It is a fact that at some point in our lives we will have to downsize. This article, submitted by RetireGuide®, focuses on those looking forward to retirement, but downsizing affects us all. To read the article in its entirety click the link above.
Downsizing is a major decision, influenced by unique financial and emotional factors. Decluttering a large home is no easy feat. Selling your house, finding a new one, and moving your belongings add further complexity.
It may seem daunting, but don’t let the task ahead overwhelm you. “Decisions about what to keep and what to do with the rest can create decision paralysis,” Anna Novak, downsizing expert and owner of Simply Downsized LLC, told RetireGuide. “It’s a huge reason people have a hard time getting started.”
Novak and other experts recommend setting goals and timelines. Hold yourself accountable. “Generally, once people know where they are going and can envision themselves there, they can start the process of letting go and get excited about a positive change,” Novak said.
Start Small, Give Yourself Time, and Make a Plan
Rushing a move can amplify an already stressful experience. Experts, like Novak, suggest starting small. Tackle one room before starting on another. Give yourself enough time to do the job right.
You won’t finish everything in one weekend. Most experts say the downsizing process takes at least six months to a year to complete. So it’s helpful to put a plan in place. You can find free detailed plans for two-year, one-year and six-month timelines on HomeTransitionPros.com.
The website also offers a 15-minutes-per-day plan along with a “Planning for Downsizing” workbook with checklists and activities to help you prepare.
Be Ruthless — and Realistic
It’s easy to fall in love with objects — and often very difficult to let them go. “Downsizing involves letting go of 70 to 80 percent of the belongings it took you 20 to 30 years to accumulate,” Novak said. Be realistic. Take a hard look at each item in your home. Identify the things that are most useful or loved. Get in a habit of finding obvious things you can get rid of, such as duplicate household items, outdated paperwork, clothing that no longer fits and old magazines.
Donate and Sell Items You Don’t Need
Selling unwanted items is a good way to raise extra money for your move. It also helps to clear space, and there’s satisfaction in knowing that your old items will benefit others. You can use websites like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace to list belongings. You can also try apps like LetGo, OfferUp, and NextDoor.com. Make sure to accept only cash offers to avoid scams. You may also want to meet people at a public place for these transactions.
For smaller items, or those with lesser value, consider holding a yard sale. Other options include selling to collectors, used bookstores, online auction sites, or music stores. Return items to the people they belong to. Is your 40-year-old daughter’s prom dress still hanging in the closet? Ask her if she wants it. If she doesn’t, get rid of it. Some charities, such as the Salvation Army, can pick up items from your doorstep free of charge.
Another option is a website called Give Back Box. Just pack your unwanted items in a box, go to the website and print out a free shipping label. The box will then be mailed to a local charity. Give Back Box will even email you a receipt for a tax deduction.
Consider Hiring an Expert
A growing industry of professionals offers services to help retirees downsize. Senior move managers specialize in helping older adults and their families with the emotional and physical aspects of relocation or aging in place. They even have their own trade organization — the National Association of Senior Move Managers, or NASMM. Its membership has grown from 650 in 2012 to roughly 1,100 in 2020.
Similarly, professional organizers can help you declutter your home, offer emotional support, facilitate the disposal, donation, or sale of unwanted belongings, and set up systems that help you stay organized.
These professionals work alongside you. They do not provide cleaning services. Costs can vary by state and job, but rates usually range between $75 and $150 an hour. That may seem pricey, but the time and effort you save might be worth it. “It’s like hiring a wedding planner for a wedding,” Mary Kay Buysse, executive director of NASMM, told RetireGuide. “Yes, you can probably do the job yourself. But if you want it done seamlessly and want less stress in your life, then hiring a professional is a smart move.”
Buysse said these professionals often offer a menu of services that can be tailored to fit your budget. “It isn’t an elitist thing or something that only people with lots of money can afford,” Buysse said. “Sometimes families will only hire someone for part of the process.” You can also use the NASMM’s online directory to find a senior move manager near you.
Cope with Your Emotions
Wading through a lifetime of memories is daunting — and draining. Downsizing can uncover a well of emotions, including sadness, anxiety, stress, and grief.
According to a 2018 letter from the Harvard Medical School: “Understanding the triggers for these feelings and using strategies to navigate them may not change how you feel, but it may help the downsizing process go more smoothly so you can focus on your next chapter.”
If you find yourself in emotional turmoil, talk to someone. Invite a friend or family member over to help you sort through rooms. Loved ones can listen to you reminisce about sentimental objects while providing you with a gentle push to let go of things you no longer need. “If something’s been a part of your home life for 40 years, it’s not easy to say goodbye,” Buysse said. “Our items tend to become like members of the family.” Even venting to an old friend over the phone after a stressful day of decluttering can calm your nerves and keep you focused.
If you don’t have someone to lean on, consider professional help. You may want to visit your primary care doctor or speak with a therapist.
Contributing article by RetireGuide®