Your Downsizing Guide
Most seniors know there will come a day when they’ll have to downsize, either to simplify their life, to cut costs, to be closer to children and grandchildren, or to address medical needs.
Downsizing can be a stressful and arduous process – both emotionally and physically. But it doesn’t have to get overwhelming. Here are some tips to make downsizing easier.
Start early and be persistent
Give yourself plenty of time for this process, because it will inevitably take longer than you expect. Take your time, you don’t need to sort through your entire house in one weekend. A few weeks, or even a couple of months is a more realistic timeline. Take it one room at a time, and take breaks. Do the rooms you use the most last.
Go through each item one by one. It’s important to give everything you own your attention for at least a second or two. It will also help you develop a strong decision-making process by intently focusing and then choose if the items stays or goes.
If you aren’t rushed, you’ll find downsizing to be much less stressful.
Take baby steps
You probably already know of things you want to get rid of in the kitchen or garage, but save those big areas for last. This will help you keep the sorting contained and allow you to simply close a door to take a mental break from the process. You have years and years of things to sort through. Starting in an area with little emotional attachment, like the laundry room or a linen closet, will allow you to develop a system and get yourself on a roll to move forward.
Eliminate furniture in rooms you won’t have in your new home
Understand your needs. If you’re moving into a two-bedroom home four sets of sheets is plenty. The rest can go.
Likewise, your new home may not have both a living room and a family room, a breakfast nook and a formal dining area, a 2 car garage, or an office space. Nearly everything in these extra rooms will need to be given to friends and family, sold, donated, or tossed.
It’s easier to organize backwards. Pack or tag everything you want and have room for in your new place; all the things you know are going with you. Then simply share, sale, or donate the rest.
Most of us have multiples of nearly everything, you’ll find this is especially true in your kitchen. You’ll have two or three can openers and corkscrews, a couple oversized stock pots, and at least four cookie sheets. Now’s the time to reduce the clutter. If you’re worried about handing off that big roasting pan because you use it every Thanksgiving… but at no other time during the year, consider giving it to a child or grandchild who will be taking over the family gathering.
Make Yes or No piles – NO Maybes!
When you’re going through years of belongings, some things are going to tug at your heartstrings, and you’ll be tempted to make a third pile to “keep if you have space”. Don’t fall for that trick! You’ll end up with a “Maybe Pile” that’s bigger than either of the other two piles. When that happens, you haven’t made any progress in sorting, you just moved items across the room.
Take a hard look at every item you pick up. If you use it regularly, keep it. But realize it’s time to let some things go. If an items has been sitting in a closet or on a shelf untouched for a year or more, you likely don’t need it.
There are some items in your house that you don’t even like, so why on earth would you want to pack it up and care it to your next home? With the time, energy, and costs of moving you want to be selective of what you are packing.
Reduce collections creatively
It can be hard to let go of a cherished lifetime collection of ceramic frogs or glass paperweights you’ve gathered along life’s journey, but caring them to a smaller home where they will only eat up space or end up stored in a box where you’ll never see them is not productive.
Instead, pick a couple of your favorites to keep, and take quality photos of the rest. Then, once you get settled, use the photos to make an album or coffee table book that you can enjoy for years to come… without having to dust each item ever again.
Consider making legacy gifts now
Is your grandmothers hutch in your dining area earmarked to go to your daugher one day? An is your son going to get grandpa’s old wood working tools? Or maybe you have a china set your granddaughter adores? If there are certain heirlooms or pieces you plan to leave to your family in your will, consider giving those gifts now.
This has two benefits: you’ll get the items out of our way, and you’ll be able to enjoy the feeling of giving those items to your loved ones. While you’re at it, find out if there are any items your children want that you don’t know about… this is an easy way to make them happy and lighten your load.
You might try to sell some of your items, or use an estate sale service
Consignment shops are a good option for high-end furniture, artwork, collections, handbags, and other accessories; prices are reasonable, and they’ll sometimes pick-up items for you.
If you are tech-savvy, OfferUp, eBay, Facebook sales pages, and other online apps are a great way to move items… but be cautious about having strangers showing up at your home. Apps that allow others to rate the buyer are a little safer, but still, use caution, arrange to meet buyers in a well-lite, busy area.
Yard sales are an option if you want to give up a weekend or two. But do be safe, and have helpers with you.
More often than not, hiring a quality estate sales company is the best and safest option. They work to get you top dollar and guard your property while they are there selling. Plus everything gets done in one week.
It’s important to realize when selling most used items you only get pennies on the dollar. So consider how much time and effort you want to invest. Donations might be the better way to go.
Allow yourself time to reminisce
While you’re cleaning and sorting, there will be some days when you just want to stop and let the happy memories take over. It’s OK to pause and let your feelings flow. Cry if you need to, or move on to another room and come back. This is why you started early… but don’t let nostalgia prevent you from eventually getting the job done.
When stumbling over an item you don’t know what to do with, ask yourself how it makes you feel. If it brings up any negative or mixed feelings, let it go. If it brings great happiness of course it stays… if you’ll have room for it. If there won’t be enough space, take a photo of you holding it for the keepsake album you are creating.
The idea is to be surrounded by things you cherish the most in your new home.
Illicit help and bond with your kids and grands
Invite the kids and grandkids over for the weekend. Talk to the young ones about where you got your favorite trinkets and keepsakes. Tell them about your family’s heirlooms. Let them help pack, ask questions, and spend time with you. Get them to help you post items for sale online. Give them things they show a interest in and you know they will like. Take photos of these times for you memory book.
It can be one more moment your family shares together in the house you’ve loved before you start making those memories together in your next home. Remember that it’s your loved ones who are important in those memories you cherish, not the stuff around you.
Keep in close contact with family and friends to help you deal with the emotional toll of downsizing
Inevitably, most people will struggle with nostalgia when they’ve reached the point where it’s time to downsize.
Change is hard for everyone, but the older we get, the more accustomed we are to our surroundings and our “stuff”… even when all that stuff gets too hard to manage.
These feelings can come from both sadness and fear of the unknown, which is why it’s often best to downsize as early as possible, when it’s easier to adjust to a new environment.
Many senior living communities allow potential residents to spend a few nights on site to get an idea of what it would be like to live there. That’s a great way to make sure you find the right fit.
Try not to let the apprehension of a new environment get you down. Set your mind to thinking positive thoughts and looking forward to a new beginning, with new people and experiences. Attitude goes a long way in helping to ease tension and apprehension of your transition. Focus on the benefits, and appreciate how much simpler life will be with fewer surfaces to dust, spaces to maintain, rooms to vacuum, or towels to wash.
Downsizing doesn’t have to be stressful, sad, or scary. Stay positive and get excited about a simpler way of life!
Remember, our team at Sonoran Sky Real Estate is here to help you with any and all of this process. We have an entire Rolodex of quality professionals to help you pack, disburse items, prepare your home for the market and sell it for top dollar. We will even help you find your new place and get you moved in. Call us at anytime to find out more ways we can and will help.