Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom ~ Open Houses

Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom

Recently I spent Sunday looking at open houses. All of the houses were clean and nicely presented, and all of the garages were full of stuff. In some houses, the stuff in the garage was unpacked; in others, it was already in boxes. Boy, oh boy, did all these folks have a lot of stuff. I asked each of the real estate agents why the owners were selling. There was a divorce, a job loss, an unexpected opportunity to buy a nicer house in the same neighborhood, and a new business starting in a different part of the country. For the most part, the need to move took these families somewhat by surprise.

Back in March, when my husband was unexpectedly presented with a new job possibility, I asked if we should have our houses decluttered enough to move at the drop of the hat.  (You can refresh your memory here.) As a group we decided that there was decluttering for everyday life, and even more severe decluttering for moving.

Now I’m reflecting on this again. None of these families saw the move coming more than a month or two in advance.  When Dan and I got married we did have a fair amount of time to plan our move. Later when we moved to our current house, it happened more suddenly. I was pregnant with our second child and thought we needed an additional bedroom. Also, we lived very close to the freeway, and there was talk of expanding the freeway two additional lanes. Dan still says my thinking was addled by hormones, but when I decided we were moving, it happened pretty fast.

You don’t need to add “have a garage sale and get rid of 20 years worth of stuff” to your to-do list if life throws you a curve or a great opportunity.  Getting rid of things that you no longer need, want, or value will allow you to negotiate the still and rough waters of life with more ease and grace.

Today’s Declutter Item

I am not sure why it took so long for this calculator to come to my notice but I am sure glad it did because it fetched a nice $41.00 on eBay.  

Scientific Calculator sold on eBay for $41.00

Something I Am Grateful For Today

My little boy turned 20 today which reminds me how grateful I am that he recovered so well from his accident last year. I am also grateful for how close he and his sister are. They have a lot to bind them together both as sibling and as friends.

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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  1. My goal is to have things decluttered to the point that if we had to move suddenly we would only be taking the essentials and a few extras (but not many). Whether we will ever get there is another matter altogether. Right now, if we had to move suddenly or my mother died (I would have to move quickly) there are way too many things she is hanging onto we could be rid of. I know this, if Mom died I would have a sale. I would put the keepers in one room and let people roam the other rooms and buy what was there. All the furniture would go but my bed and one chair. Depending upon where I found to move even my scrapbook storage might be sold. I would keep a few books, a few essentials from the kitchen, and sell the rest. It would be quite a sale.

  2. I like what Deb J said above. I don’t know if we’d really be at that point, but if faced with an unexpected move, I’d like to at least know what would go, the few things that would stay in storage, and what we would let go of whithout remorse or regret.

    We’re not at that point yet, but we are sure a lot closer than when we started! Interestingly, part of what started me on this journey several years ago was the desire to move to a different city to pursue graduate school. I realized that any move would go SO much more smoothly if the decluttering process was started well in advance so as not to be so overwhelming. Well, that dream has since been put indefinately on hold, but there are still thoughts of a move, even if temporary. My sweetie is from another country and periodically we talk about moving to be closer to his mom, who has health problems, and so that our boys could go to school in their second language for a while.

    Just writing and remembering that goal makes me think EEK! but also gives me a renewed burst of enthusiasm. I have the day off today, so I think I’ll use some of the Mini Mission Monday tips….thanks!

    • Glad you were motivated. It does help to consider what our bigger goals in life are, doesn’t it?

  3. Colleen,

    I feel fairly confident that if we moved, it would not be a huge problem to do so in a hurry. That means I am definitely achieving my goal. It’s not that I only have essentials – far from it. But I have decluttered enough that it would not take me longer than a couple of weeks at most to pack everything up and go. This is a nice feeling.

    Sometimes I wonder if I am too eager to get rid of things. My husbands says I am often too quick to throw something away or declutter it before I really know if we are going to need it or not. But I prefer not to have a lot of clutter in my life because I have enough clutter in my mind. A peaceful environment will help with a peaceful mind. At least I hope it will!

    Oh, go over to my website and check out my completely empty dining room cabinet! My mother was horrified when I mentioned that I do not need the formal dining room furniture that she bought for us when we first got married. We use it twice a year – Thanksgiving and Christmas. The rest of the year, that room is just sitting there, empty. We have plenty of room at our kitchen table for when my parents come to visit – the dining room is an unused piece of space in my house. I would love to turn it into an office for my writing, but that’s going to be a matter of time and convincing my husband to add some doors to both that room and his office so we don’t disturb each other. I sometimes think my mother is more attached to my things than I am!


