One of our primarily services at Integrated Move Management is to help seniors downsize from their life-long home in order to move to a smaller retirement living situation. This involves determining what possessions should be brought to their new home, creating a floor plan to ensure it will fit, finding good homes for the items they can’t bring, helping them to pack what they are taking and helping them unpack and settle in to their new home. We enjoy every aspect of these services, but find the most difficult part is working with our clients on “downsizing” or “rightsizing” their possessions. Moving is a stressful process no matter what, but when you add the downsizing component, it can be completely overwhelming. There are so many decisions to be made and so much to do. Additionally, quite often there is a death, illness or other difficult situation that precipitates the move – adding more stress.
As Professional Move Managers, we struggle to find the correct balance between strongly encouraging our clients to move only what will comfortably fit in their new home versus not forcing the issue when we see the senior becoming overwhelmed or sad. “Letting go” of so many memories and sentimental items is definitely hard for a senior – but we have also seen the anxiety and stress they feel on move in day when they realize that what they chose to bring will not fit into their new space. On a recent move in the Portland area, the client needed to store luggage, furniture and kitchen items on the porch until they determined a course of action (thankfully it was summer). Following are a few ideas of how to think about this process in order to move forward:
- Your Family Probably Doesn’t Want Your Possessions– it is common for seniors to think that maybe their kids or grandkids will someday want their dining room set or other family possessions. The odds are very much against this. By understanding this, you can then realize you are doing everyone a favor by dealing with dispersing these items now instead of saving for others to take care of later.
- If You Can Start the Process, You Will No Doubt Enjoy It– The process of making solid decisions on items that you haven’t used in years or you really don’t like can be cathartic and liberating. Material possessions, even those that once really meant something to you, can weigh us down. If you can start the process, it typically becomes easier – especially as you can see progress.
- Stuff Can Be Expensive– If you can’t make decisions on your “extra” possessions prior to moving, you may end up with a storage unit. And once you move on with your life after your move, you may put dealing with the items in the unit on the back burner. This can become quite costly. I recently worked with a client who said they had planned to store items for a short period, but still had the items stored 3 years later. At $300/month – that is over a $10,000 bill.
- Move-In Day Chaos and Beyond– As I mentioned above, moving day is no fun if you can’t squeeze everything you bring into your new home. Going through the downsizing process in preparation for a move can definitely be challenging for a senior, but it is equally stressful and challenging for a senior when they realize they will be living buried in their possessions with no breathing room. Even if you are able to shoe horn everything in, living with closets and cabinets packed to overflow is not desirable. Also, an abundance of furniture without ample walking room (especially if a walker or wheel chair is necessary) can be a safety concern for a senior.
- There Are Other Ways– It, of course, is sad to say goodbye to items that hold memories or were given to you by a loved one. But there are other ways to hold onto those memories. Instead of taking five large storage containers of your grandchildren’s art – either pick a few of the best pieces and have them framed or take pictures of them so you will always have a digital copy you can look at. If you are moving to a retirement community where your meals will be provided – you probably don’t need 16 place settings of your favorite dishes. Perhaps only take 4 place settings. If you are a collector of items, e.g. tea cups, dolls, books or videos, it may be time to pick a few of your favorites and see if you can sell the rest. This goes for clothes as well – save only those items that you feel good wearing and donate or consign the remainder. Lastly, paperwork . . . I am not saying it will be the best weekend of your life sorting through your files, but moving years of paperwork that you no longer legally need to your new home may cause more than one not so fun weekend.
- Feeling Good – Donating a cherished item to a good cause can bring about good feelings and perhaps diminish some of the sadness from the loss of the item. There are so many organizations you can donate to – finding something you are passionate about can ease the pain.