Now that the Baby Boomer Generation nests are empty – the generation started turning 65 in 2011 – they face the emotionally fraught issue of downsizing.
Moving to a smaller place to live is not an easy decision.
Retirement often triggers downsizing, and according to AARP, 10,000 Baby Boomers reach retirement age every day.
These seniors have downsizing on their horizon as a seniorlifestyle.com article says more than 40 percent of Americans, age 50 to 64, plan on moving with the next five years.
Downsizing can be one of the most stressful life events so here are six tips to cope.
Choose Your New Place
Where you wind up will be the driving factor in how you downsize.
There are many options:
1. Renting or buying a smaller home, town home or condo.
2. Moving in with a family member or friend.
3. Finding a retirement community to move to.
4. Those that need more care move to a nursing home, assisted living or memory care facility.
Make a Plan
Once the downsize decision is made your first instinct may be to charge into the attic and start going through keepsakes but that would be a mistake.
First make a senior downsizing plan. There are so many moving parts to downsizing that it can become overwhelming so having a plan will keep everybody organized and focused.
Your plan should be detailed with tasks assigned to yourself, spouse, other family members, friends or professional help.
Think about the new space you are moving into and how that translates from your current space. Which rooms must be completely dispersed?
Planning precisely how much you can move, will make the job of going through your house easier.
Make a list of how you will dispose of items:
- Give away to a friend or family member
- Donate to a charity
- Sell via a garage or estate sale or through sites such as ebay
Give Yourself Time
This is a major moment in your life and it will take time so don't rush it.
After all, you built a lifetime of memories in your home so don’t expect that you can go through all of it in a weekend. To do so would likely leave you and everybody involved an emotional wreck.
Enjoy the process, don’t be afraid to shed a tear or share a hug as you go through items that trigger memories.
If adult children are helping a parent downsize they must allow the parent time to process the act of letting go of things.
Break Up Projects
Stress when downsizing can be managed by breaking up the project.
Take one room or closet at a time, or better yet, take one keepsake box at a time. Each area you go through will feel like an accomplishment and keep your spirits up.
Maybe make Saturday mornings or Sunday evenings a time when you and your spouse can tackle downsizing rooms or certain areas of your home.
When family comes to visit for the holidays, have everybody pitch in and help go through items. Younger and stronger hands can help bring things down out of the attic or up from the basement.
Keep each project to two hours or less so you don’t tire out, physically or emotionally.
Make Yes or No Decisions
When seniors are downsizing they must resist the temptation to make a “maybe pile”!
When looking at items, make yes or no decisions. Packing experts call this the “OHIO” rule or Only Handle It Once.
If you haven’t been using an item recently then the chances are you won’t use it in the future so now is the time to get rid of that waffle maker collecting dust.
Just because you saved 10,000 baseball cards or have an American Doll collection, doesn't mean they must make the move. Take your favorite cards or dolls and make a shadow box that features them and take that to hang on the wall of your new home. The rest can be sold or donated.
Now is the time to give your legacy gifts away to family. You won’t have to pay to move those items and you can enjoy the recipient receiving the gift.
If you are having problems with “yes or no” then ask yourself the following:
- Is it necessary (sleep apnea machine is yes but the 8-foot panda from the fair is probably no)
- Do you really want it (we keep a lot of stuff because somebody gave it to us, not that we want it)
- Does it have sentimental value (keep it or take a photo to cherish and then give it away)
- Is it a duplicate (you don't need two coffeemakers)?
- Is it practical to move (that piano may not fit in your new place and will be expensive to move)?
Hire An Expert If You Are Overwhelmed
If you are feeling overwhelmed when it comes do downsizing there is no shame in hiring an expert to help.
When looking for a downsizing expert make sure they have experience and are insured.
Many companies will claim that can help you downsize but you want to hire somebody that has a proven track record.
The expert you work with needs to be bonded as they will be involved in handling and going through your prized possessions, many with monetary as well as sentimental value.