    • Hi Chelle,
      like your husband suggests, be mindful that you don’t make hasty decisions and let the will to declutter totally override common sense or you may regret it later. Certainly a less cluttered environment will help achieve a more peaceful mind but clutter isn’t the only thing that troubles the mind and decluttering won’t be the solution to everything. Trust me I know this from experience.

      i find that sometimes older women are so connected to tradition that they can’t see past it to other possibilities or options. My mother for instance has a far more open mind than my mother-in-law when it comes to this sort of thing. I often enjoy the reaction from other people when I tell them the kinds of things that I am decluttering.

  4. Decluttering for moving is DEFINITELY different. I was decluttering at a very sedate pace, then hit a brick wall. However, we have to move in February when our lease is up – 11 days after my due date (which means, for those of you doing the math, that I could actually go into labor the day we move or be moving the day after giving birth).

    So my husband and I have stepped it up this week and we’re starting to be far more brutal with what we get rid of. Nothing we would regret, thankfully, but very “do we want to move this and find a place for it?”


    • You’ve got a lot of reasons to declutter, and you definitely want to do it before he baby comes. We moved in March (2002), and I had a baby in August. That was close enough!

  5. „I sometimes think my mother is more attached to my things than I am!“ – so well said Chelle, so true. And valid not only for mothers. Sometimes other people really ARE more attached to our things than we ourselves. (or they are attached to the idea of being served in the dining room when they visit twice a year 😉
    Good trick: offering it to the person . Immediately. For free.
    You either have decluttered then very quickly (with baffled but happy takers) or at least the “you really should keep that”-ers shut up.

    • I told my husband that I thought maybe we didn’t need the furniture and he was also horrified. He said it’s the one room we have really nice, coordinated furniture in and we are not getting rid of it. *Sigh!*

      But, I suppose it’s all right that we keep it. Our dining room is the prettiest room in the house and I do love that furniture. I just didn’t like all that STUFF that was cluttering the room. Now the shelves are completely bare and I don’t really know what to do with them. Any ideas?


    • Great idea Ideealistin. Simple, clean, over and done with.

      • I think Chelle that an empty room is just an empty room, not necessarily an improvement. Especially since your husband is shouting (I mean, using the phone) directly across the way, so no one’s going to enjoy that empty room.

  6. Oh I love this post AND the decluttered item! I have one of those, in my little drawer. I answered a ‘wanted’ on freecycle for my ‘normal’ calculator a year or so back (and am yet to miss it). But I think it’s time to sell my doppelganger graphics calculator (esp if I get $41!!) I’ve had it since 2001, but I haven’t used it much in the last few years!

    • Hi Snosie,
      My son was having a laugh at his sisters expense yesterday when I told him I sold the calculator for $41. He said it was just a well because she probably hardly used it or didn’t even know what to do with it for that matter. She was not a maths person and he is a bad little brother. 😆

    • Thank you for living my post. I think we can sell virtually anything. After all, if you valued it enough to bring it into the house, someone else may value it enough to remove it!

  7. Chelle…could you use the dining table and cabinet for your office anyway? You could compromise with your husband that you keep the furniture but he puts up the doors and for most of the year you use the area/furniture for your office?

    If the issue is he doesn’t want officey clutter on the table you could store most of it in the cabinet and go for a minimalist look. I’m thinking of Leo B’s concept of just a computer screen on a table as his office. I’ve duplicated the look (making it prettier) with my laptop which can easily be put away and I love it. But the thought of all that table space makes me drool even if I would kept it empty all the time lol.

    I’m also thinking of pictures I’ve seen with dining rooms lined with bookshelves which looked surprisingly attractive… I’m sure that you could keep a great looking dining room that could still function as your office if you put a little thought into it 🙂

    The only major issue I can see is that you would probably need a decent office chair so you could adjust the height to fit the table so no ergonomic issues.

    • Kristina,

      This has actually occurred to me. The problem right now (and I am not putting up obstacles, I’m NOT!) is that here is how the space is currently laid out. When you walk into our front door, Justin’s office is on the left and the dining room is on the right. Both are open to the main hallway with wide open arches. To put doors on either one would cost somewhere in the area of $2,000 for each room at least (don’t know how that transfers into Colleen’s pounds) and it’s not something that would add to the beauty of our home.

