There comes a time in a person’s life when they become overwhelmed with the amount of ‘stuff’ acquired. Some people arrive at this point faster than others. Maybe they’re in their mid 30’s or 40’s. Usually, though, it’s the senior population that looks to downsizing what they own.
This can be for many reasons. They need to move to a smaller place or they’re moving in with family or to an assisted living facility. Whatever the reason, downsizing needs to be done with compassion, care and in an organized manner. Anything less can cause strife in the life of the senior you’re trying to help.
1. Step (or Room) at a Time
The thought of downsizing can be overwhelming. It’s hard to know where to begin. There’s an old adage about eating an elephant. ‘How do you eat an elephant?” The answer: ‘One bite at a time’.
Assign that same logic to downsizing your possessions. How do you downsize your house? One room at a time.
When you begin, you’ll need to sort your treasures into three piles: Keep, donate/give away and trash. As you go through each item in each room, they need to go into one of these three piles. There’s no ‘decide later’ pile or ‘I just don’t know’ pile. It has to be three piles, labeled as above or the downsizing will take forever, be more painful or not get completed at all.
2. Get Rid of Duplicates
You’ll find this is especially true in your kitchen. You have two or three spatulas and ladles, a couple of oversized stock pots, and four different sized cookie sheets. Now’s the time to reduce the clutter. If you’re feeling wary of handing off that second roasting pan because you use it every Christmas (but at no other time during the year), consider giving it to a child or grandchild who can bring it over for the holiday and take it home when they leave.
3. Sell What You Don’t Need
There are numerous smartphone apps, yard sales, and an abundance of consignment shops, making selling your belongings has never been easier. You probably won’t make a ton of money on most items, so consider how much time you want to invest.
Yard sales are usually faster, but items won’t sell for as much. Apps like Facebook Marketplace, LetGo, and UpWorthy give you a much wider audience to sell to and you can probably get more for your stuff. A consignment store is a good option for high-end furniture, handbags, and other accessories; prices are reasonable, and they’ll sometimes pick up heavy furniture for you.
If you aren’t handy with a computer, your grandchildren can probably help. If that all sounds like more than you care to deal with, hiring a firm to run an estate sale might be your best bet.
4. Shred Some Paper
Paper piles up around the house quicker than you can blink. These days most bills can be paid online or through automatic withdrawal to reduce paper. But there’s still plenty of other paper documents that you keep around. You only need to keep seven years of tax records so go ahead and prepare a pile to send to the shredder. If you don’t have a shredder at home you can take a box of papers to a Staples store to get shredded or if you’ve got more than that, try calling a mobile shredder. Try setting up a compact office in your new place.
5. Think Inheritance/Legacy Gifts
Is there a piano that you plan to one day leave to your son? Maybe there’s a china collection your granddaughter adores? Consider giving certain heirlooms or pieces as gifts now instead of in your will.
This has two benefits: you’ll get the items out of our way, and you’ll be able to enjoy the feeling of giving those items to your loved ones now. While you’re at it, find out if there are any items your children want that you don’t know about — you might find an easy way to make them happy and lighten your load.
The End Result
Downsizing is never a task anyone looks forward to doing. It’s an entailed process that takes time, but in the end, nearly everyone who has ever gone through it feels much better as a result.
It’s just taking that first step that’s the hardest. Ending up with more money, more space and less time taking care of things you don’t need are just some of the benefits you’ll come out with on the other side.