If you are at that point where downsizing looks like a viable option, here are some things to expect during the process. First, people handle downsizing very differently. Some have little or no problems "letting go" of things where others feel a lot of anxiety and stress. This blog is for those of us who have difficulty deciding what must go. I find it far easier to let go of my partner's items rather than my own. A good rule of thumb here is to be respectful of your partner. Cleaning out his/her items without prior consent is not a good idea and will probably not end well.
The following suggestions are for YOU -
1) The option of downsizing can be overwhelming. Items that need to go may represent memories or special gifts from those we care about. Guilt over letting these items go can be powerful. Know ahead of time that you may be facing some of this and give yourself permission to feel those twinges of guilt while keeping the final goal in mind.
2) When you "give" something, you need to be willing to letting it go without any strings attached. The person that you give the item(s) to may not keep it in the same way you would. That is OK. The dining room set may be redesigned by your daughter-in-law and painted a unique color. You may wish to let your children and family know your plans to downsize and pick items that they could use in their homes. If an item holds special sentimental value, knowing it is going to a "good home" can help.
3) If your grown children have told you they do not want certain items, believe them! Their style is probably not your style. Respect this. (Hint: The grandchildren will probably not want those items either!) If an item has special emotional value, check with other relatives to see if anyone in your family shares your tastes could actually make use of those antiques, silver, fine china, crystal, etc. (Be careful to remember AGAIN that when you give something away, you are letting it go!)
4) There are numerous "marketplace" websites that you could use to sell items you no longer need. There are a lot of differences among these sites so be sure to check them out before listing items. This also means that you will be dealing with the buyer directly. YOu also need to consider if you are willing to ship items as this may open up other avenues of selling those things that are no longer needed with downsizing.
5) You may also decide to place certain items with an antique dealer, auctioneer, or consignment shop. Do a little research on the items to price appropriately. If you choose any of the above, you will receive 50% or less of the sale in most cases. There is quite a hefty upcharge, but these options are a viable way of downsizing. Check with whomever you will be working with and make sure everything is clearly written out as to how the process will take place.
6) Donations are also a god way to go. Do some planning and research before donating items. Many non-profits will pick up larger items.
7) Self-storage. I am going to give a resounding "NO" to this option unless you have VERY GOOD REASONS. If you and your partner are planning on moving into an RV and traveling around the country for 6 months or a year, probably a good reason to store items. What sounds like a good idea at the time, may not be so great a few weeks into the actual event. I had good friend who decided to move to Greece and live on a boat with her recently retired husband. There are not a lot of places to get personal quiet time on a boat. As my friend noted, "We realized we needed to look at other options when we started looking at each other and trying to decide who was going to throw the other other one off the side of the boat first".
Self storage can be a very expensive option, and it is easy to pay more in storage fees than items are worth. Be care with this!
8) Make a plan! Spend the time ahead of the process to know how you want to proceed and in what order. It will make your like easier in the long run.