In a previous article, I discussed some stumbling blocks related to downsizing your space. But many folks are not interested, or looking ahead to moving out of their home any time soon. Yet, they are still struggling with an excess of stuff in their homes and their lives. This month, I explore further the concept of “rightsizing” your space, whether related to a move, or just a desire to lighten your load.
Is your stuff earning its keep?
Consider how much you pay to live in your home. Whether you rent or own, you pay a certain amount each month per square foot of space. You are literally paying to keep things in your home because everything you own takes up space that you pay for. Take the total of your monthly mortgage payment and property taxes, or your rent, and divide it by how many square feet your space is. That’s how much you pay to live in your space per square foot. How much of that square footage is occupied by stuff you don’t need, use, or love? And if you’re renting a storage unit, consider this: how much is the stuff in that storage unit really worth? I have a client who has paid about $120 per month for a 10′ square storage unit for about 10 years. That’s a total of $14,400.
When I asked her if what was stored in that unit was worth $14,400, she had a difficult time answering. So then I asked her if she could replace, brand new, the stuff in the unit for less than $14,400. The answer was, probably yes. So, the bottom line was, she was losing money every single month paying to store stuff she didn’t need, use, or love, or couldn’t even remember what it was! Ask yourself, particularly if you are downsizing and space will be at a premium in your new home, is this item worth paying for a place for it to live? Is it “earning its keep?”
Your stuff isn’t worth what you think
Time and time again, I hear how disappointed people are when they try to sell their stuff and what they are offered is not even close to what they’d like, or what they think their stuff is worth. The brutal reality is, your stuff is only worth what someone else will pay for it. (Forbes article: “Sorry, nobody wants your parent’s stuff!”.) Check out what your item is selling for (not what is being asked for it) on Ebay and Craigslist. Chances are, you will be surprised and somewhat disappointed. The bottom line is, most things need to be considered as a “sunk cost.” In economics and business decision-making, a sunk cost is a cost that has already been incurred and cannot be recovered. In other words, what you paid for it, or what it may have been worth at one time, usually cannot be recovered. It’s important to accept that fact and move on. Holding onto stuff just because, “I paid a lot for it,” or “my parents paid a lot for it” just won’t pay off in the long run. Let it go – either sell it for what you can get, or donate it, or give it to someone who will appreciate it (probably not your kids!) It’s not accumulating value sitting in your home, and just fills up your space and makes changing your life and moving on more difficult.
What’s your time worth?
When people downsize, or move, they often think that having a giant yard sale, or posting lots of stuff on Craigslist or Ebay will make them lots of money. For big items, sometimes it’s worth it. For lots of small stuff, consider how valuable your time and energy are. Often the time and effort that goes into a yard sale won’t net you enough money to make it worthwhile. The same goes for listing stuff online. Consider this: calculate what your time is worth (you can usually figure out approximately what your hourly income is for your work, whether you are a per diem worker, a salaried employee, or a business owner.) Then calculate how much time you will put into having a yard sale or selling things online (taking a picture, writing a description, posting online, monitoring responses, getting the item to the buyer whether in person or via mail.) Will you come out ahead? Be realistic, and acknowledge that your time and energy may be best spent elsewhere.
Downsizing, or Rightsizing?
Whether you are anticipating a move or just trying to live a simpler, less cluttered existence, taking time to let things go over the course of time helps put what’s important into perspective. So many times, I’ve held something in my hand in a store – a knick-knack, a piece of clothing - thinking that I just had to have it. Then I remember my newly-cleansed space – the joy that maintaining less stuff brings, the increased time to pursue the activities I love with the people I love, and the extra cash that goes into my pocket instead of onto the balance sheet of some merchandiser – and I put it down. I walk away lighter, more free, with time, space and money to be used for things that help me to live the life I want to be living.
Downsizing or rightsizing – it doesn’t matter. Paraphrasing Toni Morrison –
“You wanna fly, you gotta give up the stuff that weighs you down.”