It’s a natural fact of life – the more you age, the more you acquire. One day, you’re newlyweds buying your first home and filling it with nothing more than the hand-me-down furniture you get from your friends and family. Then, in what seems like the blink of an eye, you’re living in your third home – and the children who once filled it with love and excitement have grown up and have kids of their own. Your now empty nest, filled with a lifetime of precious memories, has become too large for you to maintain yourself. You know that you need to downsize, but the thought of doing so is overwhelming – where do you begin?
A few suggestions you can use to help get the ball rolling:
1. Don’t rush –
When first beginning the process of sorting through your belongings, it can be emotionally taxing. Try to avoid jumping headlong into it – perhaps starting on an easier room, like a bathroom, with fewer things in it that you are emotionally attached to. Be sure to take time out for breaks along the way as well, giving yourself some time to take your mind off things for a bit.
2. Think through your needs at this stage in your life –
How long have you had that weight set in your spare bedroom? You may have had big plans for those dumbbells at one time, but how realistic is it that you will use them? Maybe it makes more sense to sell them (or give them away) and invest in a nice pair of walking shoes instead. They take up less space, and you may be more likely to use them. How about that old fishing equipment in the garage? You used to fish with multiple rods and tackle boxes back when you had a boat, but since you sold it, maybe you can get by with just one rod and one tackle box and give the rest away.
3. Create digital copies of photos –
Photos are among the most precious memories a person will ever accumulate. They can also be very hard to let go of – but who says you have to? As photos age, the image quality degrades. Find a tech-savvy friend or family member and ask them to scan all of your photo albums for you and store them digitally on your computer. This will eliminate the need for extra space to store stacks of old photo albums, protect your photos from damage, and make it easy for you to view them whenever, wherever you want to.
4. Save it for later –
You will find that some things are easy to get rid of – especially if there is no personal attachment to them. At times, though, you may find yourself struggling to decide whether or not you can bear parting with certain items. Designate a special box or bin for these items, and next time you come across something you are indecisive about, place it inside. Sometimes a little separation from these items gives you time to think more clearly and objectively about them. This makes it much easier to have a greater confidence in deciding what you absolutely must keep, and what you can give away.
5. Work with a senior move manager –
Senior move managers are specialists who help with every step of the downsizing process – from sorting through your belongings, to hiring a mover, to arranging your new living space for you.
Kimberly Alwin, member and secretary for the National Association of Senior Move Managers (www.nasmm.org) and owner of A Smooth Move in Austin, MN, believes that hiring a move coordinator can be a great first step. “We always begin with a consultation,” Alwin said. “Sometimes we work with just the people making the move, and sometimes we work with the entire family, but it is good to have that initial point of contact so we can begin talking through the process,” she added.
While they provide a number of services for seniors looking to downsize, one of the most important is helping them to visualize what their new living arrangement will look like with their possessions in it. “We walk through the layout of their new living space together, complete with furniture placement, to help paint a realistic picture of how their things are going to fit before they move,” said Alwin.
Senior move specialists will take photos of how someone’s home is decorated, and then arrange their new living space to look and feel as much like the original as possible. “We want to help people understand that downsizing does not mean letting go of all the things that they love. In the end you can see the weight lifted off their shoulders when the move is complete and their new space feels a lot like their last home did,” she added.
Another thing that a move manager can do is provide objectivity. Often times, when you are dealing with so many things that have so many memories attached, it can be difficult to judge whether or not something should be held on to. A move manager provides a mechanism for people to step outside of their emotions and talk through the decision-making process rationally, leading to more confident decisions and more effective use of time.
If you have questions for us, Primrose would be honored to assist you. Feel free to visit our website at www.primroseretirement.com for more information.