There's no doubt that moving creates incredible stress. And let's just be frank, the longer we've been in our homes, the tougher it becomes to make a move, not just physically, but emotionally as well. That's probably why I choose to move so frequently; I don't want to be overly attached to my home, OR to the things in it. (People, yes. Possessions, no.)
I should preface this story by explaining that I'm the girl who didn't keep her wedding dress, who didn't save my children's soccer trophies, and who, when these same boys were heading off to college, handed them a single, solitary storage box and said, "If it's important to you, keep it. If not, I'm giving it to Good Will!" But that's just me . . . granted, you're likely to feel differently and no doubt, you are probably far more sentimental . . . and a much kinder person.
And while I don't have a lot of judgement around the things we accumulate (and we DO accumulate, myself included), I will say that having had the opportunity to help countless families move, the tendency for most of them is to move slowly and painstakingly through the process; to agonize over what to keep and what to take, and in the end, to transfer far too much to the next abode, landing them with boxes of never, or rarely used items that simply overwhelm the process. Six months later, those boxes are often still unpacked and standing in the corner. In short, are you sure you are going to need that game of Trivial Pursuit, those mountains of books, or that stack of DVDs? (Probably not.) My advice? Be brutal.
Given that so much is now "On Demand," might I suggest that you think of your move as an opportunity to purge, to simplify, and to release yourself from the "stuff" you no longer need, want or use. If it no longer fits, if you can't remember the last time you used it, or if it's just collecting dust, donate, toss, sell, or give it away, secure in the knowledge that someone else will use and appreciate these discarded items. (They will, and you will never miss them.)
Look around; is your home filled with not only your furniture but your parents'? (I thought so.) Here's a tip: Whether by way of inheritance or gift, you are not obligated to be the repository for generations of side tables, couches, or granny lamps. (If you must keep them, at the very least, update the shades).
Years ago, my friend's house in the City was filled with worn Modern Danish furniture she found cold and uncomfortable. Moreover, it didn't match her traditional Edwardian architecture. When I asked her why she kept it, she replied, "My mother-in-law gave it to me; I can't throw it out." (Yes, you can. In fact, I'll help you.) The fact is, her mother-in-law gave the heavily-used living room set to her because she no longer wanted it (!), so why was my friend required to live with old furniture she detested? (She wasn't. It's called "free will" people.)
Listen, we've all had hand-me-downs, and if this is your first house or apartment, cast-offs are completely appropriate, with the clear understanding that at some point, you can actually let them go. (You've earned the right to forge your own taste.) At the same time, if these inherited pieces have real meaning to you, keep them, but let something else go in their stead. Trust me, you don't need that many bureaus.
BTW, if you are constitutionally incapable of separating the must-haves, from the why- nots, or the I-don't-knows, there are professionals who can help you quickly decide what to take and what to leave behind. (Let them pull off the Band-aid for you.) In short order, they'll come in and not only help you pack, but find good homes for the items you're choosing not to take while you move forward.
Is there a cost for their services? Yes, there is, but as one client recently exclaimed, "I'd sell a grandchild, before I'd give up my moving concierge!" (That may be extreme, but you get my point.) She recognized that these services were invaluable to her. Like most people, this Seller has far more than she needs or can accommodate in the much smaller bungalow she is moving to and didn't know how to let go or where to begin. (We can help with that.)
So, if a move is on the horizon, grab a box and get started; you'll find there's a good deal of freedom in letting things go and the sooner, the better. Heck, if you can let go of your house, the rest of the "stuff" should be easy (or easier). You've already done the heavy lifting, now free yourself from your "things." I promise it's going to feel incredibly liberating come time to unpack on the other end. (You're going to thank me.)
How can I help you?
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 600 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.