Senior Citizen's Guide digital books
Senior Citizen's Guide to Philadelphia

Downsizing Your Home
Preparing for the Next Chapter of Your Life!

Staring into the hallway linen closet that was filled with towels and bed linens in every color of the rainbow, 83-year-old Mrs. Jones sighed with resignation. “I wish someone would have told me earlier to begin downsizing. I could have cleaned out this closet months ago when I had the time,” she exclaimed.

Now Mrs. Jones was confronted with making more snap decisions about the possessions in her four bedroom house, because the movers were coming in two days to pack up her furniture, clothing, kitchen articles, and decades of accumulated treasures she would take to her new apartment in a nearby independent living community. She slowly moved from room to room as if in a trance.

Sound familiar? This scenario is repeated daily, as individuals of all ages face the ordeal of moving. Complicating matters is what to do with all the “stuff” that has accumulated over the years - the travel souvenirs, outdated clothing, unused exercise equipment, boxes of toys and art projects that belonged to the kids, and wedding gifts still in their original boxes.

If you are contemplating a move or you don’t want to burden your children with the task of disposing your treasures after you pass, you’ll want to give downsizing some serious thought.

Simply stated, downsizing is assessing your possessions – from basement to attic – and deciding what you will:

Because making these decisions can take a significant amount of time, be very emotional, take its toll physically, and cause considerable stress, it’s best to start the downsizing process early. Why not begin today? Start with a small and manageable task that will give you a sense of success and accomplishment after an hour or two. For example, while watching a favorite television show, sort the contents of a bureau drawer, keeping what is usable and discarding what is broken, frayed, and discolored. Then take a break. Pick it up again in a day or two and work your way up to cleaning out a closet.

Eventually, invite family members to help you make more important downsizing decisions. Ask them if they would like specific items and encourage them to make arrangements to take these items with them, so you can see that progress is being made (It doesn’t help you if they simply move the items to another corner of the house).
Marking larger items, like furniture and artwork, with color-coded sticky notes helps you identify which items will be retained, given away, sold, and discarded. The beauty of working with these colorful sticky notes is that you can easily change your mind by simply switching the notes. The trick here is to remember what each color note represents. For example, yellow means keep, pink means give to Barbara, green means to sell etc.

As you begin to identify more and more items that you will give to family, sell, and donate, you’ll want to allocate space (perhaps a table or a specific room) to keep them separate and easily accessible.

Also keep on the lookout for important documents, such as tax returns, medical documents, investment reports, etc. Place them in a safe spot, perhaps a lock box or a brightly colored carton for easy and quick identification. Shred financial and medical documents that you no longer need to retain; guidelines are available online of what to retain and what should be properly destroyed to avoid identify theft.

Preparing to move from your cherished home of many decades can be overwhelming and fatiguing. If you cannot manage by yourself or with the help of family and friends, you may want to consider contacting a professional senior move management company, to gently guide you through this process and manage the details of your downsizing goals. Senior Transition Services is personally committed to provide its clients the traditional downsizing services they need with the compassion, respect, patience and dignity they deserve.

Finally, if the world of downsizing should become too much for you, remember to what Joseph Campell said and “treasure your relationships, not your possessions.”

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