Stacey Willis Homes Realtor.jpg

the sweet homesweet life blog

I find myself saying it's an age and stage of life a lot lately.

Well sometimes those ages and stages stink!

As one of my dearest friends Tonya told me:

"This gettin' old thing ain't for sissies!"

Truer words have not been spoken. As you transition from those middle age years into those golden ones hopefully some of these tips can help you through as well as give you perspective on what is really important.


Give yourself plenty of time for this process, because it will inevitably take longer than you expect. Take your time, and don’t try to sort through your entire house in one day or weekend. A couple months is a reasonable timeline. Take it one room at a time, and take breaks throughout. If you aren’t rushed, you’ll find downsizing to be much less stressful. If there is a time crunch, don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends, family and even professional life transition companies can help make this daunting task a little more manageable.

When I helped my mom “Carol” downsize, we separated things into 4 categories. I even taped a sign up for each pile to help her remember.

  • Move - These items are necessities or things she new she wanted to move with

  • Donate - Useful items that you won’t have room for or won't keep

  • Trash - Discard items that are personal, not in good working order, or are irrelevant. “Carol's” most difficult category

  • Gift - Legacy gifts (See #8 for more info)


Don’t dive right into that kitchen or garage. Those will take some time and you could easily get discouraged and overwhelmed. Most of us will have years and years of things to sort through. Start in an area with little emotional attachment. The laundry room or linen closet are good options. Understand your needs. If you’re moving into a two-bedroom house, four sets of sheets should be plenty. The rest can go.

Carol had 42 pillow cases! {I counted 😉 Lol} One time she was collecting mattresses so we could all come back to live with her.

🛌 🛌🛌🛌🛌🛌🛌 🛌 🛌

Remember Y2K 🤣?

1. Garages, attics, basements, and sheds are notorious for being the hardest to tackle. These tend to accumulate all the failed pinterest plans, old hobbies, boxes, old holiday decorations, dust, and clutter. They’re also known to be rather uncomfortable spaces. In the summer it’s too hot, winter it’s too cold, and in the springtime it can be too humid. Plan accordingly for weather or if you need friends or family to get things moved to a more accessible location for you to sort through.

2. Eliminate rooms you won’t have in your new home. Carol moved from a three story home to a one level ranch. I told her if she could get everything she was moving with her on that one level of her house it would be more manageable for the move. She focused on clearing the basement and upstairs including all furniture items.

3. If you’re moving to an apartment or town-home, you might not have a garage or office space. Nearly everything in those spaces will need to be sold, donated, tossed, or relocated to other rooms. These areas might also be good items for consignment or Craigslist sales; nice office furniture and outdoor tools are more valuable than old sofas or mattresses.

Mom did sell a few things off her front porch and on the radio trading post. What she realized from experience is that it took a lot of time and coordination to meet people and then get them to move it, so she started to give more things away. She called several friends that she knew were in need of things and had them come over and pick what they wanted. Doing this made her feel good about helping someone and most of them were her friends so she could share why she got it or what she used it for and felt good knowing it was getting use and not just going in the trash.

Trash, is a dirty word to my mom. She grew up in an era with nothing and you re-used and recycled everything. If I threw away a bread bag I would later see it rinsed out and propped on the counter so it could dry out. Later I would notice she used it to wrap up the leftover pizza or dinner rolls.

Some of the things that can drive me crazy about my mom are really things I should take some valuable lessons from and appreciate where she came from and how difficult times were back then.

Stacey Willis Homes | Westfield Indiana Realtor

4. Get rid of duplicates - you’ll find this is especially true in your kitchen. You have two or three spatulas and ladles; a couple of over-sized stock pots; four different sized cookie sheets; a blender; a food processor; a coffee grinder; and a nut chopper! Now’s the time to reduce the clutter. If you’re feeling wary of handing off that second roasting pan because you use it every Christmas (but at no other time during the year), consider giving it to a child or grandchild who can bring it over for the holiday and take it home when they leave.

