Tag Archives: downsizing

Perspectives on Letting Go

freedom release letting go

Ahh, attachments to our stuff. It’s really all a mental game. If we were truly able to assess our belongings according to our practical needs, we would probably be living with 10% of what we own.

Why is letting go so hard? How do we manage the psychology of releasing things?

Over the years, we’ve seen people find success with one (or a combination) of these three approaches:

Focus on how you can help yourself

Honor the life you want to live. Have a vision of how you want to be in the world and edit your stuff so you can match that and live your best life now. This is about releasing the past and creating your ideal future. You’re honoring yourself by letting that be your focus.

Focus on how you can help other people

Recognize that your excess is a form of abundance. Release your objects so they can serve their purpose in other people’s lives. Release resentment or other negative emotions that the objects bring up in you and put them out into the world to do positive things for other people.

Feng Shui expert Karen Kingston tells a story of a divorced woman had a pair of large, expensive decorative urns from her divorce settlement. They were beautiful but made her think, with bitterness, of her ex-husband.  She was encouraged to sell them and get a lot of money for them instead of having them foster bitterness and resentment and a constant reminder of a painful relationship.

Focus on how you can help the environment

Bringing in less can aid the environment, but disposing of things in a thoughtful way will help offset the environmental impact of consumption. Some people hesitate to clean out a closet or garage because they don’t want it all to go to landfill. Take advantage of living in the San Francisco Bay Area which is filled with easy options for recycling/reuse and responsible disposal.

Stopwaste.org is a quick way to find what is available near you. There are many places that accept e-waste, expired medicines, CFLs, hazardous waste, styrofoam, packing peanuts and air-packs. Partially used art and office supplies can go to the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse or S.C.R.A.P., building materials and hardware can go to Urban Ore or a Habitat for Humanity ReStore outlet. Plastic children’s toys, if not donate-able, can be recycled with hard plastic at most urban recycling centers. There are also resources for your unneeded medical equipment (wheelchairs, walkers, tubing, etc.)

Freecycle, Craigslist, Nextdoor, and other community neighborhood forums are great places to post usable items for free.  These places allow you to find people who want your cast-offs and will take care of the hauling!

If you don’t want to deal with the public, you can pay for a hauler to come. EcoHaul, 1-800-Got Junk, Lugg are companies that advertise responsible disposal of items the remove from your place.

There is no “right” approach. What is that key that will release you from the obligation to hold on to things you don’t need and really don’t even want? Not sure how to get rid of something? Just ask! As Professional Organizers, we’ve got ideas!

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Filed under Decluttering, organizing, Perspective, Reduce/Recyle/Reuse, Strategies

5 Tips for Helping Your Parents Downsize

mom-daughter

Are your parents ready to move? Maybe one is thinking about moving but the other isn’t ready? Are you worried about their safety and think they should be thinking about moving but they don’t seem interested at all?

Assess the situation and be realistic. Deciding to downsize is process with many layers and chapters. Where are your parents in that process?

  1. Not ready. Can’t see themselves leaving home
  2. Considering the possibility, but not convinced
  3. Ready but don’t know where or how
  4. Ready and have a plan

Assuming your folks ARE ready to move and are just getting started, here are some tips for helping you successfully help them:

