Tips to Make Downsizing Easier
As we age, most of us know that there will come a day when we will need to downsize, either to simplify our lives, cut costs, be closer to our grandchildren, or to address medical needs. It can be a stressful process — both emotionally and physically, but it doe not have to get overwhelming.
Start early: Plan for the process to take longer than you expect. Don’t try to sort through all your belongings in one day or weekend. A more realistic timeline is several weeks to a month. Take it one room at a time, take breaks throughout and see if a family member or friend can help.
Start small: You have years and years of things to sort through. Start in an area that is small, such as a closet, or an area with little emotional attachment, perhaps a laundry room. Your garage, basement or attic may be the most difficult spaces to tackle. These rooms tend to accumulate all your old hobbies, boxes of old photos and letters, old holiday decorations, your children’s school projects and other clutter.
Eliminate rooms you won’t have in your new home: If you’re moving to an apartment or senior living facility, you might not have a garage or office space. Nearly everything in those spaces will need to be sold, donated, tossed, or relocated to another room.
Get rid of duplicates: You may find this is especially true in your kitchen. You may have two or three spatulas and ladles, several stock pots, and four different sized cookie sheets.
Only make a yes pile and a no pile: The Yes Pile is for things that you are going to keep and take to your new space. The No Pile are items to donate, sell, toss, or give away.
Turn old pictures into photo books: There are tech tools or websites such as Fotobridge.com that will convert those boxes of pictures into digital photos and help you create books of memories.
Sell things yourself: With numerous smartphone apps and online selling sites (such as eBay, Etsy, and Facebook Marketplace) yard sales, consignment shops and estate sales, selling your belongings has never been easier. Doing it yourself, especially if you don’t have computer skills, may be more time than you would to invest. If you aren’t handy with a computer, your children and grandchildren can probably help. If that is more than you care to deal with, hiring a local company to run an estate sale might be your best bet. They take a percentage of what they sell, but they do all the work!
Consider family legacy gifts early: If there are heirlooms or valuable items you plan to leave to your family in your will, consider giving those gifts now. You will get the items out of your way, and you will be able to enjoy giving those items to your loved ones now. Also, use this opportunity to find out if there are any items your children want that you don’t know about.
Allow some time to reminisce: While you are cleaning, there will be times when you want to stop emptying the kids’ bedrooms and just look through the kindergarten drawings, soccer trophies, and once-prized stuffed animals. It’s OK let the nostalgia take over for a bit. Cry if you need to, or move on to another room and come back.
Use this as a chance to bond with family: If possible, invite your kids and grandkids to share in the sorting process. Talk to them about your favorite trinkets and family heirlooms; let them help pack, ask questions, and post items for sale online. Remember, it’s your family that’s important for the memories you cherish, not the stuff around you!
Michael Bihari, MD
President, Neighborhood Falmouth Board of Directors