Traverse City Record-Eagle


February 24, 2013

Downsizing can mean losing 'stuff,' gaining freedom


Then there’s the question of what to do with all of her belongings, many of which are in storage. So far she has sold some and donated others to nonprofit resale shops. She’s also hoping to pass down some family furniture to nephews and nieces, one of whom took part of her antique glassware collection.

“It’s very, very hard,” Hoffstetter said. “Some of it I hadn’t used since I moved here in 2003 (from Royal Oak). I moved everything up from a smaller house, then bought more to furnish the bigger house. I’m a collector of stuff.

“The hardest is getting rid of things you don’t want to get rid of. I have pictures galore, pictures of trips I took to Africa, to Costa Rica. I haven’t looked at them since I took them, so what do I need them for? And yet ... ”

When making decisions, Stites suggests that downsizers designate things they know they want to keep, then ask themselves if they’ve used others in the last year or are likely to use them in the near future. If not, selling, donating or passing them along to someone else can give them new life. She emphasizes the “80/20 rule” that says most people only use 20 percent of what they have.

But the heart doesn’t always understand what the head does, said Ready, who has helped several aging Immaculate Conception parishioners make the decision to downsize.

“I think the hardest thing is parting with memorabilia and physical treasures,” Ready said. “It kind of awakens you to your past and it can be painful. They do bring back memories. At the same time, I think it can be uplifting because they can weigh you down, become clutter and become burdensome.”

For Jeannette Fehner, selling her parents’ massive mahogany table with 10 leaves was almost easier than deciding what to do with the objects collected over a lifetime as a musician. The retired college chemistry teacher put herself through school by playing trumpet with dance bands and symphony orchestras and continued to perform until carpal tunnel syndrome ended her career about five years ago.

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