Four Tips for Downsizing
Unless you are one of the few people who follow the mantra, "if I haven't touched it in a year, I don't need it," preparing for a move almost always feels like a daunting task. The longer we live in our homes, the more 'stuff' we accumulate. And while some items may not have significant monetary value, they almost certainly have sentimental value – things practically impossible to replace.
Over the past 15+ years working with seniors and their loved ones, I have accumulated four tips that have proven helpful when downsizing and preparing for a move into a retirement community.
Gather a team and communicate
Discuss your downsizing plans with your family and support system. Enlist their help (if you want it). When everyone is well informed, it makes the rest of the road much smoother. Unless, of course, you enjoy spirited debates on moving day regarding which items should go on the moving truck. Or come back off. Again.
Color codes for visualization
Sticky notes are a great way to visually keep track of the items you will or won't be bringing to your new home. Additionally, they will help you keep track of what you have decided to do with any remaining items that won't be making the move.
To get started on the visualization project, you will need four or five different colored sticky notes – each color should represent a specific decision.
- Green: items you absolutely can’t live without.
- Blue: items you would like to take if you have room.
- Yellow: keepsakes you want to give to loved ones (be sure to write their name on the sticky note)
- Orange: items you plan to sell
- Pink: items you wish to donate
Next, go through your home with the sticky notes and use them to identify what you plan to do with that particular object. Group small items together in one box or on a separate table, so you don’t have to keep track of a thousand sticky notes on each book or crystal figurine.
If possible, get a floor plan for your new apartment home so you can play with different furniture layouts. Having a floor plan will help you visualize what items will fit in your new home.
Let it marinate
Once you've sorted your items with sticky notes and identified furniture layout with a floor plan of your new place, let the visuals sink in. Moving and downsizing can be emotional, so be patient with yourself! Taking this time will give you a chance to get used to what you will be keeping, donating, etc.
And something I tell everyone: do not worry how old or 'unfashionable' the items are; if you love them, keep them.
If you feel you need a little more structure to embark on your downsizing journey, I highly recommend the book, "Simply Spaced: Clear the Clutter and Style Your Life," by Monica Leed. It is a fantastic step-by-step guide for clearing clutter, organizing, and downsizing. It will also help if you are struggling to decide what items to bring and what items to sell or give away.
To sell, or not to sell: yard sale or estate sale?
Consider interviewing a few estate sale companies first before you put signs out on street corners and set up tables in your front yard - especially if you have antiques and other valuable items you want to sell. Unfortunately, seniors are a common target for criminals. It is essential to be cautious about inviting people you don't know to your house – even if only in your front yard. Hiring a professional to organize the sale of your items is much less stressful than trying to keep track of strangers rummaging around in your garage.
While services can vary from one business to another, usually estate sale companies handle the sorting, marketing, staging, and pricing of the items. They will research to determine the best price for each item. Typically, estate sale companies base their fees on the dollar amount of items sold, and their services can be well worth it. Just make sure you interview a few companies before deciding on the one you want to use.
Ask to review an agreement ahead of time, make sure they have a business license and are insured. Arizona doesn't have specific permit requirements for estate sale companies per se; however, all businesses must have a license to sell or transfer ownership of goods. Online reviews are a helpful way to get an idea of a company's reputation from previous clients.
Finally, if possible, have the estate sale after you move. Having an estate sale after you move may seem counter-intuitive, but I have seen many people fill their moving trucks to the brim, only to realize about an hour into unloading the van that they do not have room for everything. At that point, they end up making multiple trips to their local donation center.
Having an estate sale after you move allows you to sell whatever will not fit into your new home or, better yet, bring that item you have now realized will work after all!
Now, all you have to do is ask your grandkids to move it for you.
“Spring is the time of plans and projects.”
~ Leo Tolstoy
Don’t wait to enjoy your independence.
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