The great comedian George Carlin had a wonderful comedy piece where he explained how important all of our Stuff was and how we constantly need more space to house our ever growing need for stuff. It puts me in stitches every time I see it!
As most of you reading this can already attest, the process of Downsizing was a mix of good experiences and bad ones. The decision to actually do something about it was probably the most difficult. Some people actually Downsize – a process of reducing their larger items in place of smaller items. Items such as: A house, furniture, vehicles, boxes of ‘stuff’. Although this is usually a good thing, we prefer to call Downsizing - LifeStyle Adjusting. Now I know what you’re thinking, just as you got used to calling the process DownSizing, someone else comes along and begins to call it something else…well, YES! Let us explain.
Downsizing may be viewed as being forced to reduce. We hear this when companies are ‘Downsizing’ and forced to reduce their workforce or the need to “DownSize Mom’ because she’s heading to a Retirement Community. No-one likes to be forced in doing something. That’s why, if given the choice, a LifeStyle Adjustment allows us to look forward to the future in a positive and healthy manner.
The reason people Downsize are as varied as the people themselves. Think back to why you DownSized, did your neighbour or friends have the same reason? Probably not! Some people are faced with a difficult choice due to finances, a change in marital status such as divorce or the death of a partner or the ever changing challenges of health. While others have made a concerted effort in discovering what they want their future LifeStyle to look like, created a plan and executed the plan. We call this ‘Choice or Circumstance’. If given the opportunity would you rather make the decision (choice – LifeStyle Adjustment) or be forced into a decision (Circumstance - DownSized)? This is a fact we will all eventually face.
The LifeStyle Adjustment process usually begins with a need for the change. The better you understand the need the better you can plan it. This is the part most people have difficulty with. How do I do this and why am I doing it?, 'Who can help us?" and "What do we do next?"
The kids have left the nest, you have unused rooms in your house. You have decades of ‘Stuff’ that you know needs to go but are emotionally attached to it and you know a LifeStyle Adjustment is in the future. What do you do?
Here are few solutions to help you and your friends De-clutter your lives and prepare for the LifeStyle Adjustment you have decided on.
1. Begin by deciding what your future location might be. This will prepare your parameters as what will be needed. Do you need 2 couches, dinnerware for 12, the 12’x24’ area rug or 2 sets of Encyclopedia Brittanica’s? What will your new LifeStyle require?
2. Do not look at this as a large, overwhelming challenge. Instead break it into smaller pieces. For example: Pick 1 room (we suggest a storage room or spare bedroom). Begin to go thru this one room first. Do not think about the project as a whole, it may be too overwhelming. In this room, make a list of what is to ‘keep’ and what ‘can go’. ‘KEEP’ - these are things that you keep (for now!). Items as ‘CAN GO’ moves to the next 3 categories.
Unless you are up for the challenge, do not start another room until this first room is done. Once this room is done, stand back and pat yourself on the back while enjoying your favorite beverage!
Now you are experienced and ready to move to the next room. You will continue to do this, room after room. If you box the items you are keeping, you can label them and store them, ready for when you need them again or when it is moving day. This will save you a load of money from moving expenses.
TIP: Look for Big Box store sales on Storage Bins! Buy them while on sale. They won’t rot, they don’t go musty, they’re stackable and secure.
Don’t be offended when your children refuse to take your generous offerings. Remember their lives are different than yours. You’ll find they will be willing to take some items, while being completely repulsed at others.
Where to get help:
· Hire a professional company. This is probably the easiest solution, however there is a cost associated with it. We are believers in this service because for some clients, it is simply too overwhelming. SeniorCareAccess Consulting can offer assistance in navigating or identifying 3rd party resources to assist you.
· Ask family to help. Explain what and why you are doing this. Do not make it a Dictatorship; rather remember they are giving of their time to help you. Make it fun – play…remember when!
· Ask a good friend, Church members or club members. You might even be able to get some students looking for a little extra money.
Who takes my stuff: Let’s face it, times have changed and it could be challenging to get money for some items. They may have some value but if no one wants them…what to do.
· Piano: If it is truly of value try a Music store or ask them who would be interested. If it’s of no value but works, try donating it to a Church, Free AD such as Kijijji, Craiglist, Marketplace or NextDoor (Please be cautious about selling on-line. There are risks in doing this). Call a local Music school or Grade/High School
· Clothing. These can always be donated to a Charity, Church or ‘Help’ organization. If they are of value perhaps a garage sale or online sale. The Covid -19 pandemic has created certain restrictions and they may still be in place.
· Dining room suite: Ah the dining room suite. Unless it is an antique (this goes for all furniture) your children don’t want it, your friends have their own and the younger generation wouldn’t know what to do with it! Again, offer it for donation or at a very attractive cost. Try your church, used furniture stores, furniture pick up services.
