Tips for Downsizing

~ by Carol Vartulli

You’re headed for fresh, new surroundings, where you’ll be free from the care of a house and yard.  Yet, the transition can be bittersweet: You’ll need to shed belongings, and the task may seem overwhelming.

Downsizing is more manageable when you tap professionals to help.

The process is more manageable when you divide it into stages; here are some tips to guide you through it:

The De-clutter Stage

  • Even if you haven’t made a final decision on where you’ll be living, you can begin planning for your move as early as a year before. Start de-cluttering your current home well before you think about furnishings and cherished possessions.
  • Ask your grown children to remove belongings they have been storing in your basement or attic. This includes childhood treasures, as well as large items, like bicycles, sporting equipment and furniture.
  • Aggregate all your important papers (passports, wills, deeds, medical records, etc.) in one place, and tell a close family member where they are. Discard unnecessary paperwork, but ask an accountant or attorney if you are unsure about what you must keep.
  • Cull through your closets and drawers, because a smaller home may have less closet space. Move items that you have not worn in six months or longer to a separate space. Periodically donate what’s in good condition to donation centers, like Goodwill or charity thrift stores.
  • Determine which accumulated household items you don’t actually use. Since you’ll no longer be doing home repairs and yard work, lawn mowers are obviously “no need” items; they and other tools can be given away or donated. Put kitchen tools and gadgets in a box and return them to their normal places only after you’ve used them. Use the same ‘test’ for small appliances, like waffle irons and ice cream makers.

Limit de-cluttering efforts to monthly or weekly sessions, working no more than two hours at a time. Dividing these tasks into small chunks makes them less onerous.

The Planning Stage

Once you have chosen a new independent living home, you can decide which major household items to take with you.

  • Know exactly how much space you have in your new domain, whether it’s one room, or five.  Measure accurately, noting windows, doors, shelving, and closets, and make a floor plan. Visit your new place several times, so you can envision which pieces of furniture are essential.  Some furniture may serve multiple purposes, such as a decorative chest that doubles as a TV stand.
  • Measure larger pieces to determine how they might fit into your new floor plan.  Furniture for apartments and small homes is designed on a smaller scale. So, if your current sofa is too wide or bulky, you may want to shop for a new look and some just-right pieces.
  • Find new homes for furniture that you cannot keep. Give it to friends or family, donate it to charity, or try selling it locally through ads or websites. Even the priciest furniture is worth only pennies on the dollar once it’s used. If you have valuable antiques or artwork, consult with an appraiser, or an estate auction house.

The Sorting Stage

Sorting your remaining belongings and personal mementos may be the most difficult stage of transitioning to your new home.

  • Photograph large items you must part with, like grandmother’s big brass clock. You can retain memories of the place these items had in your life.
  • Eliminate items you definitely do not want, but don’t sort exhaustively through remaining photographs and small collectibles. These are easily stored, and you may choose to display some of them once you are in your new home.
  • Invite family and friends to participate in sorting and sharing sessions. Mementos evoke memories, and memories are most precious when shared.

If you have a brief time to complete all these stages before your move, and finances permit, you may want to consider hiring a move manager or professional organizer. Senior residences, senior centers and certain realty companies can refer you to experts in downsizing. Click here to learn more about The Osborn’s Easy Move program

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