At the public library, I saw a book about small house living. It was full of very modern and expensive-looking new small houses with lofts, stone siding, high-end appliances and pricey floors. I felt like the author and publisher were missing the point.
One of the biggest benefits of small-house living is that it keeps your costs down, freeing up your money (so you can stay solvent) and time (so you can do other things instead of working like a dog to pay for an expensive house). Having a small house filled with expensive features requires a certain level of income that an increasing number of people don’t have anymore. So it seems silly to focus on so many showy small houses with inevitably large price tags.
Small houses were once very much in vogue, and can still be found all over the country. Now that small houses are making a comeback, people are realizing that an older, well-built small house in a good neighborhood makes more sense than anything else in the real estate market. Unlike condos, there are no HOA fees or rules. Unlike large homes, there are low utility bills and property taxes.
Some of the houses in that book I saw had fancy stairways with backless steps made of metal. Many existing small houses also have two stories, but I prefer a ranch. It’s a lot easier to move into a one-story house than a two-story house. Also, as I age, I can see that someday, steps will become my nemesis. Many other baby boomers are coming to the same conclusion, so I think ranches will be extremely desirable for the foreseeable future.
In any case, once you age out of the need or desire for a large house, small-house living becomes very attractive, whether you want a basic small house or one of the modern ones like I saw in the library book. It just makes so much sense in the times we live in now.
Recently, I was shopping in a thrift store when I happened to see a stack of Norman Rockwell collector plates. I remember seeing them advertised in magazines back in the 1970s and 1980s, and they weren’t cheap. In fact, I think people could pay for them in monthly installments. But now they’re only $3 each at the thrift store.
Then there are Hummel figurines. My elderly relatives think their Hummels are worth hundreds of dollars each, because they paid a lot for them back in the day and they assume that prices have only gone up since then. I don’t have the heart to tell them that most Hummel figurines sell for $15-30 on eBay nowadays.
And of course anyone over 20 remembers what happened with Beanie Babies. They became popular and people bought and sold them for outrageous prices. Now you see them for a buck each at garage sales.
The fact is that once-collectible items often become clutter that’s hard to get rid of, either because you paid so much for them or because you’re aware that they were once valuable and you feel guilty getting rid of them. Neither of these are good reasons for keeping this stuff, especially if it’s getting in your way.
Consider that any items that were once highly sought after are probably not worth as much now because there are so many of them in existence: their popularity doomed them to eventually become commonplace, just because of the sheer quantity of them that were created.
Nevertheless, it’s still hard to get rid of such things.
The key, I think, is to make a strict rule to only keep items that you truly love. They may have once been collectible, or they may be something no one else wants. But if you dearly love them, they can stay. And if you don’t love them, they need to go. You must be picky, picky, picky, if you want to live in a clean, uncluttered and lovely environment. It’s the only way.
There’s a chapter in my new book, The Sentimental Person’s Guide to Decluttering, about what to do with the belongings of someone you loved and lost. It’s a highly emotional subject, especially when your loss is still fresh.
I used to work as a grief support volunteer, and I learned so much from the people I worked with. One woman was a new widow and a mother of seven. She cut up her husband’s shirts into patches, which she turned into quilts for each of her children. I included her story in my book because it’s so inspiring. This woman found comfort while creating comfort for her children.
It’s funny how boxes of a late loved one’s clothes can become an insurmountable fortress for some people, but for others they can turn into vehicles for dealing with grief. If you have boxes of clothes from a late loved one that you haven’t been able to deal with, consider turning them into memory quilts. Hire someone to do it for you if you don’t sew; otherwise, be inspired by this great example and this tutorial. The best mementos are those that are used and seen daily, not packed away under the stairs.
My local free newspaper often has auction notices; many of them are for estate auctions. Here’s the description at the top of one upcoming auction of an elderly couple’s estate:
In 1959 this couple started aggressively collecting and warehousing an unbelievable amount of antiques and collectibles. Rooms are stacked to the ceiling, many more items than listed. Watch for dates of more auctions.
In other words, this couple collected so much stuff for nearly 60 years that it will take multiple auctions to get rid of it all.
Isn’t that sad? What was the point? It almost sounds like they were hoarders. Their heirs must have been so overwhelmed, and even the auction agent must be shaking his/her head (while happily figuring out what multiple auctions will do for their bottom line).
A house full of rooms stacked from floor to ceiling with stuff. What a legacy…..