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Ready To Downsize?

How much of your life experience have you really been able to anticipate with accuracy? You plan your career, plot financial and family goals, carve out retirement dreams, but then find yourself in a different place entirely. English poet Edmund Spenser speaks of “The ever-whirling wheel of Change.”

Today’s senior generation probably never imagined raising grandchildren while caring for elderly parents. They may never have imagined grown children moving back home. They may even have imagined remaining in their present home for the rest of their lives. But then “The ever-whirling wheel of Change” rolled in.

During their early 50s, empty-nesters Wallace and Rose built and furnished a spacious two-story home, intended to be their final residence. They were grateful to have the space when each of their children moved back in temporarily, and during the period they helped raise a grandchild.

Over time however, the stairs became a challenge for Wallace. And, as much as she loved her home, Rose too began thinking about the benefits of a smaller, one-level house. Thus, began the business of downsizing. Here is what they learned.

The first step was to assess how much smaller they could go without being cramped. Did they want a house or a condo? Did they still want to maintain a yard? How close to healthcare and shopping would they need to be? Finding a place that met their criteria, which furnishings would fit within the smaller footprint?

Measuring their furniture against room sizes in the new house, and noting the placement of doors and windows, Rose found she would
have to sell her much-loved trestle table that had hosted so many happy family dinners. Wallace’s over-sized recliner would also have to go.

In checking the size and number of closets and kitchen cabinets in the new home, they found it practical to purchase clear plastic bins for additional storage.

They also learned that downsizing requires examining everything you own. It meant stripping every closet, cabinet, drawer, and shelf, putting back only frequently-used items. The remainder was bagged or boxed to sell or give away.

Rose recommends being brutally honest about how often you use an item, and whether you’re keeping a gizmo or gadget for “someday.” Include everything in your assessment–from furniture to books, kitchenware to room décor.

When you finish with the living areas, move on to the attic, the basement, garage/shed, and repeat the process. And when packing, be sure to label each box!

Anything you can’t bear to part with, but for which you won’t have room can be put in storage until you’re ready to dispose of it. (Rose now loves the idea that her big table is filling the need for another growing family.)

Utilize websites such as vci.net, eBay and Craigslist, as well as consignment stores to sell your items. Remember Goodwill, The Salvation Army and other local organizations for donating the rest.

Wallace says that on moving day, it’s best to bring in and place the large furniture first, room by room, to avoid the nuisance of scattered furnishings and stacks of boxes. Stash storage items well out of the way.

Since you’ve labeled the boxes and kept only what you need, unpacking should be reasonably simple and orderly.

Wallace and Rose have moved enough times in their long lives to know it’s always an ordeal, but having simplified their lifestyle, they’re content, even while recognizing that more changes undoubtedly loom on the horizon.

Perhaps Washington Irving* captured this essence of change when he penned, “There is a certain relief in change, even though it be from bad to worse; as I have found in traveling in a stage-coach, that it is often a comfort to shift one’s position and be bruised in a new place.”

*American writer, 1783-1859

Article by Constance Watkins