Peel One Potato At A Time

Oct 15, 2020

Our client had already sold her 5 bed/3 bath, 4300 square foot home, and the timeline for closing and removing all of the house’s furnishings was tight. Our biggest challenge was that her belongings needed to go to four different locations around the country. This was more than just a move; it was also an empty-nester’s estate dispersal. She was dividing furnishings between her daughters in Boston and Denver, and others were bound for the new home in Chicago and a summer cottage in Michigan. Our client wasn’t sure how she was going to manage the whole house and the complicated moving process. 

Understandably, “estate dispersals” can feel overwhelming to families because they think: “What on earth are we going to do with all of this stuff?” The list of options can be equally overwhelming. Auction house? Tag Sale? Consignment? Donation? To whom? Which organizations should I support? The possibilities often seem endless. My first recommendation to clients we’re helping is to start with the items they already know what to do with (the Absolute Yeses or Must Keeps). The key is not getting bogged down by what to do with the things you don’t need or want. Simplify by focusing first on what you’re taking with you.   

We applied this same strategy to our client’s big move. Room by room and item by item we used color-coded post-it notes to identify the “keep/relocate” items: green for Boston, blue for Michigan, yellow for Denver and pink for Chicago. Only then was it easier to process the items not claimed by family that were to be sold or donated. Our client worked tirelessly to wrap up her work life and finalize her relocation details, leaving us to “worry” about where items would be sold or donated. I use the term “worry” to illustrate that we take care of that concern so that our clients don’t have to. But, if you are tackling a downsizing project on your own, consider this little nugget as food for thought: 

Peel one potato at a time. This is my mantra with big projects. Have you ever heard that phrase? One of my favorite bosses used to love saying it. It can help when you feel like you’ve got a million things going on at once. And, truth is, most of us do. We’re parenting, working, taking care of a home, visiting friends, checking in on family – they’re all on our list – but we can’t do all of these things at once. (If someone has figured out how, please contact me immediately!) Thus, we peel one potato at a time. Yes, perhaps we load the dishwasher while we’re talking on the phone with a family member, but typically it’s easier if these “to-dos” happen one at a time. It makes life manageable and makes specific challenges like the relocation process manageable too. So, you begin to sort items, starting with one room. And if that’s too much, you sort the pantry one item at a time. Your shoes, one pair at time: “Do I wear these? Do they fit?” Focus on one thing – not the whole thing. Eventually, the parts add up to the whole.  

For our client, we worked with the moving dates to determine the necessary timeline of when movers would arrive and disperse items to Chicago and Denver, and later when they would return to pick up and deliver to Michigan and Boston. And, with each passing day, the home started to clear. The overwhelming question of “How will I take care of it all??” became less and less debilitating and more and more accomplishable. Once all the things were heading to the right locations, it was time to arrange for sold furniture to be picked up and, finally, the donation delivery. Eventually, the house we were emptying was cleared for the next family to claim as home, and we even had three days left before closing to clean. Voilà – project completed, one potato at a time.

Here's what our client had to say: 

I cannot thank you enough for all you did for me, and truly could not have done it without you. Not only were you and your team incredible at selling and clearing stuff out, but your calm reassurance that it would all get done meant everything to me. I appreciated all you did to keep me posted. Your customer service and follow-through were top notch! I highly recommend you! 

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