  • Your pace may not be their pace. Be respectful and mindful of where your parents are at in the process of being ready to move. You’ll only be able to go as fast as they are capable and willing to. Understanding their resistances rather than fighting them will enable you to better tailor your message to their ears.
  • Help assess their immediate needs. Are they or you considering moving because of a need around safety, health, hygiene, housekeeping, meals, or social life? Help identify solutions to challenges in these areas while they are still at home if possible.
  • Don’t let your attachments hold them bac Can’t believe they are wanting to get rid of the special quilt Aunt Mary made? Then you take it!
  • Don’t take sides. When one person in the couple wants to move but the other doesn’ Generally, unless health and safety are at risk, there are many pros and cons to moving – all subject to a particular person’s perspective. Remember that the negotiation process between couples is complicated and not so much about right and wrongs as it is about finding a set of solutions that both can live with.
  • Offer to find resources. Downsizing and moving can require a lot of research and using different vendors – offer to research and coordinate potential resources that may be needed during the process. This can allow your parent to focus on the work of sorting and decision making.
    • Estate sale folk, auction houses, online auctions: who is in the area? How do they work and what percentage do they take? What happens to the things not sold?
    • Thrift stores – which ones will come pickup from the house? Which ones require staging things outside? Who will take what?
    • Hazardous waste – how to get rid of leftover cleaners and chemicals in your area? (stopwaste.org) Are free pickups offered for seniors in your area?
    • Free city bulky waste pickups – most cities offer at least 1 per year but all have different rules about how to schedule them, what can be picked up, and how items have to be organized at the curb.
    • Movers & packers – find out rates, ranges, and availability. Check reviews and call references
    • Professional moving/organizing help – Sometimes an extra hand is needed to make the move happen. NASMM.org and NAPO.net both offer search pages to find professionally trained help in your area.

Additional resources you may find useful:

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Filed under Bay Area Services, children, Decluttering, downsizing, Empty Nest, Perspective

Ten Myths About Aging and Health

Is aging feeling like a monkey on your back?

Dana has just returned from the annual NASMM conference. One of the most inspiring speakers was Ashton Applewhite whose work focuses on battling ageism. This is a repost of one of her blogs.

Originally posted by Ashton Applewhite, This Chair Rocks

All around the world, people are living longer—a basic hallmark of human progress, and a triumph of public health. The World Health Organization (WHO) is in the public health business, and no organization has done more to raise awareness of ageism—the biggest obstacle to meeting the challenges of population aging and capitalizing on the “longevity dividend.” Part of the WHO’s global anti-ageism campaign  is a new list of ten common “misconceptions on ageing and health.” The global perspective is instructive, and it’s making me rethink some things—including the burning question of whether to start spelling “ageing” the logical, British-and-Indian way.

1 – There is no typical older person.

That would top my list too. Stereotyping—the assumption that all members of a group are the sameunderlies all prejudice. Of course stereotypes always a mistake, but especially when it comes to age, because we all age in different ways and at different rates. As geriatricians put it, “Heterogeneity is the hallmark of ageing.” Or, less formally, “If you’ve seen one 80-year-old, you’ve seen one 80-year-old.”

2 – Diversity in older age is not random.

Spoken like a tactful epidemiologist! WHO is pointing out that the playing field is far from level: “The physical and social environments in which we live are powerful influences on Healthy Ageing” and are further shaped by “our sex, our ethnicity, and financial resources.” As I write in the manifesto, “The way we grow old is governed by a whole range of variables, including environment, personality, and genes, compounded by class, gender, race, luck, and the churnings of the global economy—over which we have varying degrees of control.” The effects compound each other and add up over time, which is why the poorest of the poor, all around the world, are old women of color.

3 – Only a small proportion of older people are care dependent.

“Care-dependent” is a great way to put it. I tend to frame this in terms of the high percentage of Americans over 85 who live in nursing homes (10 percent) and who can go about their everyday activities without any personal assistance (over half).  The WHO frames this in economic terms as well, drawing on recent research showing that the contributions of olders in the UK “were worth nearly GBP 40 billion more than expenditure on them through pensions, welfare and health care combined”—a figure set to nearly double by 2030.

4 – Population aging will increase health-care costs but not by as much as expected.

The notion that older North Americans are an inevitable sink for healthcare dollars is incorrect, and the WHO makes the international case. “In high-income countries, there is growing evidence that at around age 70, health-care expenditure per person falls significantly, with long-term care filling the gap,”the WHO observes, so it makes sense to invest in long-term care. Aging influences health care expenditures far less than other factors, especially expensive medical technologies. Related predictions that “too many old people” will tank the economy—debunked here—are biased, outdated, and just plain wrong.

5 – 70 is not yet the new 60.

I take issue with claims like “60 is the new 40!” because they’re based in denial—60, no matter how active, is still 60—but I’ve been assuming that we’re generally healthier and more vigorous than the generations that preceded us. Not so, says the WHO. Although severe disabilities may be less common, “no significant change in less severe disability has been observed during the past 30 years.”