      My husband works from home and a good bit of his work is done on very loud conference calls. I am a writer and when I write, I need quiet in order to really accomplish anything. In fact, I usually get my best writing done between 11:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m. after everyone goes to bed, but I am generally on and off the computer writing things all day long. When he is on a call, everything else on the bottom level of the house pretty much comes to a standstill because he uses the speaker part of his smart phone and yells into so he can be heard. Eeek!

      It’s still a very tempting space, but right now I have my “office” in the master bedroom and use it when he is working and then bring the computer down to the family room after he is done so that I can work at night. I can close the bedroom door if he gets louder than I can stand.

      The table is a wonderful space and would make a great desk. So don’t think this thought has not crossed my mind, but right now it doesn’t make sense with my husband’s work situation. When one of the kids finally moves out, I will be taking the extra bedroom and turning it into an office for myself and can’t wait for that to happen. My oldest son is at the local community college and is supposed to go away to school next fall. If he makes it (he’s 5 classes short of being able to actually do that next fall), I will give his room to my middle son and take the middle son’s beautifully painted room with the newest carpet for my own. I’m already minimalistically decorating in my mind!


  8. Well, this is timely. I got the call yesterday that I have reached the top of the list for senior housing. So I will be moving in the next 3 months. I have been on the list for two years and planned to spend that time decluttering. Which did not happen. I really have very moderate kitchen and clothing items. It is the books, papers (interesting information, NOT newspapers) and arts and crafts supplies that are the challenge. My books are an odd collection relating to my own interests, not many available at the library, but there are eight bookshelves full, Same with some of the saved papers. My biggest fear is that I will get rid of something that I later wish I had saved. Excellent reason for scourging, self-flagelation, even hari kari. I am pretty sure that I cannot perfectly predict the future. As for *well then buy another one* my usual experience is that they dont make them anymore.

    I have been reading this blog for inspiration and good advice for the past several months. But now it is about to become reality. Gaaaack.

    • Hi Rachel, Do you know in advance how much room you will have at the senior housing? For instance, is it like a small apartment, or is it one room only? That will make a big difference to your choices. Good luck with this one; my books mean a lot to me too, and are not easily replaceable either.

    • Oh dear Rachel. I bet you are feeling a bit of panic. You may not have decluttered much in the past 2 years, but I encourage you to start NOW. The time of your moving will be upon you quickly, and you’ll be happier and have an easier move if you pare down your load now rather than moving it all over and then having to sort through it in a presumably smaller space.

    • Can you bring the books with you to “donate” to the common library in the senior housing facility? That way you could have access to your books and share them with others?

    • Hi Rachel,
      perhaps the best thing to do, if you can’t declutter before the move, is to declutter as you unpack things at the other end. Life just works out that way sometimes. Procrastination usually catches up with us in the end one way or another.

  9. Cindy, a great reminder. I keep this reasoning in the back of my mind all the time, along with “what if I dropped dead tomorrow” and “what if fire fighters or ambulance people had to enter my bedroom tomorrow” … I know, kind of dramatic, but it spurs me on! I don’t want my husband or kids having to deal with it all, and I don’t want strangers seeing my mess, and I sure as heck don’t want to be surprised by an unexpected move, because I’m pretty sure what would happen would be that I would move all my crap with me due to lack of time to have a sale!

    • Even though I have no *intention* of moving, I know that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. I don’t want “fear of all my stuff” to prevent me from taking an opportunity or to add to my stress during a time that would be both exciting and terrifying.

  10. Yes, Jo, it is a fair sized studio apartment. I am currently in a one bedroom. The first thing I have to do is find out how many bookcases will fit along the side walls. That will decide how many books I have to get rid of. Actually I do have cut-outs of most of my furniture from a friend who helped me move here. So I need to draw a floor plan of the studio and see what might fit.

  11. Because my husband’s job keeps us moving about, not that often but often enough, this concept is not new to me. My ideas of what is too much has however drastically changed over the years. I have also had the added privilege that when we have moved the packing and the moving has been done by professionals and paid for by my husbands employer. There has never been a limit placed on the volume of stuff we can move. Doing the itemised inventory on the other hand is a right royal pain in the a.. because the more you have the bigger that job is. Personally I would rather do the packing.