5. NO 'Maybes' pile - when you’re going through years of belongings, some things are going to tug at your heartstrings, and you’ll be tempted to make a pile of things to keep if you have space. Don’t fall for it. You’ll end up with a Maybe pile that’s bigger than any other pile, and you haven’t really made any progress in sorting, just moved it across the room. Take a hard look at every item you pick up. If you use it regularly or expect to in your new home, keep it. If it’s been sitting in a closet or on a shelf for a year or more, it’s time to let it go!📦📃📦📃

6. Reduce collections creatively - it can be hard to let go of a lifetime collection of porcelain dolls or snow globes from all your vacations, but they will eat up a lot of space or else end up stored in a box where you’ll never see them. Instead, pick a couple to keep and take high-resolution photos of the rest, then have them made into a photo book that can sit on your coffee table or mantle. These sites are also great for storing your most treasured digital images, even my professional photographer friends secretly store their personal photos in there. 😉{See a recent listing of the top photo book sites on the photo lemur blog ~ 10 Best Photo Book Maker Online Sites 2019}. You and your guests will be able to enjoy them without the clutter. There are also tech tools or websites such as Fotobridge that will convert those boxes of photo negatives to digital. This is a great way to thin out big collections and focus on the one that really brings joy. Take pictures with your smartphone! You’ll enjoy it more when it comes up in your digital photos than it being stashed in a drawer or box. The memories will continue to live on through photos and conversations with loved ones.

My mom came over one day with a small box of what she thought to be cherished loving sentiment wrapped in cardboard. It included my first hair cut curl & teeth. So, I do need to clarify, I am not a saver. I do not keep things and am not really sentimental about STUFF. This has been a bit of contention between my mom and me our whole lives. FIRST 👶 HAIR CURL & TEETH! Needless to say my response of somewhat shock and disgust with an immediate trip to the trash wasn’t what she was looking for. 🤦‍♀️

7. Don’t be afraid to sell things yourself - with Craigslist, Ebay, numerous smartphone apps, yard sales, and an abundance of consignment shops, selling your belongings has never been easier. You probably won’t make a ton of money on most items, so consider how much time you want to invest. Yard sales are usually faster, but items won’t sell for as much. Craigslist has its drawbacks, but you’ll have a much wider audience and can probably get more for your stuff. Consignment is a good option for high-end furniture, handbags and other accessories; prices are reasonable, and they’ll sometimes pick up heavy furniture for you. If you aren’t handy with a computer, your grandchildren can probably help. But if that all sounds like more than you care to deal with, hiring a firm to run an estate sale might be your best bet.

8. Consider legacy gifts early - is there an antique clock in your foyer that you plan to one day leave to your son? Maybe a china collection your granddaughter adores? If there are certain heirlooms or pieces you plan to leave to your family in your will, consider instead giving those gifts now. This has two benefits: you’ll get the items out of our way, and you’ll be able to enjoy the feeling of giving those items to your loved ones now. While you’re at it, find out if there are any items your children want that you don’t know about – you might find an easy way to make them happy and lighten your load.

Funny side note here. My grandfather told all of his grand kids to let him know if there was anything special he had that they might like to have to remember him by. He said he would put their name on it and make sure they got it. One day after church he came home and my cousin had put masking tape on the bottom of nearly 50 things in the house. Again, I am not the sentimental one so it didn’t bother me at all and we got a good laugh about it.

Legacy gifting early can also diminish the issue of

potential family battles down the road.


9. Allow some time to reminisce - while you’re cleaning and sorting, there will be some days when you want to stop emptying the kids’ bedrooms and just look through the kindergarten drawings, soccer trophies, and once-prized stuffed animals. It’s OK to pause and let the nostalgia take over for a bit. Cry if you need to, or move on to another room and come back. This is why you started early – just don’t let it prevent you from eventually getting the job done.

10. Use this as a chance to bond - invite the kids and grand kids over for the weekend. Talk to the young ones about where you bought your favorite trinkets. Tell them about your family’s heirlooms. Let them help pack, ask questions, and spend time with you. Get help posting items for sale online. It can be one more moment your family shares together in the house you’ve loved – before you start making those memories together in your next home. Remember that it’s your family that is truly important for the memories you cherish, not the stuff around you.

Xoxo Stacey

Stacey Willis | Westfield Indiana Realtor

Hi, I'm Stacey! Welcome the Sweet Home Sweet Life Blog. This is a place for me to share real estate and interior design advice, plus a little behind the scenes. Come say hi >

let's connect

  • Black Facebook Icon
  • Black Instagram Icon
  • Black Pinterest Icon
  • Black Twitter Icon
  • Black LinkedIn Icon
  • Black YouTube Icon


free report

Blank Image no photo

Request a free home value report!

Thanks! I'll be in touch soon!