My mother was the list-maker queen. I found scraps of paper with proposed menus sandwiched inside cookbooks and lists of things-to-do on large, homemade, multi-colored calendars (see image). Small wonder I am a list-maker, too.
I have found lists incredibly useful in downsizing. Among other things, I have used lists, to:
- Itemize general contents of various storage spaces, such as my attic and basement (e.g., four boxes of letters, three boxes of fabric, a guitar, two footlockers with knitwear) to give me an overall scope of my out-of-sight possessions
- Itemize items that go to consignment or for donation (for tax deduction purposes, and also to remind me that I gave away something, so I don’t hunt all over for it)
- Provide an abbreviated “memory source” that takes up only digital space (e.g., lists of cultural events attended, so that I can throw out the programs, but still have a record of what I saw; lists of books read, so I can give away the actual books—more on these kinds of lists in a later post)
- Prioritize things to do so that I have a plan and so that I don’t feel overwhelmed by the unknowns.
I realize not everyone is a list-maker. But even for people who aren’t, the sheer act of writing something down can help cement it in memory, especially if you are in slow downsizing mode.
Tips on list-making, for those who like lists:
- Type up on your computer, rather than handwrite, so you can update them (and in my case, so they are legible).
- Provide sufficient annotation to make them useful—e.g., on a to-do list, it can be helpful to indicate when you might do something, or an external deadline (such as a library book sale to which you plan to donate books). If a list is long, break it into subcategories, clearly labeled.
- Print out lists that aren’t memory source lists. (Since the latter may continue to grow, you might want to keep these on-line while under development)
- Use a spreadsheet for memory source lists, with enough categories to provide you with information that is of interest to you (e.g., for cultural events--name of event, type of event, venue, date).
- For items with possible value that can be researched on the internet, also create a spreadsheet (e.g., for books or records, name of item, author/composer-artists, publisher/record label, year, condition, special notes, such as whether a first edition, autographed, and range of value)
- Where appropriate, check off items (suc h as boxes gone through, things done). Give yourself a pat on the back!
- Update regularly with a new version (keep the old one as a reference).
- Keep your downsizing lists in an easily findable folder, clearly marked.
- Not everything needs a detailed list. If you aren’t able to deduct donated items because you are eligible only for standard deduction, just keep a record of general contents donated.
- Don’t make list-making take the place of actual downsizing. Sometimes, you just want to throw out or recycle something—no lists needed!
- If you make a list, use it. Otherwise, don’t waste your time.
- In addition, take photos to remind you of your accomplishments. They serve as a visual list.