One of the main reasons older adults put off downsizing is the need to deal with all the “stuff” they’ve accumulated over the years. Yet, if done right, the process of downsizing may not be as daunting as you think. It may be enjoyable — even refreshing. A lot of the physical work can be done by others, so your main role is to categorize, organize, and direct. Here are six tips to get you started:
When is a good time to start the downsizing process? Now. Don’t wait. The longer you wait, the more the process and emotions may be overwhelming, and you will have other things that require your attention. Your family members will thank you because there will be less stuff for them to deal with one day.
RECOGNIZE YOU CAN’T KEEP IT ALL
To know what items you can and should purge, you first need to know which items you absolutely cannot part with. But here’s the key: After you have created the initial list, pare it down even further. This can be a tough exercise, but the reality is that some of the things you think you need to save may not be necessary to keep after all. For example, that sport coat in the closet you’ve held onto for 15 years because you are sure you will wear it again? It’s probably time to part ways. That stack of magazines with holiday recipes dating back 10 years? Those can go, too. Your most cherished recipes will not be hidden in a tall stack of magazines anyway, right?
PREPARE YOURSELF: YOUR KIDS MAY NOT WANT YOUR STUFF
Another popular reason for hanging on to various items is that kids or grandkids will want them. But many people eventually discover that the things they thought would be coveted by their adult children were not so desirable after all. To help sort this out, consider inviting your children over for a day to go through your things and find out what they actually want.
SORT BY LARGE AND SMALL
Once you know what you want to keep, make a list of big and small items. The big items are anything that will not fit in a regular size moving box, such as a sofa or table. Obviously, it could be tough to list out every single smaller item, but you want to think about your most utilized items first. Consider things like silverware, pictures, kitchenware, books, etc.
SELL, DONATE, OR DISCARD?
Once you’ve decided what items are no longer needed, it is time to decide what to do with them. Create a separate list with three columns: Sell, Donate, and Trash. As you consider what you want to sell, remember that items rarely bring in the amount of cash the owner thinks they will. In some cases, it may simply be easier to donate or discard an item than go to the trouble of trying to sell it.
However, if you feel sure it would be worth the time to try to sell some of your belongings, then you have a number of options. You could try to sell them online with sites like Ebay or Craig’s List. (Please take caution if you use Craigslist or a similar website. If possible, meet the buyer in a public place and take someone with you.) Sometimes a good old-fashioned yard sale could do the job, but you will want to get someone to help you with the set up and break down. Alternately, if you have more than a few valuable items, any number of local companies will be willing to administer an estate sale for you.
HAULING THE JUNK
Finally, after you have gone through the above-mentioned steps, you may be surprised by the amount of left over junk. This would include things that have piled up in a garage or crawlspace over the years, such as old paint cans. Many national companies will come by and haul these things away for you. All you have to do is point to the items you want removed, and they will recycle or trash the items accordingly.
Brad Breeding is co-founder and president of myLifeSite, a website designed to provide objective information about continuing care retirement communities. A certified financial planner, Brad’s extensive knowledge of the senior living industry, combined with his financial planning background, allows him to provide valuable insights about lifestyle, healthcare, and financial planning considerations for seniors. This article is legally licensed for use.