Downsizing and getting rid of the majority of our belongings is no longer a trend for strictly retirees.

In this era of tiny houses and millennials less is now more. And Baby Boomers are opting to strip themselves of possessions and large four-walled obligations in favor of condos and travel and more.

Yet downsizing can still present formidable challenges.


Not so much the logistics of physical packing and moving but more of the emotional brand.

Because let’s be honest.

We shouldn’t have a relationship with ‘things’ but we do.

It’s hard to disseminate our lives. 

To take a home apart brick by emotional brick.

Of course, some items are easy to part with. The table we never really liked or the couch on its last leg. And the accompanying thrill of new items which will one day replace them. This is the easy part of emptying out a home.

But then there are the other pieces we love too much to part with or feel some type of emotional connection to.

And yes, it happens to the best of us.

Even those who swear possessions aren’t to be valued or important.

Because it’s not so much the particular item but a memory it evokes or a feeling it gives us.

A connection to home.

The teapot which belonged to our mother, the chair our babies were rocked in, the kitchen table where homework was completed or the lamp which belonged to our grandmother. Parting with these types of things can evoke guilt not only pain.

But alas, they are only ‘things.’

And it can lift great emotional weights to part with them. 

Saying goodbye to the first few items is akin to ripping off a band-aid but after that initial wince, the healing begins.

So how do we do it?

First, it’s a good idea to rid the house of all unimportant items. The aforementioned easy ‘stuff’ to purge. Make the goodwill trips, give away other things to friends and family members and have broken pieces and trash hauled away.

Secondly, scout out the pieces which really aren’t favorites but rather family obligations. The dishes which have been passed down and the antique dresser. These are emotional dead weight. Items which are in our homes not because we necessarily want them but because they are heirlooms. Pass them down to the next generation. If they pass then it’s time to part with them anyway.

Thirdly, determine exactly where the next home will be and how much space there is. It’s amazing how much becomes unimportant when you take 3,000 square feet down to 1,000 square feet. If it’s logistically impossible to travel to the next nest pretty much every item becomes expendable.

Do not underestimate the burden of emotional weights.

And do not minimize the degree to which we can have a relationship with ‘things.’

Letting go can be as freeing as ending any other relationship in our lives which is no longer working.

Just like any other relationship which ends keep a few mementos to make it easier.

Snap pictures of the heirlooms, put batteries in the lullaby baby and record the music, keep just one cup to have tea in, frame a scribbled childhood portrait and go from room to room logging pics of just how home once looked.

Or rather felt.

Then leave knowing you have enough to build the next home brick by emotional brick.


Follow me on Facebook @Colleen Orme National Columnist

(Photo Courtesy of Pexels)

Instagram @colleenorme

Twitter @colleenorme

More from Beliefnet and our partners