Are you a Baby Boomer who needs to help your parents downsize and move, or are you thinking about moving from your own large home to a smaller one? Are you overwhelmed when you start to think about what these moves will entail? Are you thinking that it might be easier for you just to toss everything out with the trash and start over again?
These are common concerns Baby Boomers and seniors have when they are faced with the huge task of downsizing and relocating someone to a smaller home, apartment, or retirement community. Everyone can become overwhelmed when thinking about what furniture to bring, what furniture to leave and all of the other details associated with a move. Instead of throwing your memories in the trash, make things easier on yourself by making a plan as you begin this process.
If you are a senior considering a move, it’s probably true that you have lived in your home for the last 20, 30, 40, or 50 years and your home used to be filled with growing children and the neighborhood kids.
You probably have fond memories of happy times and memories of some sad times in your home. At some point in your life, you were able to race up the stairs in your home. Now the staircase has become difficult to manage. Your adult children worry about your safety, or that you might miss a step and fall and not be able to get to the phone for help. The house you love is now too big for you and requires too much work. You and your spouse may both want more time to relax and have a simpler lifestyle. Between the cleaning, house maintenance, snow shoveling, and lawn mowing, you find no time to do the things you really want to do. Perhaps it is time to move to a smaller home.
Like many other seniors, you may have a two story, four or five bedroom home filled with 50 years worth of dishes, furniture, slides, collections, and your children’s old term papers and toys.
It has taken many years to accumulate all of this stuff. An attic, garage, or basement that has not been emptied for decades can be a daunting task.
This is the difficult issue facing many seniors, Baby Boomers, and healthcare providers. For seniors, their adult children -- and potential helpers -- may live far away or be part of the sandwich generation and are already overwhelmed with trying to manage their own lives while raising children and building their careers. As much as they would like to help their parents, they may not be able to.
Consider these points when starting the process of downsizing and moving on.
- A good way to start is to get someone to help you through the downsizing process because it can be overwhelming. You need help and support.
- Think about starting now, even if you don’t plan on moving for awhile. It can take some time to sort things out in your attic, basement, garage, and the rest of the house.
- Consider the amount of space you will have in your new home. This will help to eliminate moving items that will not physically fit.
- Remember: moving can be expensive. Eliminating some weight and bulk can help reduce moving costs. That box of canned goods may not be worth moving. It may cost you more to move it than to replace it. Consider donating it to your local food pantry.
- Get the floor plan of the place you are moving into including locations of doorways, windows, phone and cable jacks.
- Begin with a room that you do not utilize in your existing home and use it as storage to pack up the items you decide to bring to your new home.
- Think about what you really need. Will you need place settings for 12 or will six work? Do you really need three turkey roasters? When is the last time you made Thanksgiving dinner or do you always go to your son’s home for Thanksgiving?
- Consider donations to social services agencies. You may be able to use the donation as a tax deduction and you are helping someone else in need.
- Why not give pieces of furniture or other possessions to family members or friends who have admired them for years? If your granddaughter has always loved your china hutch, why not give to her now and see the joy and happiness that it brings her today?
- Adult children need to pick up their stuff out of your attic or spare bedroom! Unless you have decided to go into the rental storage business, adult children need to get their stuff out of your home.
- Measure the furniture you want to take with you and compare it to the floor plan of your new home to see if it will fit.
- Do not overwhelm yourself. Start with baby steps. Work a little each day on a section of your home: a drawer, or a closet shelf.
- If you feel overwhelmed looking at a pile of papers that you need to sort through, start with just 15 minutes. Set an egg timer for 15 minutes, sort through the pile and then stop working when the timer goes off. You will make some progress and can start again the next day. Before you know it, you will have sorted through dresser drawers.
- Remember every item you own requires your time, energy, maintenance, and money. Decide if the item is worth keeping.
While downsizing can be an emotionally and physically overwhelming process, it can be achieved through planning and organization. Taking it one step at a time with some assistance can make the downsizing process and move to a new home a little easier.
By Vickie Dellaquila
Vickie Dellaquila is a Certified Professional Organizer and owner of Organization Rules, Inc, located in Pittsburgh, PA. Her company provides senior downsizing, relocation and residential organizing services. She is also the author of Don’t Toss My Memories in the Trash -- A Step-by-Step Guide to Helping Seniors Downsize, Organize, and Move and the accompanying workbook. For more information, visit www.OrganizationRules.com or 412-913-0554.