6 – Good health in older age is not just the absence of disease.

“The combination of a person’s physical and mental capacities (known as intrinsic capacity) is a better predictor of their health and wellbeing than the presence or absence of disease,” notes the WHO, suggesting that we focus on improving intrinsic capacity rather than on specific ailments.  As I write in the book, “While physical decline is inevitable, poor health is not.” People get chronic conditions but we learn to live with them. We find ways to keep doing the things we love—versions of them, at least. No single age-related condition affects most older people. Some of the oldest of the old live well not by avoiding illness, but despite it.

7 – Families are important but alone cannot provide the care many older people need.

“While families will always play a central role in long-term care, changing demography and social norms mean it is impossible for families alone to meet the needs of care dependent older people,” the WHO points out, calling for training and supporting caregivers and for the government and other sectors to share responsibility. It’s the absence of publicly funded support that turns caregiving into a burden—one that falls largely on women. How about paid family leave and subsidizing care for people of all ages? How about a guaranteed, collective, universal right to long-term care that gives women the same options that men—white men with good jobs, at least— have always enjoyed? How about providing decent wages, health and unemployment insurance, and a path to citizenship to those we pay to do this intimate and important work? Which would allow families to do what they do best: be family instead of nurses and administrators.

8 – Expenditure on older populations is an investment, not a cost.

Programs that help olders stay mobile and functional require funding, but what’s often omitted from the accounting is the cost of not making these investments. “These investments can yield significant dividends, both in the health and well-being of older people and for society as a whole through increased participation, consumption and social cohesion,” says the WHO. Some of the return on investment is direct. For example, better healthcare leads to better health, which saves money, improves lives, and allows people to contribute to what AARP calls the “longevity economy.”  Some is indirect, helping societies protect the human rights of their older members and enabling them to live with dignity.

9 – It’s not all about genes.

“While Healthy Ageing starts at birth with our genetic inheritance, only approximately 25% of the diversity in longevity is explained by genetic factors.” I remember how surprised I was to learn that, from none other than geriatrician Robert Butler, who coined the term “ageism” and founded the National Institute on Aging. “It’s really never too late to reinvent yourself and to invent different health habits. Only about 25 percent of our health appears to be due to genes. Seventy-five percent is environmental or behavior,” Butler told me. That why WHO recommends that policies “address these person-environment interactions across the life course.”

10 – Mandatory retirement ages do not help create jobs for youth.

“Policies enforcing mandatory retirement ages do not help create jobs for youth, but they reduce older workers’ ability to contribute. They also reduce an organization’s opportunities to benefit from the capabilities of older workers,” write the WHO. Indeed: the exchange of skills across generations is the natural order of things, but in much of the developed world age discrimination in the workplace has subverted it. Another false dichotomy is that older workers take jobs away from younger ones. Economists call this the fallacy of the “lump of labor.”When jobs are scarce, this is true in the narrowest sense, but that’s a labor market problem, not a too-many-old-people problem. A 2012 Pew Charitable Trusts study of employment rates over the last 40 years found rates for younger and older workers to be positively correlated. In other words, as more older workers stayed on the job, the employment rate and number of hours worked also improved for younger people.

Want older people to be healthy?  End ageism

A growing body of evidence shows that attitudes towards aging have an actual, measurable, physical effect on how we age. People with more positive feelings about aging behave differently from those convinced that growing old means becoming irrelevant or pathetic. They do better on memory tests and are less likely to develop the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. They can walk faster and are more likely to recover fully from severe disability. And they actually live longer—an average of seven and a half years. Everyone agrees that health has the biggest effect on how we age—and how much it costs. Think what a global anti-ageism campaign would do to extend not just lifespan but “healthspan.”

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Ways to Get Things Out of (and Into) Your House

Are you downsizing or relocating? Or just have some stuff you want removed from your house? Every now and then need a couple of strong guys to deliver furniture or take away a big load of donations?

These 3 options provide ways to jettison the stuff you don’t want.

remoov

Remoov

Remoov is a company that takes everything away and sells or donates, recycles and trashes items you don’t need. They literally “remove” everything, sell what they can and give you the difference between the cost of the moving and processing and 50% of the proceeds from the sales of items. They curate to get the best price for the items. They sell items through their online auction site: TheLocalFlea.com.

