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August 13-14, 11:30 am

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My Kids Don’t Want My Stuff: Downsizing for Senior Living

Friendsview resident at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore

Some call it right-sizing, others call it down-sizing, but at least one person calls it, “one of the most daunting, challenging, and important things we will do in our later years.”  Her name is Frances Richey and as a resident, at Friendsview she has shared many tips on the “downsizing dilemma” with incoming members of the community. Frances told us, “It is also one of the most spiritual processes. Although we own our possessions, they do not own us. We are not the things we possess.” This is a good mentality to hold on to as we dive into the emotionally wrought topic of moving from one home to another.

There are countless articles from various organizations on the process of downsizing. We will list some of the most helpful tips near the end of this blog. However, first, let’s address the emotional fallout from downsizing or rightsizing.

Whatever emotions you are experiencing, they are all valid.

Sometimes It Hurts

It’s not always the thought of discarding precious belongings and the physical act of packing that stalls us in the downsizing process. Sometimes it’s about facing a massive life change: moving into senior living. This is a huge step for many and can be daunting.

It’s the start of a new adventure and that’s not always comfortable. If you don’t like change downsizing, moving into senior living can be particularly difficult. If you consider yourself a sentimental person, it can be even more difficult. A myriad of emotions accompanies a huge life change: fear, excitement, depression, and joy. Whatever emotions you are experiencing, they are all valid. Nobody else can tell you what to feel or not to feel: so just let yourself feel.

At a recent Friendsview event a resident panelist shared that early on, “I realized my kids don’t want my stuff. That was a surprise to me.”  Over the years residents have mentioned other tips that helped them through all the emotions that come along with downsizing. Here are four of our favorites:

  1. Manage Your Expectations. Frances admitted that there were items she wished she had brought with her when moving to Friendsview, and others she wished she had left behind. Across the board, we’ve heard that the process of downsizing to move into senior living is not an exact science. Embrace that you may end up with more than you need, or a trip to the store is warranted after the big move. Another resident suggested, “lowering the bar from ‘everything will go perfectly’, to ‘I’ll be moved in and will bring belongings with me.’”
  2. Interject Fun. There are different approaches to interjecting fun into your process all way from playing happy music, to wearing a crazy costume, to inviting friends over for a party, to creating a “support group” of others who are rightsizing too. Frances told us, “Remember, the whole process can actually be fun. During my last move, I displayed many things in the living room and invited family members over to “shop” for what they liked or could use. The only “charge” was that they had to remove the items within a few days. They left happy with their new treasures and we enjoyed the process!”
  3. Celebrate the Successes. Did you empty a drawer during a random free moment in your day? It’s tempting to feel discouraged that you didn’t pack up an entire room. But the fact is: you did something. That’s a success! Each small step is one step closer to the final goal and should be celebrated. How you celebrate is up to you: a coffee out with a loved one, a special chocolatey-treat, or a breezy walk with your beloved pet. No matter what it is, a celebration is vital to keep discouragement at a minimum.
  4. List What You Are Getting in Return. There are obvious benefits to downsizing. Less to keep track of, less to clean, less to manage, unexpected treasures for your friends or family, donations for those in need. But there are also future benefits. New friends, new adventures, and new experiences from moving into a new community. For some, it even becomes an opportunity to fulfill past dreams they didn’t have time for. Frances recommends “keeping a journal and writing down the roller coaster feelings you are experiencing, as you start on this exciting Journey of Change.” Make a list of the benefits of your upcoming move in your journal, or speak them out loud to important people in your life.

Remember, the whole process can actually be fun.

Ooops, I Need a Temporary Place!

Sometimes right-sizing is such a great success that you are ready before your new home is available. Many see this as an amazing opportunity to travel or visit family. New residents at Friendsview, Eric and Virginia, told us, “We sold long before our tentative move-in date of 2022 with the intent of extended times of overseas travel. Since the sale in 2018 we have lived for three months in an apartment in Cuenca, Ecuador, and just over three months on the cruise ship, Columbus.” More than one resident has shared with us that a house selling early was a blessing. Senior living communities sometimes offer temporary housing benefits when your house sells quickly. Be sure to check with your community when you are ready to put your house on the market to see what temporary housing accommodations they offer.

Best Tips from Around the Web

The list of suggestions for downsizing is extensive. What it comes down to more often than not are personality types. Do you prefer strict schedules and lists to check off? Are you more spontaneous with packing and moving? Here are some of our favorite tips from around the internet and from the Friendsview Moving Resources Guide:

For the list makers

  • Create a downsizing plan room by room beginning with the smallest room. For example: Start in Bathroom 1, top drawer. Cross off each area on the list after it is completed.
  • Set a weekly timeline based on the above rooms and check it off each week.
  • Get rid of all duplicates!
  • Make a list of moving supplies needed (such as boxes, tape, bubble wrap, etc.) and check them off as you procure them.

For the spontaneous packers

  • Label 5 bags: Trash, New Home, Family Donate, Digitize. As the mood strikes take your bags into your least favorite room in the house and go around it in a clockwise fashion, filling up the bags.
  • Take your “Digitize” bag of memories and reminisce on the contents. Then take pictures to keep as virtual keepsakes.

For the schedule keepers

  • Using your calendar designate one room per week or month that you will sort and pack.
  • Set a 15-minute daily time to sort through belongings. Increase the time each week until you are up to 3 hours per day.
  • Schedule additional trash or donation agencies to pick up items from your home.
  • Schedule disconnection of utilities at your current location.
  • Schedule movers and/or packing companies.

Extra tips from a resident, Frances

  • When you get tired or emotionally upset, STOP, rest, and have a cup of tea or your favorite drink.
  • Some people like a friend to help them; others need to touch all their things alone.
  • If you get frustrated, kneel and pray for patience and perseverance. Then add, “Thank You, God!”
  • Bring objects you LOVE and are beautiful to you! Instead of 30 pictures of your mother, pick your favorite and enclose it in a lovely frame. Have a techie-savvy family member digitize the family photos. Donate books to a university or local library. Continue to ask God for help as to what to keep and what to give away.

Friendsview has created a Moving Resources Guide that provides tips on downsizing and preparing for a move. If you are just beginning your search for a senior living community to move into, we would love to chat with you and provide resources for creating a plan.