Have you accumulated a lot of excess “stuff” during your lifetime?
If you had to get rid of it in 24 hours, could you?
We had to, and we did.
Today, I’ll tell you how.
What would you do?
Imagine your house just sold, and it sold MUCH sooner than you had planned. You have 30 days to get out of the house. Your house is a 5 bedroom suburban home, fully furnished with “stuff” you’ve been buying for 30 years. The place you’re moving to is already furnished, so the only “stuff” you need are a few items to furnish a 1 bedroom “city” apartment. You don’t, realistically, have any room to store “excess stuff” in the cabin you’re moving to, given that it’s furnished and an intentional “downsize” move.
You refuse (adamantly) to put anything in storage. That’s simply an expensive excuse to procrastinate.
Deal with it.
Deal with all of it.
And deal with it now.
Here’s Our Actual Situation
As I type this, my wife and I are exactly in the middle of the situation described above. As I mentioned in “How To Sell A House In 7 Days”, we just accepted an “above asking price”offer on our home. The problem: we have less than 30 days to get out of our house from “offer” to “close”.
As you’ll see below, we have been obsessively shedding 30 years of accumulated stuff, which filled our 5 bedroom house. We couldn’t afford to wait. 13 days from today, everything must be gone. The cabin that we’re moving into is already furnished, so there’s little need for furniture there. It’s all got to go.
Got. To. Go.
Since this is a blog about helping folks “Achieve A Great Retirement”, an article highlighting our approach to “high speed downsizing” will hopefully be of great value for any of you choosing to downsizing for retirement! We’re living it as I type these words, and you can benefit from our experience when it’s your turn to go through the process.
Why We Only Had 24 Hours To Downsize
We accepted the offer on our house when I was on a business trip. As soon as I got home, my wife and I sat down together to try to figure out how we were going to handle the move and associated downsizing. We ended up going day by day (literally) through our calendars, figuring out how we’re going to get everything done by March 24 closing. We filled almost every day on the calendar with reminders of each task required on that day to complete all that we had to accomplish before closing.
In the process, we realized we had ONLY ONE SATURDAY between now and the closing when we’d be home all day. Worse, it was now Friday night, and that one Saturday was tomorrow!
At this point, it was about 4:00 pm on a Friday afternoon. What followed was a fascinating 24 HOUR CRAIGSLIST BLITZ, an experience that’s worthy of it’s own section:
Craigslist Blitz: How To Downsize In 24 Hours
Realzing on Friday that we had only one day (and it was TOMORROW!) when we’d be at the house all day, we went into action. Here’s how the 24 hours broke down:
4:00 pm Friday: My wife and I go room by room, iphone and tape measure in hand. We decide what we’re getting rid of, take pictures. I upload pictures to Craigslist app from my phone while my wife measures the item. She reads off the measurements, I type them into the listing. We repeat the process many times; item by item, room by room. We price everything cheaply, the goal is to downsize in 24 hours. Money is only a secondary consideration.
6:00 pm Friday: All uploads completed, we have several pages of Craigslist ads posted:
9:00 am Saturday: The onlsaught begins in full force. Continual texts, phone calls, emails. I begin a notebook to keep track of who replied first on each item, and who is second (in case #1 fails to show). If #1 fails to show at the appointed time, I text #2 and tell them it’s available. I also text #1 to say they lost the item since they didn’t show. There’s not much room for mercy in a 24 hour downsize. Be fair, explain the rules up front (if you don’t show at the appointed time, it’s going to #2), be organized.
10:00 am Saturday: First appointment arrives. An old antique desk I had since childhood disappears out the front door. I remember the fish tank we used to keep on that desk in our living room when I was a boy. In spite of the memory, I’m strangely non-emotional, as is my wife.
11:00 am Saturday: Realizing a few items haven’t had “hits” yet, we turn to Facebook, and flood the local “Yard Sale” group site for our town with unmoving items. Success! Within 30 minutes, the big china cabinet we’ve been worried about is picked up by a nice newlywed couple who have been looking for a China cabinet for several weeks. They’re nice, and we hit it off. I remember when we bought that china hutch. We were newlyweds at the time, and we’ve owned it through 28 years of marriage. I help them load the china cabinet into their truck.
We didn’t sell everything. Some things we gave away. When we first listed the house, we lined the street with “Free Stuff” and put the word out via our Facebook community yard sale group. Within a few hours, everything was gone, and we had less stuff we had to deal with during our “Craigslist Blitz” weekend.
