Downsizing Tips

Downsizing?  Tips on How to Begin

By Donna Lutkins, Senior Real Estate Specialist, Cascades Resident and Realtor, Keller Williams Dulles

Moving is acknowledged as among the most stressful experiences in a person’s life.The prospect of packing up a beloved home, with decades of accumulated belongings and all the memories attached, can seem overwhelming. And, with aging parents this can be a particularly daunting task.

Leaving a family home can be a bittersweet event that involves revisiting many joyful and sometimes painful memories. During the process of downsizing we may be surprised at how attached we have become to our possessions and how difficult it might seem to part with them. In many cases, possessions have been accumulated over a number of years and not everything can (or should) be moved. What results is the need to sift, sort, donate, and dispose of a variety of personal items. Here are some useful downsizing tips.

How to Get Started

As the Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, wrote, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” So it’s best to break the process into single steps…

  • Start with the rooms you use the least: Begin the sorting process in these rooms and avoid cluttering the areas of the home used regularly.
  • Measure the items you want to take with you: Do they fit in your new home?
  • Create a sorting system: Sort items by using stickers, making piles, or making detailed lists of what will be kept, what will be given away and what is still undecided.
  • Write down family history: Take the time to write down special memories or any family history that is connected to special items. Do you have a height wall in your house? Take a picture of the wall before you paint over it. You can even make short narrated videos of special items.
  • Work in scheduled blocks of time: Plan to sort items for periods of no more than two hours at a time. The process of revisiting memories and making decisions about items you have lived with for many years can be emotionally exhausting.
  • Start early and don’t rush yourself: Be sure to plan plenty of time for the sifting and sorting process. Take moments to laugh at old pictures, read old letters, and grieve for losses. If you can’t decide what to do with an item, set it aside and return to it later.

Now what do I do with all this stuff?

  • Identify those items you want certain family members to have and consider giving them now.
  • Get rid of things you no longer need: Be realistic about what items you use regularly and what items you are just used to having around.
  • Consider having a garage sale or home auction: Having enough items that are likely to net a profit (furniture, antiques, electronics) may make the effort of having a garage sale worthwhile. If you have items of value, you can hire a service agency to catalog and appraise your possessions and coordinate a home auction for a percentage of the profit.
  • Donate to charity: For those items you cannot give away as gifts or sell for profit, make a tax-deductible donation to charity. Many charities will pick-up donated items. Consider thinking of specific organizations for specific items… for example, donating your professional wardrobe to an abused women’s shelter or giving old musical instruments to a school music program.

If you or your parents are thinking of downsizing, consult with a Realtor that specializes in senior real estate assistance services and has a SRES (Senior Real Estate Specialist) certification.

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