Downsizing for a senior is one of those steps in life which is an acknowledgement of changing circumstances, and a look ahead to the time of life when your world becomes just a bit smaller. The frequency and the nature of travel, and of other engaging activities becomes a lot less, and there just aren’t as many opportunities for visiting far-off relatives or vacation destinations. This is not to say that downsizing signals a time of coming withdrawal from society, but it does take into account the fact that seniors are generally less mobile, and less involved in a number of social activities.
When you need to prepare for living in more modest circumstances than you enjoyed for much of your earlier life, there are some planning thoughts that can ease the process, and make it more fruitful. Professional caregivers have had the opportunity to observe and sometimes participate in some of these downsizing processes, and can offer some useful pointers to help make the whole process go more smoothly.
Take Your Time
It’s rare that circumstances dictate you having to downsize all in the space of a week or a month. In a situation like that, all advice is pretty much out the window – it’s just a mad scramble to jettison unneeded possessions, while deciding what you absolutely can’t live without. In virtually all cases, when the time comes for downsizing, it will be a situation that is several months or more in the future.
For instance, when a spouse has passed on and you’re selling a home so you can move in with a family member, it’s not usually a spur of the moment decision. Everyone sees it coming, and everyone understands that a little planning is necessary to make it work right. It literally takes decades to fill a home up with memories and reminders of important events and milestones, so no one should expect all that to be decided away in a few days or weeks. Take your time, and give the proper amount of consideration to what you should keep with you, and what you can live without in the new setting.
Stop Storing Kids’ Stuff
This doesn’t just mean you should tell your sons and daughters to stop leaving things at your house, it means you need to go through all the things they’ve dumped off at your house over the years. You may even have toys they played with when they were very young. Of course these will have sentimental value, but chances are you’re not going to have the room for all that sentiment in the more confined area of your new living quarters. There are probably a lot of other things you’ve stored for them for a long time, that even they didn’t want. There might be some hard decisions involved with this, but if your kids want these items, let your kids store them.
Establish Discard Criteria
In order to make the whole process a lot easier, with a lot less heartburn, it would be a good idea to establish for yourself a set of criteria which you can then apply to everything that comes up. Once you’ve decided on rules for keeping things and rules for discarding things, it should help you categorize almost everything in the home. For instance, if you decide for yourself that you aren’t keeping anything that once belonged to your children, make that a firm rule and it will make decisions a lot easier.
One consideration that may help in this regard is thinking about how often you actually use something. If you never use it or seldom use it, there’s probably no reason to take it with you. Even if you allow yourself an exception or two, keeping to the rule 99% of the time will eliminate all the agonizing choices that might otherwise plague you.
Organize a Yard Sale
When you’ve decided on most of the things that you’ll be taking with you to the new living quarters, that means you’ll also know what you’re not taking. Why not organize a yard sale to let go of all those things that won’t have a place at your new home? You can let everything go dirt cheap, because the point of the sale isn’t really to make money, but to unload all those things you won’t be needing, and perhaps give them a new home as well.
Along these same lines, you can plan one last ‘Downsizing Party’, an event that you invite all your friends and relatives to, with the understanding that they each must take at least one item home with them. You can arrange to have all those items centrally located in a ‘giveaway area’, and all your guests can make their choices during the course of the celebration. Between the yard sale and the downsizing party, you just might be able to give away enough things to significantly ease your burden when it comes time to move.
The main thing is – give yourself enough time for the downsizing effort so that it isn’t done frantically. Anything done under pressure and in a compressed time frame can be a lot more problematic and a lot more gut-wrenching. Your new home and your new life should put all that behind you.