Statistically speaking, experts have listed moving as the third most stressful event in life. Here are the first four:
4. Terminal Illness
Really! Moving is more stressful than a terminal illness???
Even though I’ve been managing or assisting moves for 7 years, I recently had an “aha” moment. I was working with a very spry, 82 year old “young” woman who was moving from the Cleveland area to Norfolk, VA. “Eva” had been widowed for several years and her son wanted her to move near his family. Eva’s husband was a career military man and they had moved over 22 times in their 50 year marriage. For Eva, this move was far more difficult than any other. For all the previous moves, each new space was larger than the last. This was the first time that her new home was much smaller. The decisions on what to take and what to leave behind was excruciating and overwhelming.
Downsizing is much more than just moving. It’s sorting through a lifetime of memories. The longer a person has lived in their home, the more time they’ve had to accumulate “things with emotional attachments.”
Where to Start? Sometimes simple is best. Buy a few colors of post it notes or painter’s tape. The different colors indicate:
* Move to the the new home
More than likely, you may tag much more that’s going to the new home than what will fit. That’s OK—it’s a start. Now get the dimensions of you new space. Figure out what will fit or consider hiring someone to do a floor plan.
This is the time to think about what items give you the best memories. If you have to make a choice between the $500 wall art splurge or the photo of you when you were a professional dancer (yes, this really happened to a customer of mine who could no longer walk without assistance), then go for the one that makes you happy. My guess it’s the dancing pic.
Do you have a new chair, but you always sit in the old recliner with a big comforter because it’s so cozy? Then choose the recliner.
Do you have a large collection of tea cups (or bears or clowns or tin cars . . . you name it), then line them all up and take a picture/s. Choose only one item of the collection to set out in your new home and put the picture beside it.
Once you have chosen what to take with you, call in the family members to see what they want. You may be surprised at how few things they ask for.
Next Steps: Tackle your clothes. Closet space will be at a minimum. Be realistic. Better yet, go to the new home with a roll of string. Cut the string to the length of your closet/s. Then come back home and hold that string to what you already own. Yep, you have a lot to get rid of! If you have clothes that are in style and good condition, a consignment shop can sell them for you. If you kept clothing from the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s, vintage clothing buyers may purchase them.
An on-site estate sale or auction (live or online) will only be possible if there are enough items to be profitable for the company doing the sale. Does your community have rules prohibiting a sale? Is there enough time? Are you OK with hundreds of people walking through your home?
Consider having a consignment shop take sellable items. Consider having an online auction company move your possessions to their warehouse to take pictures and then house the items until the auction has ended. The best option is to find a company that has both a consignment store and does online auctions.
What Not To Do: Do NOT have a garage or yard sale. The amount of money you bring in will not be enough to offset the amount of work.
Moving: Find a reputable moving company that will help you pack and move. Ask friends for referrals.
Selling Your Home: Find a realtor with a good track record of selling homes. Again, ask for referrals from people you know. Do NOT feel pressured or obligated to go with a neighbor or friend’s friend who happens to be a realtor.
Are you still feeling overwhelmed? Do you have way too many things to even begin to sort and decide? Consider hiring a professional to oversee every aspect of your downsize . . . or just a portion of the downsizing that you feel you need the most help.