  • 50% of the value of the sold items
  • Donation receipt for your taxes
  • Your junk responsibly discarded
  • A new home for your unwanted items

They are committed to reducing waste by increasing recycling and reuse of products. The timeframe for the removal of items can be quite short.  Getting money back from items sold can take many weeks.  Pricing is easy to figure with their online graphic.

MaxSold (1)

MaxSold

Having an estate sale is a one traditional way of clearing a home. MaxSold is an ONLINE only version of an estate sale.

What do you have to do to prepare? Separate items you want to keep from those you want to sell. Items for sell will be grouped into “lots”, photographed, put into an online catalog and marketed locally. Viewers of the auction have 1 week to bid on items. Pickups are scheduled for 1 day in particular time slots and managed by MaxSold staff. Purchasers must show ID and proof of purchase before being escorted to pickup their “lots.”

The whole process takes 2 weeks end to end. Max Sold charges 30% or $10 per lot OR $1000 overall whichever is higher. MaxSold does not handle donation or disposal of items that don’t sell.

lugg

Lugg

Think of this as Uber for movers. On-demand or by schedule you can get 2 guys to load, haul, deliver or move things within a home. A simple to use phone app lets you set your pickup location, add a photo of items to be handled, get an instant quote, and movers can be on their way within 30 minutes. You can also schedule a date & time in the future if needed. Currently only available in SF Bay Area (all counties) and Los Angeles. Drop-off point can be up to 150 miles from pickup.

Examples of when to use:

  • Bringing home furniture from IKEA or another store
  • Taking away boxes of books for donation
  • Taking away a load of junk to the dump
  • Moving furniture between rooms of the house
  • Pickup a craigslist purchase and deliver to your house

These are only 3 of many different ways to declutter and downsize. When you’re ready, help is available!

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Organize Home Receipts Now For Big Bucks Later

plans

Don’t just save the plans after a remodel – save receipts too!

Sheila is 85 years old and has decided to downsize into a retirement community. Her house is worth a whole lot more than what she paid for it 60 years ago. Let’s say she paid $25K and is able to sell the house for $625K. That means she may have to pay taxes on as much as $600K profit – or gain (minus a $250K exclusion the IRS grants).

Sheila’s accountant tells her she could pay significantly less taxes because she can add the costs of various improvements she made over the years of ownership to the base amount she paid for the house. This is called increasing the cost basis of the home. But where is the documentation?

This is where being organized comes in handy. With a simple system, homeowners can preserve the records of improvements they have made to their property. When the house sells and the accountant is asking for ways to reduce your tax burden, the seller can produce the receipts and records which could save them thousands. Selling the family home and moving is stressful enough without adding last minute scramble to dig up old documentation.

The simplest system is a single file drawer or filing tub to hold all the purchase and improvement related documents. From there you can get more organized if you desire by separating different types of documents into different folders. If you’re planning a full remodel or major improvement it is helpful to keep all the permits, contracts, inspections, receipts and invoices together labeled by the name of the project.

Here is specific info from the IRS’s publication, Pub 523 – Selling Your Home, which outlines what qualifies as a cost basis improvement

Improvements

These add to the value of your home, prolong its useful life, or adapt it to new uses. You add the cost of additions and improvements to the basis of your property.

The following chart lists some examples of improvements.

home improvements chart

Repairs done as part of larger project.   You can include repair-type work if it is done as part of an extensive remodeling or restoration job. For example, replacing broken windowpanes is a repair, but replacing the same window as part of a project of replacing all the windows in your home counts as an improvement.

Examples of improvements you CANNOT include in your basis.

  • Any costs of repairs or maintenance that are necessary to keeping your home in good condition but do not add to its value or prolong its life. Examples include painting (interior or exterior), fixing leaks, filling holes or cracks, or replacing broken hardware.
  • Any costs of any improvements that are no longer part of your home (for example, wall-to-wall carpeting that you installed but later replaced).
  • Any costs of any improvements whose life expectancy, when installed, was less than 1 year.

