, Newburyport, MA

May 3, 2013

The upside of downsizing

Boomer Talk
Angelena Craig

---- — Have you ever looked around your home and thought, “I can’t believe I have so much stuff!” Everywhere you look — the counters, tables, bookcases and closets are full of “stuff.” But, the truth is, you like your material possessions and really don’t want to part with them.

The time could come, however, when you must downsize and that means getting rid of a good portion of your belongings.

Perhaps you have already been through this process with your parents when they became older. At some point, almost all of us will either choose to — or be forced to — move to smaller quarters. It could be that we decide to move far away for the climate or to be closer to our grown children and we simply cannot take everything with us.

Moving takes physical effort of course, but also, for some, the process creates emotional distress. We wonder what to take and what to leave behind, and how to dispose of all the many things you have accumulated throughout your life ... things that are precious to you.

Can you let go of the delicate teacups and saucers you will never ever use, clothes you love but never wear, a kitchen full of too many dishes and mismatched pots and pans?

Holding on to all our possessions can be burdensome, a responsibility weighing us down, keeping us in the past while preventing us from moving on. But letting go, if done with few regrets, can lighten the load and be oh-so-freeing.

That time has come for me. I think about my file cabinets filled with papers from all my schools and jobs. I am attached to the many journals I kept for 40 years, pouring out my dreams, my challenges and the disappointments. And what of the inherited “chatskees,” the dust collectors that still hold the familial connection I don’t want to lose. There are boxes and photo albums full of pictures going back to my childhood and my children’s early days.

Some things you must keep.

But if you can agree that downsizing has its upside, you might find these suggestions helpful:

Start with the easiest things to get rid of, for instance, the many useless plastic containers in your kitchen, and then move on to the books and magazines you will never read again.

Clothes are next. Go through each item and ask yourself, “When was the last time I wore this?” If it’s been awhile (maybe your size changed, the color or style is wrong, you bought it in 1985 or you have no occasion to wear it) , get rid of it. Your bathroom probably has bottles of expired medicine and half-used toiletries lying in a drawer. Dump them.

Do one room at a time. if you have a basement or garage where you store things, start there. When items are left in these places, they are more easily expendable. Attack with aggression all the boxes filled with old financial records, instructions and warranties for items long gone, the “spare” small appliances and the extra linens you have held onto. You may find the puzzles and games, sports and exercise gear, craft or art supplies you will never use again. If you don’t love it, need it, use it ... get rid of it.

So, where to place the things you are now ready to part with? The trash can can be a place for a lot of the stuff, but you can also give valuable items and keepsakes to friends and family. Charities often will pick up, and really appreciate, your useable donations. While consignment shops may pay you some money for clothing, a yard sale is also a possibility.

Freecycle is an online network ( where one’s trash becomes another’s treasure, and no money is exchanged.

Consider if this may be the time for you to “right size” and free yourself of too much baggage. Keep in mind the words of Buddha, “The origin of suffering is attachment.”


Angelena Craig of Newburyport is the director of The New Aging Movement and a professional-level yoga instructor. Visit her website at or e-mail