weighed almost 100 pounds between them. (What we Hams call “boat anchors.”) They simply needed to go. So I sold them to another Ham who wanted to restore them.

When I physically transferred possession of my old radio gear, there was some uneasiness. I asked the buyer to email me photos of the restored equipment so I could cherish those images instead of the actual “stuff.” This “fond photo-memory” strategy works better than keeping the stuff around. Five minutes after the stuff was gone, I was over it. The positive feelings of being liberated from stuff were now dominating my stuff-attachments.

Since that time, I have had no problem getting rid of anything that I have no use for. The irrational attachments to “things” are gone. Each trip to the dump or to Good Will brings more freedom – mental and physical. If it is something I want help remembering, I photograph it.

So my regular stuff-separation trips will continue. I am invading the attic now. There are many more downsizing adventures ahead of me. When it is time to sell this house, I will be ready.

Now if only Mrs. P. will join the de-cluttering club! That will be another chapter in our downsizing story.


  1. says

    Thanks for the great ideas (and encouragement.) We just started on a downsizing project, so it was timely. Liked the Craig’s List suggestions too. Stuff to get rid of also includes some old ham radio gear. 73 – Daryl

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