Exception.   The entire job is considered an improvement if items that would otherwise be considered repairs are done as part of an extensive remodeling or restoration of your home. For example, if you have a casualty and your home is damaged, increase your basis by the amount you spend on repairs that restore the property to its pre-casualty condition.

Obviously everyone’s tax situation is unique and there are other variables that can affect the picture, even year-to-year. We are simplifying for the point of illustration.

So no matter when you bought your home, now is the time to gather up all the house related receipts and start keeping any original improvement receipts. If you neglected to keep them, at least make a list of known improvements and try to estimate what you spent.

Did you find this article helpful? Let us know!

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Want a Simpler Life? Don’t Miss This Film!

Minimalism furniture (2)

We’re working to bring a screening of the film Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things to our local movie theater. Screenings of this documentary are happening across the US, and they’re inspiring communities like ours to ask themselves, “How might my life be better with less?”

View the film’s trailer here: http://minimalismfilm.com.

We’re excited to share this film because it challenges viewers to reevaluate the things that matter most to them, and it provides insight into the lives of people who thrive with less.

We believe this film has a positive message that will improve people’s lives, which is why we’re asking for your help. For the screening to take place, we need 50 people to reserve tickets (they’ll only be charged for them once we hit the minimum number of reservations).

We’ll be hosting a question and answer session after the movie to explore how we can incorporate this idea of minimalism into our daily lives.

Please help us spread the good word about this event—we are thrilled to have the opportunity to share this wonderful documentary with the community we care so much about!

The screening is planned for June 2nd, 2016 at 7:30PM at the Albany Twin, 1115 Solano Avenue, Albany CA. Please reserve your ticket at: http://gathr.us/screening/14476.

As an added bonus, this screening will help benefit our local chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers. www.NAPO-SFBA.org.

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Managing the World of Self-Storage

How good of a deal is that storage unit?

How good of a deal is that storage unit?

Lately we’ve had several clients struggling with the issue of storage units. It makes us realize how important it is to think through the decision about renting one before you make the leap.

When we feel compromised for space the appeal of an extra garage is enticing. There are valid reasons for needing and using storage but if you don’t have a planned exit strategy and timeline for emptying it, the long-term cost will far outweigh the benefits.

The Financials

Don’t let the perception of a low monthly cost cloud the reality of how much you’ll really be paying over time. According to the Self Storage Association, in 2013 the asking rent for a 10’ x 10’ unit was $115/mo. That comes to $1,380/year. If you can afford that much would you be better off spending higher rent or mortgage to get a larger living space? Would the money be better spent processing and organizing the stuff so you don’t have to store it? 

Still think it’s a great idea?

  • Some stored objects depreciate or become obsolete (computer equipment, appliances)
  • If you’re holding onto things because “they might be valuable one day,” the storage cost will greatly offset your profit
  • If you can store it for years, you can probably live without it
  • If the storage bill is unpaid, the contents will be sold to pay the fees and you will still be liable for the balance of the bill
  • Having more storage promotes acquisition
  • Inadequate security can put your items at risk of loss
  • Climate issues – damage can occur to furniture/art/photos/papers due to moisture and heat; climate controlled units are more expensive

Getting Out

Understand that the main cause of clutter is unmade and postponed decisions. Getting a unit emptied will require many decisions about what to keep, what to let go of, and how to let go of items. Having an exit plan is essential for controlling your costs. Decide a date for when the unit will be empty and plan a timeline accordingly.

First step is usually to sort the contents. Options for getting items out once you’ve sorted:

  • For furniture, art, and collectibles – have an estate sale person come and make you an offer
  • Some storage facilities offer eBay selling services
  • Schedule a charitable donation pickup
  • You many need to hire a mover or hauler to get rid of large items or trash; storage units generally don’t let you use their dumpsters
  • If all else fails, leave the unit unlocked and the door ajar

Take a hard look…do you want to spend money on keeping things in limbo or do you want the clarity and peace of mind of having made sometimes tough choices to free up your resources for better uses?

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Filed under Decluttering, Garage, General Organizing, Perspective, Storage, Strategies