Downsizing: How to make it as (relatively) painless as possible

By Jared Bilski
December 21st, 2018 Health & Wellness No Comments

For many older adults, the new year is the time when they finally resolve themselves to do something they’ve been thinking about for a long, long time. They’ll finally downsize. 

It doesn’t matter whether the reason is to simplify their lifestyle, to reduce their property upkeep, to save money or to address medical issues, the process is generally stressful and emotionally and physically exhausting for all involved.

But if you’re not prepared for what the process is involves, the stress can be exponentially worse.

That’s why we’ve scoured the web for expert tips from places like MYMOVE, a company with an exclusive relationship with the USPS® that allows them to connect customers with roughly 39 million movers every year, to help you with the process.

Here are five of our favorite best practices we’ve found.

1. Block out a huge swatch of time. There’s a tendency to try to rush the downsizing process along as quickly as possible. The thought being it’s like ripping off a band aid, the sooner it’s over, the better. While this mindset is certainly understandable, it’s also almost always a mistake. For one thing, in 99% of the cases, the process takes much longer than people expect. When things go much longer than anticipated, stress levels are increased.

Instead, experts recommend giving yourself at least a month to sort through the house and strategically determine what should be kept and what you can bear to part with. Another option: Planning it out one room at a time, giving yourself plenty of time to look at everything on an item-by-item basis.

2. Work-up to the tough stuff. There are going to plenty of tough decisions to make during the downsizing process, so give yourself some practice to work up to the emotional items. Start by getting rid of the little things you know you can part with. Maybe you have a plethora of dollar-store cookie tins that you’ve been accumulating for years and years and years and now they’re doing nothing but taking up place in your kitchen. Just toss ’em. You may just find the act to be liberating. It could also unlock something in you that helps get the entire downsizing process going. Keep in mind that basements and garages tend to be the hardest rooms to condense because they rack up all the old hobbies, mementos and sentimental items that tend to be the hardest to say goodbye to.

Another problem you may run into when you’re shedding is finding the right amount of stuff (backups included) to bring to the new place? For example, if you’re going from a six-bedroom Jane Fondaesque bungalow to a quaint two-bedroom home, how many sets of sheets do you really need? There are countless downsizing checklists on the interwebs that can help. Here’s one of them.

3. Don’t bring stuff from rooms you won’t have. One very practical downsizing tip is simply to avoid bringing anything from rooms you won’t have in your new house. For example, if you’re moving to a townhouse without an office, get rid of all the office belongings that won’t fit. One very critical exception: Important tax and financial documents.

4. Steer clear of the ‘Maybe’ pile at all costs! Because so many items from your old home may hold an emotional attachment for you, it’s easy to say, “You know what, let’s just put this aside in case we have room for it.” What you’re doing here is creating a Maybe pile. Avoid this at all costs! In nine out of 10 cases, the Maybe pile winds up being bigger than the other two piles combined. Plus, it could drag the downsizing process on for weeks — or months if you’re a hoarder (Hoarders is my friend Irma’s absolute favorite show, which is ironic because she’s a bit of a pack rat herself 😉).

5. To push through tough emotional spells … sell, sell, sell! While it may sound like shallow advice, selling some of your belongings is a great way to take the sting out of the downsizing process … seriously. Many older adults take some solace in the fact that they can earn some extra cash when they scale back. Plus, with Craigslist, Ebay and a myriad of other smartphone apps, the selling process has never been easier. If you’re more old-school, there’s yard sales (posted on many online sites), consignment shops and antique dealers.

With the help of these simple tips, you may find the process of downsizing, while no doubt still challenging and emotionally taxing, is actually not bad as you initially anticipated. And remember, staying healthy in your golden years adds an extra layer of complexity to all major decisions. That’s why a Woodhaven at Home Care Coordinator can be invaluable. Find out more about this, here.

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