DOWNSIZING

According to the Social Readjustment Rating Scale, aka the Stress Scale, only the loss of a partner or divorce rank as more stressful than moving to a higher level of care, such as a retirement community or personal care facility.

 That said, it’s no wonder that so many seniors are hesitant to move.  Uncertainty and sentimental attachment to places and things can make the notion of moving less than palatable.  Add to that the work behind downsizing and things can seem quite overwhelming indeed.  This can cause delays moving until more care becomes critical. Sadly, folks will then only move out of necessity instead of by choice or enjoyment, making it even more difficult.

 Family members with limited options for supplying help worry as well.  They want to be sure their loved ones are receiving not only excellent care and services but are also enjoying themselves socially.  Yet helping Mom or Dad pack up and move is tough.

 It can seem like letting go of the things and places associated with happy memories is impossible as care needs change.  Hesitating to let go of their homes or possessions out of sentimentality is a common obstacle, yet the one bit of feedback I hear from folks over and over again is, “I should have done it sooner.”

 To help ease the worry associated with downsizing, this edition of The Tuesday Ten will give some helpful tips on how to handle your stuff while holding onto your good memories, as well as your sanity.

 1.    Use Your Time Wisely – Start downsizing before the need arises.  Planning on moving in a couple of years? Then now is the perfect time to start.  Once you do start don’t tackle your whole house at one time; it’s both physically and emotionally exhausting.  Instead, break your time up into reasonable portions.  Generally, two hours is enough time to make a satisfying dent in downsizing without causing too much stress.

2.    Say No to Maybes – When asking yourself whether you should keep something, ask yourself in the form of “yes” or “no” questions.  For example, when downsizing your kitchen, instead of thinking you may need a full service of dishes for 8 because your might one day host a large dinner party, ask, “Have I hosted large dinner parties in the past?” “Do I plan to regularly host dinner parties in the future?” “Would service for 4 be enough instead?”  Answering “yes” or “no” is a good way to help determine whether you’re thinking realistically and helps keep the “maybe pile” away.

3.    If It’s Not in Good Condition, Toss It – If it’s chipped, cracked, torn, or frayed, chances are it should be replaced.  Don’t hesitate to toss items that are not in tip-top condition.  Some folks will make the mistake of thinking they’ll repair or mend these items “later,” but surprisingly (or not so surprisingly) “later” never comes.  Don’t add to your burden of worry by keeping these items to fix “later.”

4.    Take Photos – Collections, knick knacks, bric-a-brac, tchotchkes, trinkets, whatever you call them, they can take up a lot of space.  Keep only those pieces most important to you and take photos of the rest.  The photos can then be placed in albums, still allowing you to sit and enjoy each item while keeping premium space free.

5.    Speaking of Photos… - Photos are wonderful.  They capture precious memories of good times.  They can also take up a lot of space and energy if they’re not classified in albums.  Loose photos add another big “TO DO” to your list.  Consider tackling those boxes of photos by either putting them into albums or converting them to digital media to view easily on a computer or digital photo frame.  Tech savvy?  Try creating photo albums online with your computer or smart phone via any number of excellent photo services, like Snapfish or Shutterfly.

6.    Give Now – Instead of gifting your loved ones with your most precious things when you’re gone, give them now while you are around to see their enjoyment.  Wouldn’t you rather see your daughter wearing your mother’s pearls now, rather than waiting?

7.    Host a Free Yard Sale – Have some things to discard but don’t feel like hauling  it all to donate?  Place them outside with a sign that says, “FREE! HELP YOURSELF.”  You’ll be surprised at how quickly things go. After all, who doesn’t love a “free” price tag?  This strategy helps thin the bulk out of items that may be tough to transport elsewhere, like books or records.

8.    Investigate Local Charities – Giving to charity is always satisfying.  It can help to know that your items will benefit someone either through re-use or re-sale.  Before putting all of your eggs in one basket, so to speak, call your local charities to see what items they will or will not accept, and whether or not they might pick items up at your doorstep.  Don’t forget to ask for a receipt for tax deductions!

9.    Ask Local Organizations or Your New Community – Have a lot of books to give away?  Call your local library.  Have a lot of clothing?  Contact a homeless shelter or transitional housing organization.  Have some sporting equipment?  Call your local athletic association or school district.  Many organizations have limited budgets and appreciate donated items to keep programs running.  Don’t forget to contact your new retirement community as well.  Often, they’re happy to use items in good condition, like furniture or artwork.  This can help you feel a little more at home in your new community.

10. Call the Pros – When in doubt, call the pros.  If you’re unsure of your items’ worth be sure to get in touch with someone who can help. Contact local appraisers or home downsizing experts for help determining the value of your items.  And don’t be shy about getting a second opinion.  When it comes to your valuables, you want a fair price. 

If all else fails, and your move is so overwhelming that you don’t know how or where to start, reach out to a senior move manager.  The National Association of Senior Move Managers is a community of professionals who are trained to help seniors transition to their next phase of living.  Visit www.nasmm.org for more information.

 Good luck on your latest living adventure!