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Downsizing without Drama — Help for Keepers + Tossers Working Together

Do you find it difficult to throw anything away? You are clearly a “Keeper.” On the other hand, if clearing things out makes you happy, you are a “Tosser.” 

Whether they are partners who live together, or siblings who come together to clear out their parents’ home, these kind of opposites are often faced with the need to make mutually acceptable downsizing decisions. Here are our tips on how they – and you – can downsize without drama.

Get clear about your goals. 
Before you get started, establish an aim for your effort. What’s your motivation to downsize? How much time, money and energy are each of you willing to invest? What is your ideal outcome? Don’t even think about getting started until you’ve established some ground rules about what goes, what stays and how you’ll decide.

Decide what you can live with — and what you can’t live without. 
If you’re a Tosser, don’t just consider the fastest way to clear stuff out. Instead, think about what you’d be willing to keep. If you’re a Keeper, don’t think about where everything will go. Decide what kinds of things you’d be willing to part with. Adopting your opposite’s viewpoint can help you minimize conflict and find things you can agree on.

Watch your language. If a Tosser tells a Keeper they “have” to let go of something, you can be sure they’re going to hold on to it even tighter. To help them feel more comfortable, ask a question about it. “Which one of these is the most important to you?” “Would a picture of this suffice?” If you’re a Keeper who feels a Tosser is going through things too quickly, try not to over-react. Make your needs and concerns clear. Then, trust them not to casually toss something that might be important to you.

Be ready to give (in) a little. Downsizing is hundreds of small decisions and negotiations. You’ll never get through it if every item becomes subject for discussion. Know that compromise is essential, and approach the effort with a spirit of generosity. You don’t have to share the other’s viewpoint, but you should try to respect it.

Acknowledge your accomplishments. At the end of the day, take time to appreciate the progress you’ve made together. Let each other know what worked. Finishing on a positive note will make it easier to come back and keep going.