Moving is always a stressful time.  The emptying out of closets and secret nooks, the dust swirling around as we unravel old textiles, the wandering at the amount of stuff that one’s accumulated over the years.  Moving is also a great time to cut through your clutter and start purging some of the items that no longer serve you.  

But when you’re a senior who needs to downsize, there is a lot of emotional baggage that needs to be unpacked before actually packing.  Naturally there will be feelings of sadness, nostalgia, even resentment, at having to move at all.  Whether for health reasons, safety reasons or financial, there needs to be a move, so time to tackle the emotions that come with uprooting your life and looking for a new spot to put down roots.

Cry, then dry your eyes

There are so many negative thoughts when it comes to the idea of downsizing.  It’s hard to give up items that have emotional value, and some view their home contents as part of their net worth.  For seniors, who’ve spent years in their home, raising their children, working, playing with grandchildren, and growing old with a spouse, moving out of a house full of memories is hard enough.  But moving because of downsizing, it adds an extra sting to an already deep paper cut.  Many people view downsizing as a negative thing.  Why is that?

The most common thoughts are that downsizing equates to “the end”.  The end of youth, the end of independence, the end of comfort and familiarity, the end of prosperity, and the end of life.  Many people consider downsizing from a house to a condo to be a sign of moving “down” on the ladder of life’s success.  We need to turn this half-empty cup into a half-full cup.

There is a lot of sadness and fear when contemplating a downsize.  However, instead of thinking about what you are losing by downsizing, think about what you are gaining.  Priorities are different when as seniors – time, family, safety, and health are things that are worth embracing and holding on to.  If being safer means giving up a home with a long staircase, then release this space and accept that you will find a new space for you and your needs.

There is nothing that says you have to dump your life out with the trash!  Becoming overwhelmed with decades of items to sort through is natural.  But honestly, people like to hold on to things longer than they need.  Start by choosing a room that doesn’t have a lot of personal stuff in it; that’s easy to pack up or discard, for example, a laundry room, maybe a linen closet.  There’s typically not a lot of emotional attachment to a linen closet, right?

Create piles.  NO ‘MAYBE’ PILES.  Just Keep or Toss.  A donation pile will help you see through some tough decisions.  Any duplicates can certainly be donated.  All donations will go to people less fortunate for their use, and will be greatly appreciated.  You can also sell some of your more valuable items that you won’t have a spot for anymore, like a large painting or your set of fine china.

This is also an opportunity to start dividing up treasures that you want to bestow to your children, or grandchildren, or whoever you want to leave a gift for after you pass.  By gifting these items early, you’ll get to move them out of the house, and you can actually see them in their new home with your loved ones.  Knowing that your pièce de résistance is in the hands of someone you trust, will make you feel better about giving it away early.

Another avenue of gifting is by pulling equity out of your home and giving your loved ones the money before you die, rather than waiting for them to get it from the estate.  This way you can avoid probate fees, and you get to see the benefits of what the family can do with that money, such as using it towards the grandchildren’s education, or the children move their whole family to be closer to you.  

Another benefit of downsizing is that not only will you realize the accumulated equity from your home, you’ll also save money from lower annual home maintenance costs.  Maybe you can afford that one thing you’ve always thought was too expensive but really coveted?  Also, the extra money can also help keep you lively safely at  “home,” and avoid moving later into a care home, as you’ll be able to afford the home care and assistance that you need to maintain a safe lifestyle as you age. 

Make the golden years simple

Seniors have worked hard all of their lives.  The Golden Years shouldn’t have to be spent on the tinkering, fixing, renovating and upkeep of a home that no longer serves a large family.  The best part about downsizing, in any age bracket, is less maintenance.  Less maintenance, also means less bills!  Less burden, means more joyful moments in the new space.  Fewer working hours, means more play hours with the grandkids!  The money saved on utility bills is a HUGE perk of downsizing.  Smaller space means lower charges!  Think of all that could be done with the bit of money saved now.  Lower mortgage, less debt, lower property tax….lower, lower, lower! 

There are also lots of alternatives when it comes to smaller homes.  If condos are not high on the want list, what about a bungalow? Or semi-detached? What about a really beautiful, decked out trailer and you can go road-tripping?  There are various options and styles of living if condo living is not your cup of tea.

Changing the mindset, shifting priorities and embracing and accepting your seniority in life will help immensely in your task to downsize.  Returning to simplicity, growing your savings, and appreciating the chance to slow down and reconnecting with family and friends is the BEST way to downsize, with absolutely no regrets.  After all, it’s not stuff that we need to treasure; it’s time and family.