Solutions to make downsizing simpler for seniors
“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven…a time to keep, and a time to throw away.” Ecclesiastes 3:1, 6
In 1997, the U.S. Bureau of Census projected that between 1997 and 2050, the population aged 65 and older will grow from 12.7% to 20% off the total population – a 230% increase. And it is also reported that the life expectancy of this group of people will be 80 years. These statistics beg the questions that many elderly people are asking, “Where do we live now? Do we stay in our large home where we raised our family even though it is too much space now and too difficult to keep up? Or do we move to a retirement facility?”
Many will find that the answer lies in downsizing to a more manageable living space. So where to begin? Kathy Jenkins, Professional Organizer with Come To Order, suggests, “Start in an area of the house that you do not use. That may sound silly, but it gives you the freedom to work at your own pace without disrupting you day-to-day life.” These rooms often contain items that have not been used in a long time; therefore the things that go will most likely not be missed when they are gone. As you go through the room begin in one corner and work your way around the room. Get boxes and mark them: KEEP, GIVE AWAY TO FAMILY/FRIEND, SELL, CHARITY, or TOSS. Make the commitment to get the items which are marked GIVE AWAY, CHARITY or TOSS out of the room as soon as possible. “Working in this way will allow you to see results very early on in the process, which will in turn inspire you to keep moving forward with the downsizing.” advises Betsy Frazier of Organizing Solutionz.
As you go through all the many treasures that you have collected over the years it is important that you choose to keep only the items that you need or use regularly together along with the things that will make you feel at home. “The goal in this process is to simplify.” reminds Betsy. You will get more enjoyment out of seeing a prized possession used by someone else rather than collecting dust or boxed up in a storage area. Kathy recommends that this is a really good time to consult with a Professional Organizer, as many times it is easier for someone not emotionally attached to help make the tough decisions as to what can stay and what must go.
Tell your kids “come get your stuff.” We all know that parents keep a multitude of childhood and school related memorabilia with the thought that someday the kids are going to want it. Now is the time for you to pass it on and let your children make the decision as to what to keep.
“Once you have determined where they are going to move, it is very important that you plan your new space.” says Kathy. Moving day is not the time to find that everything does not fit. If you are planning to move to an “over 55 community” or retirement facility, you will most likely have a floor plan with measurements. Home Improvement stores have kits with furniture templates that will help you determine what can move with you to your new home.
Finally, keep in mind that downsizing can be a very emotional process. You need to allow yourself the time and flexibility to move through the process at your own pace. Expect that some items will cause you to re-live a happy time; some may even cause you to re-grieve a loss. Therefore do not rush into making a decision if one is not readily made. Rather think of this reduction of belongings as a natural process, like leaves falling from the tree in the autumn. And know that a fresh start lies ahead at the end of the process — your new spring!
I recently went through this process. I had to de-clutter my house, garage, and shed in order to put my house on the market to sell. I had a dumpster in my driveway for 2 weeks and managed to fill it about 2/3s of the way! With 25 years worth of stuff accumulated over a marriage and 3 kids, there was plenty to sort through. It was an emotional process, but in the end, I felt renewed and lighter. I downsized from a 2,800 sq. ft. home to one of about 1,300. It was challenging, and I still have Round 2 to go, those items that I put aside to deal with later. They now sit in my new basement and shed. I will definitely finish the job this fall, as I now know what a good feeling it will be to have it all done.