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.
The process of weeding through a house full of stuff and parting with old possessions is difficult and overwhelming for most people. A good place to start is to see if your kids, grandkids or other family members would like any of your unused possessions. Whatever they don’t want, here are a few tips and services that may help you downsize.
Selling your stuff is one way to get rid of your possessions and pad your pocketbook at the same time. Selling options may include consignment shops, a garage sale, estate sale and selling online.
Consignment shops are good for selling old clothing, household furnishings and decorative items – they typically get 30 to 40 percent of the sale price. A good old-fashion 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 percent of the 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 options for selling locally, which can eliminate the packing and shipping costs and hassle. These websites and apps also don’t take a cut of your sales, but you’re responsible for connecting with your buyer and making the exchange of money and goods.
If you itemize on your tax returns, donating your belongings to charitable organizations is another way to downsize and get a tax deduction. The Salvation Army (SAtruck.org, 800-728-7825) will actually come to your house and pick up a variety of household items, including furnishings and clothing. Goodwill (Goodwill.org) is another good option to donate to but they don’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 if they provide bulk curbside pickup services. Or, depending on where you live, you could hire a company like 1-800-Got-Junk (1800gotjunk.com, 800-468-5865) or Junk-King (Junk-King.com, 888-888-5865) to come in and haul it off for a moderate fee.
Another disposal option is Bagster (TheBagster.com, 877-789-2247) by Waste Management. This is a dumpster bag that you purchase for around $30, fill it to a limit of 3,300 pounds and schedule a pickup, which costs anywhere between $100 and $300 depending on your area.
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, go to the National Association of Senior Move Managers at NASMM.org or call 877-606-2766. You can also search at Caring Transitions (CaringTransitions.com), which is a large senior relocation and transition services franchise company that has more than 200 franchises nationwide.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or go to SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.