    The reason that spurred my husband and I to declutter is the intent for him to semi-retire fairly early in life and to do a lot of travelling. The less you have the less tied you feel to a certain place. If we did up and leave for four months and rent out the space we live in, the less we have the easier it would be to put all our personal effects into storage for that time. So now is a good time to start working towards our future needs.

    • I read on someone’s travel and minimalist website that they could completely move out of their house for the purpose of subletting it in 15 minutes. Frankly, I don’t see how that could really be true, but let me know if you get down to that amount Colleen!

      • Hi Cindy,
        that is never going to happen. I am very happy with the way my reducing is going and I don’t intend to get that carried away. Like I said at one of the interviews I did this week my house doesn’t look like the inside of an empty freezer and it never will.

  12. What a timely post! My family just had an open house this weekend. (but it looks like the simpler floorplan house we had the offer on has gone to a different buyer now so we may be staying put after all). In preperation for the open house I “depersonalized” as well as decluttered. Amazingly simple because I have been working on simplifying for a year now! BUT the things I packed are things I will need once the cooler weather returns (I’m in Canada). Thick quilts, winter coats, boots, ornaments, etc… they all have to come along wherever we are living by then even if they are bulky, seasonal items. That is the bummer part. The heartwrenching part is the family photos… I like the way my house is RIGHT NOW, but I love the family photos too… many generations usually hang on the wall and in frames on the mantle… cluttered and personal, but happy happy feeling too.
    Instead of cramming it into my garage (which is heavily packed with bikes, tools etc already) I took the boxes and bags to my SISTER’S garage! Living without these things has been very nice, and my house looks much bigger…. too bad I can’t keep those things there until I need them come winter!

    • My Mom was a real estate agent for years. She says that there’s the way your house should look when you live in it and the way it should look when you’re selling it, and frankly, those two looks have little to do with one another. Living in a super-tidy and impersonal space isn’t for most of us. I hope your home selling time passes quickly.

  13. Wow, this post is so true. In January i was helping my mother in law with her move, she was downsizing after being bereaved. I saw how she agonised after every single bit of clutter, clutter that had been in the house for 35 years, calenders from 1986!? Carrier bags for shops that had long closed down, i wanted to scream at her ‘IT’S JUST STUFF’ what really matters are your memories and your family. This helped me greatly on my journey to minmalism, and since january(and we were pretty sparse anyway) i have decluttered so much more. I never want to place so much importance on possesions. Our house looks amazing and we really appreciate what we have . And the upside is that when and if we decide to sell on and buy another property we can pack up in half a day with only 1 van of possesions, that’s progrees, when we moved here it was 2 full days and 3 van loads 🙂

    We have a programm here in the uk called Pickfords, it’s a removal firm moving people out and into their homes, it has me shouting at the screen. I mean who needs two lawn mowers?!!

    Really thought provoking post Cindy!

    • When bereaved, it’s so hard to make any decisions, let alone decisions that have to do with getting rid of anything that reminds you of the deceased and the life you had together. Congratulations to you for helping her get through the packing.

      • I should have added, she has really pared back and kept the true things that had meaning of their life together. It just left me thinking that if she hadn’t of kept those irrelevant things in the first place she wouldn’t have had to deal with them at such an emotional time. The things she really cherishes mean so much to her and i know she takes comfort from them, so they can never be deemed clutter. For me however, my memories of my father in law and his really bad jokes and the fact he had brought up one of the best men ever (my husband) is all the memories i need.
        Sharron x

  14. I am pleased that because of my progressive decluttering, we were able to accept an offer of a German au pair to stay for a year and make a room entirely free for him.

    The day after he arrived, we also had another guest who was stranded at the airport with nowhere else to go. Our guest area was all ready to go, and he was able to stay with us for the planned couple of days AND the couple more days when his home city of Christchurch was snowed under on his planned departure date!

    Blog with pictures and news on my new standing desk at

  15. @Pol, I am to have an appointment next week and the first thing I will ask about is a common library. If there is not yet one, I can furnish one *ready to install.* 🙂

    @Colleen, uh, no, take it there and THEN sort it out will not really work. I did some of that when I moved here five years ago and some of those boxes are not yet unpacked. (Yes, there is the thought of just tossing them before this move, but somewhere in there is my jewelry box.) I need to do the work on THIS end. While my feet are in the fire.

    • Hi Rachel,
      I am glad to hear that you know now is the time to get the job done. Just get started and let momentum take you along. Don’t think about how big the job is just tackle one thing at a time.