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Downsizing Tips That Aren’t Overwhelming

Two men exchanging a cardboard box. Deciding to downsize, as a older adult, can be exciting but daunting. Realizing that your home is too big, has too many stairs and/or involves too much upkeep comes with a whole host of questions and concerns.

As a “Navy Junior,” my mother had to downsize every two – four years. It wasn’t until she and my father moved to Williamsburg, VA that they lived in a house for more than four years, and things started to pile up.  They made the decision in their late 60’s to start “culling” their belongings, getting rid of papers that were no longer needed and dispensing with items they didn’t need or want. While it was overwhelming at times, I remember my mother saying what a relief it was to get rid of extraneous belongings.

Based on personal and professional experience, the following tips will make your experience less overwhelming.

Ask for Help 

Ask your kids, siblings, close friend or neighbor or a moving coordinator – yes, there are professional moving coordinators – to be the objective person who helps you stay on track and decide if something is worth keeping.

Create and Action Plan

When you find your “assistant,” discuss your intentions and work together to create an action plan. This is especially helpful if you need to put your home on the market or move out by a specific date.

As you and your assistant are working through the plan, both of you will be able to see the progress being made and whether it’s taking more time, which may require additional time than initially planned, or less time.

Additionally, your action plan needs to take your and your assistant’s schedules in to consideration. Some days may be better to work on downsizing than others.

Action plans can be created with a simple writing utensil and paper. You can even use a wall or desk calendar. Though if you prefer the computer route, go for it. It doesn’t matter what method you use as long as it works for you.

Sort Through Your Belongings 

As you’re sorting through items it’s tempting to want to keep items that conjure up memories or could be of use one day. But, if you keep too many items then you’re not downsizing.

I’m not suggesting you go from one extreme of keeping most everything to the other extreme of getting rid of most everything. Rather find the balance. This is where your assistant can really help you because he/she will be the objective party. Just as quick you’re ready to keep something you may also be just as quick to get rid of something, which your assistant may point out as being useful in your new home.

Asking yourself the following questions will help you determine whether you keep or let something go.

  • Does it bring you joy?
  • Do you need it?
  • Will it fit where you’re moving?

Decide What to do With Your Unwanted Belongings 

A woman gifting her camera to a close friend. Some of your items may still have some useful life and be of value to others. Rather than tossing them in the trash, consider the following:

  • Giving Items to Family and Friends
    Take pictures of the items that you want to give away to share with your family and friends. Tag them so you know what goes to whom. We all really appreciated the opportunity to identify items we wanted to give to our children. Though be prepared, your family may not want the items you think they want!
  • Selling Your Items
    If you’re interested in some extra money, sell your items. For ease, let the pro’s handle that, but if you prefer to be more hands on, you could organize a yard sale or sell your items online. There are a bunch of online resources available including Letgo, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, Ebay and many others. For valuable items, I recommend having them appraised by a reputable appraiser – someone who is ethical and honest about valuing items. Do your research and find someone you can trust. Once you know the value, you’ll be ready to contact antique dealers, jewelers or consignment stores.
  • Donating to a Worthy Cause
    Donate your items to a local thrift store, Goodwill, a church auction or other non-profit organization. Recycling and repurposing have become very popular alternatives to reducing landfill waste, and the items or the sale of the items go to a good cause. Plus, some organizations provide pick-up services, which is ideal for bulky heavy items.

If you follow these tips and move at your own pace, downsizing will not be an overwhelming chore, and you will likely appreciate your accomplishment and be ready for a fresh new start.

About the Author

Anne Kempsell is the vice president of sales and marketing. She has 18 years in the retirement community industry and has herself moved over 25 times during her life as a “Navy Junior”, as well as the wife of a minister.  She recently moved to Lancaster, PA to be near her grandchildren and finds herself still downsizing.