Updated: Dec 21, 2020
By the time we get to 55 plus, we tend to have collected many great things – wisdom,
experience and stuff. However, the moment comes when downsizing is not only necessary, but also liberating. Whether thinning your own possessions for the next chapter or sorting for a loved one, it can be challenging to even begin. Don’t despair as there are many paths for successful optimized senior living.
Easy Start Guide
Begin by determining your timeframe and goal, and then jump right in. Are you moving into living facilities in an active adult living community, an apartment in a senior living high-rise, a private assisted living room or something else? No matter what, keep in mind how you want your new space to feel – like home – not a sterile hotel room and not a storage unit. Next, easily eliminate rooms you won’t have at your new place. There’s no reason to pack up the potato peeler or the pots and pans if you’re trading in your traditional kitchen for daily meal service. Then it’s time to get rid of any duplicates. For example, if you have two hairdryers, choose your favorite and donate the other. Another thing to consider is giving legacy gifts early. Perhaps it’s passing down the family china complete with hutch to your daughter and her family and that antique desk and chair you’ve loved for decades to your favorite cousin.
Tackle It Like a Book
Tackling your clutter like a book for optimized senior living is incredibly easy. Simply choose a room, any room, and then start from the top moving to bottom, left to right – just like reading a book. Use a discerning eye. What isn’t being used? What items do you have duplicates? Start in the room of your home that you feel will provide the least challenge – this will give you a chance to practice and get comfortable in this downsizing roll. For instance, if you’re in the kitchen, consider shedding those gizmos, gadgets and appliances you don’t actually use and rid yourself of those tattered dish towels.
If you’re having an especially tough time sorting your belongings, the Post-it method may make the transition easier. After you’ve weeded out the more obvious items and are staring down those belongings that are somewhere between definitely keep and definitely disregard, put a Post-it on it. Then after a few days or so, revisit the item to see how you feel. Be honest, but be relentless.
Feel the Joy
If we get to the heart of it, it’s easy to assess that certain possessions bring comfort, a sense of security or a link to the past and the people we love. It’s okay if some items appear less than practical if they truly bring you joy. However, don’t be fooled. Just because your mother, son or spouse gave it to you, doesn’t mean you need to keep it – especially when you’re downsizing. If it brings you true delight, consider keeping it; if not, discard it. That doesn’t mean you throw it away, or even that you donate it – although donations have a way of making many of us feel a lot better about shedding unnecessary items. If, for instance, the fur coat handed down to you from your mother or grandparent meant the world to her, but as a vegetarian, doesn’t resonate with you, find someone who will love it just as much as the people who originally bought it, wrap it up and gift it. Seeing someone’s eyes light up while paying tribute to the loved one who gave you the item can be both cathartic and freeing.
Make this one easy on yourself – if it doesn’t fit or make you feel absolutely fabulous, get rid of it. Simple.
Compile and Organize Records
Collect and keep important papers together: deeds, wills, Durable Powers of Attorney, medical records, military records, diplomas, degrees, birth certificates, passports, etc. Whether you keep these in a safe-deposit box, filing cabinet or organizer, be sure to let trusted family members know where they’re stored should a need arise.
Tying It All Together
There is no one size fits all solution for optimized senior living. For some, starting early and creating an ongoing process is a perfect fit. Others may be more comfortable blocking off a set amount of time and just getting it all done in one fell swoop. Do what feels right for you. And since we’re on the subject of doing what is right for you, keep in mind that although few possessions will work just fine for some, others may need more to be comfortable. And that’s okay.
A Special Note to Those Who are Helping Loved Ones Through This Process
Even though this journey is leading to an exciting new chapter, it can still feel hard and cause stress. Change is challenging – even positive change. Consider keeping a set timeframe for downsizing activities each day – perhaps two or three hours. If possible, follow each session with conversations over a cup of tea or perhaps dinner with wine. Allow time at this stage for your loved one to talk things out, reminisce about family or to acknowledge emotions. This can be an opportunity to create an even stronger bond between you and to share the stories that make your family unique.
Wherever the journey takes you, my team and I are here for you. Contact me today to learn how we can help.