Dear Savvy Senior: What tips can you offer for downsizing? My husband and I would like to relocate from our house into a retirement community condo near our daughter but need to get rid of a lot of personal possessions before we can move. — Overwhelmed Willa
Dear Willa: The process of weeding through a house full of old possessions — and parting with them — is difficult and overwhelming for most people. A good way to start is to see whether your kids, grandkids or other family members would like any of your unused possessions. Here are a few tips for handling whatever they don’t want so you can downsize.
Selling your stuff is one way to streamline your possessions and pad your pocketbook at the same time. Options for selling can include consignment shops, a garage sale, an estate sale and online sales.
Consignment shops are good for selling old clothing, household furnishings and decorative items. These shops typically take 30% to 40% of the sale price.
A good old-fashioned garage sale is another option, or for large-scale downsizing you could hire an estate sale company to come in and sell your items. See EstateSales.net and EstateSales.org to locate options in your area. Some estate companies will even pick up your stuff and sell it at their own location – they typically take about 35% of profits.
Selling online is also a great option and opens you up to a wider audience. The OfferUp app (OfferUp.com), Facebook Marketplace (Facebook.com/marketplace), Craigslist (Craigslist.org) and the CPlus for Craigslist app (Yanflex.com) are great ways for selling locally. This can eliminate the hassle of packing as well as shipping costs. A bonus: These websites and apps don’t take a cut of your sales, but you’re responsible for connecting with buyers and making the exchange of money and goods.
If you itemize on your tax returns, donating your belongings to charitable organizations is a way to downsize plus get a tax deduction. The Salvation Army (SAtruck.org, 800-728-7825) will come to your house and pick up a variety of household items, including furnishings and clothing. Goodwill (Goodwill.org) is another good option for donating, but it doesn’t offer pickup services.
If your deductions exceed $500, you’ll need to file Form 8283, “Noncash Charitable Contributions” (IRS.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f8283.pdf). You’ll also need a receipt from the organization for every batch of items you donate and will need to create an itemized list of the items donated. To calculate fair market value for your stuff, use the Salvation Army’s donation guide at SAtruck.org/home/ donationvalueguide.
If you have a lot of junk you want to get rid of, contact your municipal trash service to see whether it provides bulky curbside pickup services. Or, depending on where you live, you could hire a company like 1-800-Got-Junk (1800gotjunk.com, 800-468-5865) to come in and haul it off for a moderate fee.
If you want or need some help, consider hiring a senior move manager. These are professional organizers who help older adults and their families with the daunting process of downsizing and moving to a new residence. To locate one in your area, visit the National Association of Senior Move Managers at NASMM.org or call 877-606-2766. You can also search at Caring Transitions (CaringTransitions.com), a large senior relocation and transition services franchise company which has more than 200 franchises nationwide.
Jim Miller is a contributor to NBC-TV’s “Today” program and author of “The Savvy Senior.” Send your questions to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070; or visit savvysenior.org.