I’ve moved three times in the past three years.

Each time, I did something that my kids will (hopefully) appreciate one day.

I said goodbye to a ton of stuff.

My first move was the most challenging and gut-wrenching. I went from a big suburban home to a tiny (400 square feet, to be exact) New York City apartment. I admit, I had a lot of “I may want it someday” things in a storage unit. 

But each subsequent move was a chance to give away, throw away, and otherwise part with furniture, memorabilia, and random odds and ends that I hadn’t looked at or used in years. I worked with professional organizers who, like personal trainers, will work you hard and make you do things you might not do on your own. I’ve even heard the term “Transitional Trauma.”

But a really great organizer can help you through the separation anxiety and exercise your downsizing muscles. You may even thank her or him at the end of the day.

I was talking to a fellow middle-ager the other day and we were comparing notes on our 90-something-year-old mothers. They are both very tidy but are “clingers,” holding on to every school report card, 20-year old tax return, and obscure kitchen accessory, not to mention the 24 pack of toilet paper bought on sale”just in case.”

I’m not casting aspersions on spare paper goods or minimizing the sense of security that comes from keeping memories, but one day someone (probably me) will need to go through everything and throw much of it away.

Many people I meet out in Arizona (where I now live in a 600-square foot apartment) complain that their houses/condos are too big for them and they only use a few rooms. 

As I’ve learned first-hand, downsizing is incredibly liberating, because:

  • My apartment is super-easy to clean.
  • Getting dressed in the morning takes way less time because I have fewer choices.
  • I save on rent and can put that money towards travel and other interesting experiences.
  • If people come to visit, they can’t stay with me. That can be a benefit.
  • My daughters are enjoying the things I gave them when I moved. But make sure your kids really want your stuff before foisting it on them. 

Last, and perhaps most important, is that you won’t live forever and making decisions about what you’re keeping and what you’re tossing will ultimately make your family’s job easier and less stressful in the future.

If you love something, take a picture, digitize it, write a story about it, post it on Google Docs (or elsewhere in the cloud) and let it go.


  • Nancy A Shenker

    The Silver Hair Playbook: How to Be a Bad Ass >50™

    Nancy A. Shenker is a marketing innovator, brand builder, writer, speaker, and self-proclaimed rule breaker. Over the course of her 40-year business and marketing career, she has been a C-level executive, an entrepreneur, and a mentor to hundreds of small businesses at all stages. Founder of theONswitch marketing, Nancy was formerly a senior executive for major consumer and business brands, including Citibank, MasterCard, and Reed Exhibitions. She has written four books, and publishes a women’s entrepreneur community (www.sheBOOM.com), as well as AI/machine learning/robotics site www.EmbracetheMachine.com and travel and lifestyle site www.BleisureLiving.com. She also wrote a column for Inc.com called Bots & Bodies (about the human side of tech) and is a contributor to a wide range of consumer and business media. She recently won the "Killer Content Award" for a major project for a fast-growing technology company.