Many people who buy at Newport Cove talk about simplifying their lives or, in the jargon of the day, downsizing. They see a move to a waterfront community as a step toward serenity. But, few of them realize how difficult downsizing can be. When the proverbial rubber hits the road, most folks simply do not like letting go of any of their possessions, even though commonsense says this is a wise thing to do.

Think about your own stuff. Does it give you more joy than stress? A recent survey, conducted on behalf of the Huffington Post and polling more than 1,000 U.S. adults, revealed that most Americans are stressed; 91 percent of those polled said the were stressed about something in the past month, and 77 percent said they were stressed regularly. In the “regularly stressed” group, 84 percent said that clutter and disorganization in their homes was a major cause of stress and worry; in fact, this particular stress was almost at the top of the heap of ALL worries. Moreover, the survey found that those who are stressed about home organization tend to be more stressed in general; 70 percent of them were stressed in general every day, versus 35 percent to those who were not worried about home clutter.

A recent IKEA study came up with another whole set of statistics: 1) On average Americans spend 55 minutes a day looking for things they have misplaced. 2) Eliminating clutter typically reduces 40 percent of housework. 3) Sixty-four percent of Americans say they do not have enough storage space in their homes, but good organization could eliminate 80 percent of their storage.

The conclusion drawn from these studies is clear: Having an organized home is instrumental in creating a calming environment where you can relax and find peace.

Face it. We live in a culture of clutter. It is estimated that 80 percent of what we Americans own we never use. When it comes to home ownership, consider what that 80 percent costs us. Stuff takes up space. Assume the space costs on average around $160 per square foot to build, plus a homeowner also pays property taxes, utilities and insurance on that space.

As homebuilders, we have watched many homeowners attempt to downsize. We have seen people try to jam everything they had in a 7,000-square-foot home into a new 2,000-square-foot home. We have seen people build homes simply to house their stuff. For example, rather than part with a dining room set they use once a year, a couple might build a formal dining room onto their home. Or, customers will enlarge a room to fit a difficult piece of furniture when, if they did the math, it would be much more economical to trade in the existing piece and buy something that fits.

Suppose 300 square feet of your home is used simply for storage of things you rarely utilize. The construction cost of that space is, on average, $48,000. Annual property taxes on the space run probably $1,200 per year. So, at the end of a decade, owning that 300 square feet costs you well over $65,000. Is the value of the stuff you are storing worth that? Could you have put those dollars to better use? If you are hanging onto most of this stuff “in case you might want it someday,” would you be better off financially to get rid of it now and buy new when – and more importantly, IF – you should ever need it?

One of the reasons we find it so difficult to part with our stuff is because we look at an item and recall how much effort or cash it cost us. Maybe we should recalibrate our thinking and determine the cost to continue to hold onto things we likely will never use.

One of the pluses of moving into a new home is that it gives you the perfect opportunity to take stock of what you own and what you can live without. Many home organization experts suggest that culling the excess is the first and most important step.

As Happier At Home author Gretchen Rubin advises, “Don’t get organized.” Instead, she says, the first priority should be ridding yourself of the stuff you should not keep. Once you take that step, then figure out your total space needs, your storage needs, organizational systems, etc.

The experts suggest following a process like this when downsizing:

First, take an inventory of all you own and then ask yourself: If everything we had were burned in a fire, what would I replace?

Then, take sticky notes and color-code all your possessions into one of three categories: 1) Keep – things you simply cannot live without. 2) Sell – things you can sell and recoup some of your investment. 3) Donate – things you can give to friends or charity.

Next, go back to the “to keep” pile. For the things in that pile you are storing (except family photos and sentimental items of that ilk), put them in a box with an expiration date a year or two in the future. If you have not used an item in the box by the time of the expiration date, sell or donate it.

Finally, stay decluttered. If you buy something new, vow to get rid of something old.

Downsizing, decluttering, simplifying – whatever you call it, parting with things you own can be emotional. But consider how much lighter and freer you will be, how much more serene, if you are able to accomplish this.

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