The seasons of life change for everyone and ultimately at some point in time you will begin pondering whether it is time to downsize. Most seniors know that the day will come when they’ll have to downsize, either as a way to simplify their lifestyle, a method to reduce costs, to be closer to family members, or to address medical needs. No matter what the reason for doing so, downsizing can be a very stressful process, both physically and emotionally. Whatever the reason, if you know that you are going to be downsizing, there are a number of things that you can do to make the process a little smoother and to alleviate some of the stress.
As we move towards the start of our downsizing move, here are some key things to consider:
Start early. Give yourself lots of time before you begin because you know that a downsize move is going to be time consuming. Plan to go through things one at a time. If you are not rushed, you will find the stress level reduced.
Have a plan before you start. Have some well defined goals for each day. Write these goals down, as it makes them more permanent and easier to stick to as you progress. Enlist the help of friends and family members beforehand and include them in the written plans. Don’t try to do things all by yourself.
Start small. If you are like most people, you’ve got lots of rooms to go through and the task can seem daunting before you even begin. Pick a room, perhaps a guest room or the garage and focus only on that one space first.
Eliminate rooms you will not have in the new space. For example, if you are moving to a small apartment you may no longer have a garage or a study. Nearly everything in those rooms will need to be donated, sold or given away. A consignment sale or garage sale might be a method to gain some cash from items found here.
Organize backwards. Jamie Novak, author of “Keep This Toss That” suggests that most people try to get rid of things first and then pack. She suggests packing first those things that you know you are moving. It becomes easier then to look at the remaining items to be donated or sold.
Get rid of duplicates. Most of us find multiple of items in our kitchens and other areas. No need to bring along more than one if we are moving. Take this opportunity to choose your favorite and move on!
Only make Yes or No piles. When going through years of things, many items will “tug at our heartstrings”. Don’t be tempted to have a third “keepsake” pile for “if you have space”. Either decide it is a yes or no, and don’t look back.
Consider “legacy gifts” now. If you are planning to pass along items to loved one after your death, why not pass them on now. This will feel good and will give them a chance to thank you in person! Also it will give you a chance to find out now what children and grandchildren might want that you are not even aware of at the moment.
Allow yourself time to “remember and reminisce.” If you have a day where you find emotions are too high. Take the day to remember, or move on to another room and come back when you are ready. We all need time to process.
Lastly, I strongly recommend using this time as a way to bond with family and friends. Invite them to be part of the process. Enlist their help for the actual moving day, and celebrate old and new together. Recognize also that for seniors there are many companies who can assist as well. Enlist their help as needed too. A downsize move may not be easy for anyone, but there are certainly ways that you can do it better than others. Your downsize move does not have to be stressful and sad. Try to stay positive and get excited about the new place with less clutter ahead!