· Old appliances: Depending on where you are, the local utility company may have a free pick up service of older appliances. There are smaller companies that will pick up or pay you a small fee to take them. Of course any metals such as Copper, Brass, Iron and Stainless Steel can be taken to a recycler and they will pay you by weight. JustJunk is a great resource for waste or unwanted items disposal.
Old photos and family movies: We would hope that your family would want to keep these valuable family memories but sometimes…they need to go. Making them into a 'book' is a great solution to mainatain the memories yet free up the space!
· There is a market for photos and video that shows a historic building or period of time. Global/Historic events. Famous people or something that tells a story. These may have a re-sale value.
· If you have some extra time or are looking for a new hobby – try scanning your photos and organizing them into files on your computer. Be sure to back them up and save them! Makes a great gift for the Grandchildren – Story time!
· There are companies that will take your photos and create a Legacy album or Legacy Video. A wonderful gift to leave for your family, created the way you want to be remembered.
· The rest may be donated for arts and crafts or community ‘Share your story’ events.
Jewelry/Coins: This is always interesting. The kids usually only want what is current and valuable. What about the rest?
· You can always take it to Gold and Silver shop – I suggest researching the company first and checking on-line for the value of certain pieces. Silver and Gold always has value but certain pieces may have additional value.
· You can have it re-made. If you have a piece of jewelry from the late 1800’s and simply can’t wear it because of its style – have it re-made to something more modern. Be sure to photograph it well.
· Have a jewellery/coin party. You can invite a few friends to share in the party, have a Gold, Silver buyer come in and see where it goes.
Most of your items can be offered to Retirement Communities, local Churches or charities. For a fee they may be offered at Auction, as a Content sale, garage sale or street sale. They may also be offered thru network associations such as Realtors or Hobby groups. (You can do a search for available services here). Some areas even offer a network of bartering or FreeCycling. (FreeCycling is the act of giving away usable unwanted items to others instead of disposing of them in landfills).
Let’s take a look at a scenario of a LifeStyle Adjustment and explore what was done and how it might have been improved.
Peter and Louise have been married for 54 years. They have lived in the same 4 bedroom detached home since 1985 where they raised their 3 children. Peter and Louise are grandparents to 3 lovely grandchildren from 2 of their children. Their adult children are enjoying raising their middle class families while one is attending Medical School overseas. Their grandchildren only visit a few times of the year as they live in adjacent provinces. Peter was always a hard worker and felt hard work would get you ahead. Louise always enjoyed family life and has amassed a considerable amount of family memorabilia that she houses in the finished basement. Both Peter and Louise have always said that they would never move from here and could never live in a ‘box in the sky’. Shortly after celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary Peter began suffering from health issues – possibly caused by the type of physical work he did. Over the past 4 years Louise has become Peter’s primary caregiver and found it very challenging as the requirements continued to increase. Caring for the house became the responsibility of their children. This would only last so long as they lived a distance away and were busy with their own lives and careers. Little by little, Peter became confined to the upper floor which naturally made it more difficult for Louise. Although they carried a small mortgage that was taken out to help their Daughter thru med school, Peter and Louise were on a fixed income and were challenged not to tap into their conservative nest egg. Do we see a possible LifeStyle Adjustment needed? Soon the house simply became too big for Louise to manage and it was only a matter of time before Peter had passed. Although this is a sad story, it is not the end! Louise, although desperately missing the love of her life, Father of her Children and Life partner for over 54 years, must make a choice, after all she is only 74 years young. Louise would continue a healthy life for another 11 years. What LifeStyle solutions are/were available to Peter and Louise.
· Peter and Louise could have planned on getting a smaller more manageable sized house/property such as a Bungalow or smaller home just on the outskirts of their city.
· They could have moved closer to one of their children and increased their visits with the grandchildren and have family closer to them to mutually help out.
· They could have planned what they wanted as a couple and ‘What if’ one survives the other.
· They insisted on not having a Condo but could have looked at the options of a Penthouse or LifeStyle Condo or ground floor with access to grassed condo property. You don’t know what you don’t know!
· They could have looked at an Adult LifeStyle Community
They could have also looked at co-habitating with their childrens families. This would look like selling their property and purchasing a larger property with one of their children(families). This would allow for a larger home and provide, care, low property maintenace, age in place, reduced isolation or support and be closer to family and grandchildren.
When considering a downsize, older adults should make those decisions earlier rather than later. making them earlier allows them to have more choices while waiting (circumstances) may offer them less choice and opportunity.
Paul Cutajar is a Retired Licensed REALTOR® and MASTER-Accredited Senior Agent™, senior partner of Lifestyle55+ Network Inc. (SeniorCareAccess). The Lifestyle55+ Affiliate program offers REALTOR® and other supportive services training in working with older adults in transition and offers a Canada wide referral network. To connect with an ASA™, Master-ASA™ or Lifestyle55+ Affiliate near you, simply visit the SeniorCareAccess resources page to locate your city or call/email:
Paul Cutajar 1 844 585 7255 firstname.lastname@example.org