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How to Downsize When Moving to a Smaller Home

Getting Rid of Stuff

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If you're experiencing the empty-nest syndrome or you have an older relative who is moving from a family home into a care facility, you'll need to look at downsizing the current household contents to determine what is needed and what will fit into the new home.

Whether you're doing this for yourself or for someone else, downsizing is never easy. We tend to "downsize" each time we move, and I always dread the process. It's never easy to choose and it's even more difficult to give-up items that you've had for a long time.

So, where do you start?

Identify Where You'll Take Your Extra Things

After the death of our mother, my sister and I spent a few months going through her things, trying to determine where we would take everything and who would get what. It was difficult. We didn't want to part with anything as our mother's belongings were all we had left.

When faced with this problem, I found it easier to deal with after deciding where her things would end up. I felt better giving her clothes to her sister than to a charity (although the charity would have found deserving homes), or her bedroom suite to my sister who I knew would care for it and treasure it.

So, before you even decide what you need to give away, decide where it will go; relatives, friends, charities, or to auction. Make a list, then as you go through the house, start placing items next to the receivers.

Assess the New Home

Obtain a blueprint or layout of your new home; find out exactly the size of each room, then decide which large pieces of furniture can move with you. Knowing what will fit and what won't will make the decision a little easier.

Measure each piece of furniture. For example, will your bed fit in the new bedroom, and if it can, what about the two dressers and nightstand? Will you have enough room to

Go Through Each Room and Ask Questions

First, start with the areas of your home that you don't use much, such as the attic, the basement, the laundry room or spare room. It's easier to get rid of belongings from rooms that are mostly used for storage. There is less sentimental attachment and more items that are simply being stored rather than used.

Pack as you go. Gather packing supplies and slowly make your way through each room. Sort, pile and pack. Keep items you're donating or giving to friends or family in one room or area of the house, preferably somewhere that you don't go very often. Or better yet, once you have a lot of items ready, call the people whom you'd like to have it, whether it's your family or a charitable organization. Get items out of your reach as soon as possible. It's so easy to change your mind or to start pulling items out of the pile.

And as you go through each room, ask yourself some questions about each item:

  • When was the last time I used this?
  • If I do use it, how often and why? What purpose does it serve?
  • Do I own another item that can serve the same purpose as this one?
  • Is this item something I love? Does it have sentimental value that can't be replaced?
  • Can I get by without it? Would I have to replace it if I choose to get rid of it?
  • Is it in good shape? Will it last for a long time?
  • Does it need repair, and if so, how much will that cost and is it worth the price?
  • Do I know someone else who would benefit a lot more from its use?
  • Does it serve a purpose in this new life that I'm moving to?

Be Kind to Yourself or to the Relative that's Moving

Remember, moving isn't easy; it presents a significant change that's both physically exhausting and in most cases, emotionally draining as well. Add to that the fact that you or a loved one is downsizing, moving from a beloved family home to a condo or retirement community. That's even a bigger change that touches an even deeper emotional trigger. So, remember these thoughts as you start this new stage in your life:
  • Be sensitive to yourself or to the relative that's moving.
  • Remind yourself that you're goal is not to get rid of everything you hold dear, but to simplify your life.
  • Be patient and kind.
  • Be understanding if you or your loved one is upset.
  • Give yourself time to work through it. If you're tired, rest. Take a break. Go for a walk. Talk to someone.
  • Allow yourself to grieve the loss.
  • If you're having a difficult time, ask for help.
  • If you can't decide on an item, remember that it can go into storage until you're ready.
  • Allow yourself or your relative to remember. Belongings all contain memories, so take the time to reflect. It's an important step in possibly letting go.

Once you've managed to pack up your home, try to celebrate this new stage in your life. Call a friend. Go out for dinner and just be good to yourself. You deserve it.

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