Sorting and reducing your belongings for a downsizing move is always a challenge, but there are silver linings too. For some, the ability to pass along quality items to younger family members or friends is a rewarding and comforting part of the process. While those who give away a lot of items enjoy the added benefit of expediting the clearing out process, they should also have a realistic plan for how they will deal with the leftovers of downsizing.
Senior Move Manager® Janine Willis of Good To Go Memphis says she has seen this dynamic play out many times and understands the challenges posed by those items left in a home or estate after all of the “good” stuff has been taken. She calls them “The Leftovers”.
A Typical Scenario
Janine describes this typical scenario: An older couple decides to move out of state to be closer to their kids and grandkids. Their move manager helps them plan out how much space will be available in their next place, and encourage them to select the furnishings that will fit and their favorite accessories to make them feel at home.
Next, the couple invites their adult children to choose from the nice pieces that aren’t going with them. Inevitably, family and friends will happily take many quality and useful household items (even in they don’t need them, but that’s a different post!) The cute mid-century things? Those got sold to the neighbor. The landscaping equipment and tools? No, son-in-law came and took all that. The KitchenAid mixer?… you get the point.
This is actually the best-case scenario; the couple is happy to see their treasured belongings going on to have a new life, and it can help reduce the time and expense needed to empty the home completely.
But now, what’s left? A few odds and ends that have very little value.
Many of these items seem usable and pretty good – why do they have so little value? It comes down to a simple calculation of supply and demand, and we have some factors affecting those now that we didn’t 10 or 15 years ago.
- The market for second-hand household goods is flooded because, for the first time, we have two cohorts downsizing – both the 80-and-up crowd, and the Baby Boomers getting out of their big houses to save money and lead more simple lifestyles. So, the supply of household goods is way up over past years.
- But our young people are marrying later, many can’t even afford a house now with all their student loans, and they’re into minimalism. So demand is down.
Especially now, Covid-19 puts an additional wrinkle in the secondary market and almost everyone’s ability to re-home treasured items. Even thrift stores sometimes have a hard time selling some of this “stuff”. Of course, certain things are in demand and very collectible. But usually, those are not the things that are leftover!
If you are downsizing and emptying the contents of your home, our advice is to start off with optimistic goals that don’t include making money on your unneeded belongings. The focus should be on re-homing your quality items with family and friends who want and need them, but also recognizing that there is likely little value in the leftovers.
Worry About This Instead
Letting go of the idea that everything you own must be valued and sold for a profit will free up a tremendous amount of mental and emotional energy. It can also free you up to focus on the thing that is likely in high demand and could be sold for top dollar: Your house!