Regardless of the earlier “Curbside Free Stuff” move, we still had some furniture that we decided to give away during our 24 hour blitz. One memory I’ll always cherish is the family that came to pick up our weathered old couch:
While it looks decent in the picture, the reality is that it was in bad shape. One of the seat backs falls off if you lift on it, and there’s a good tear just out of site in the picture. Regardless, to the poor family who came to pick it up, it was a treasure. It felt really, really good to know we were helping a family in need. The Mom sent me a text at the end of the day saying “thanks” again and telling us how much our generosity meant. There’s much more to life than money. Remember, No One Has Become Poor By Giving, and use your downsizing as a means of helping those in need.
Saturday Afternoon: The afternoon quickly became a blur. All I remember is being in a semi-conscious state as pickup truck after pickup truck rolled up our driveway, strangers walking out of our door with items we’d owned for 30 years. In spite of the low prices we put on everything (hey, we only have 1 day, literally, to sell everything), we’re moving enough stuff that the stack of bills is growing in my pocket. Our stuff is leaving, and we’re not doing any (much) of the heavy lifting.
Chaos, yes. But Also…..
DOWNSIZING – We’re Doing It. Now. This is what it feels like. That STUFF leaving our house is out of our lives forever. From this point forward, it’s:
A simpler life.
A smaller house.
Financial Independence around the corner.
Elimination of my 2 hour commute.
Living in the mountains.
By Saturday evening, we were done. Massive amounts of furniture GONE. A few straggler items, sure, but nothing we can’t manage. We’ll give away a few leftover beds to some families in need. We’ll make a run to my daughter’s college apartment to give her a few things she wants to keep. We’ll stack stuff in my small “city apartment” for a few weeks until I can sell the few leftover items from there. But, in reality, we’ve done it.
We Just Downsized In 24 Hours!
30 years worth of accumulated stuff now resides in the homes of countless strangers. In 24 hours, we eliminated many, many items which days earlier had been causing stress. A focused and hard core push on “eliminating stuff” was successful, and the pile of items we had to move was reduced to a manageable level.
Mission Accomplished. We did it!
Get Started Early: Several years ago, when we started thinking about our downsizing strategy, we began to gradually sell stuff on Craigslist. I wrote this post about the process, titled “10 Tips For Success On Craigslist”, and strongly encourage anyone thinking about downsizing to begin selling a few items on Craiglist. You’ve likely got some stuff sitting around the house that you clearly don’t, and won’t, need. Use it as an opportunity to try out Craigslist. Once we faced the 24 Hour Blitz, the experience we’d gained from earlier sales was invaluable.
Price Things To Move: If your focus is on moving stuff, don’t get greedy. If you’ve got time, and want to maximize value, take a different approach. If your focus is on moving a lot of stuff quickly, price it to move. I viewed our avoidance of any storage unit fees as “profit” enough.
Start A Notebook: As soon as you get your first call on an item, write it down. We had a header for every item, and simply listed the names in sequence as we were contacted by buyers. It can get hectic VERY quickly, and you don’t want to lose track about who is coming for what.
Sell To #2 If #1 Fails To Show: Trust me, you don’t want to be waiting around all day for a buyer who hasn’t shown. Keep your list of potential buyers, and move through the list if a buyer fails to show. Tell them up front that you’ll be doing this, then text them when you’ve scratched them off the list to avoid having them show up after the item is gone.
Take Good Photographs: Photos sell. Take plenty of pictures, from all angles.
Be Honest: We had an old antique buffet that was probably worth a lot of money. However, it had a broken leg which I had repaired with glue. It worked fine for us, but obviously greatly reduced the value of the piece. I included a close-up photo of the break and my repair. Don’t mislead buyers.
Be Home All Day: Don’t try to move a lot of items on Craigslist if you won’t be home. It’s difficult to control the flow of buyers around your schedule. Make the buyers the focus of your attention, and make it easy for them to come at a time that’s convenient for them. Then, hold them to the appointed time.
Go Beyond Craigslist: Facebook has many “community groups” for the purpose of buying and selling. Type your town name into the Facebook search bar, you’ll likely find a “community garage sale” type group. Join it, and post your pictures there as well.
Be Generous: Realize that if you’re reading this, you’re likely in the top 5% of wealth worldwide. Don’t view downsizing as a means of making a bunch of money. Rather, view it as a way to help those less fortunate than yourself. Price stuff cheaply, and don’t hesitate to give stuff away. That old couch with the tear in it isn’t worth anything. Reach out to a needy family and let them have it for free. The result is far more rewarding than the $20 you might have gotten for it if you tried to sell it.