It’s been months, perhaps years in the making, but you finally made the decision. You’re selling your home and moving to a retirement community.
It’s been a challenging process, with many sleepless nights weighing the pros and cons of starting this new chapter of your life. But you’ve earned this moment. So you exhale as you sit back on your couch, relieved about the choice you finally made. Just as you’re beginning to relax, your eyes glance around the room and it hits you: What am I going to do with all this stuff? Before you select the retirement community that fits your needs and lifestyle, you may want to consider downsizing.
The emotional stress of downsizing can easily become the biggest hurdle to officially kicking off your well-earned retirement. But here’s some good news; it doesn’t have to be that difficult.
Here are some tips to help you conquer the challenges that come with downsizing:
Develop the Right Mindset:
Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you to take off your shoes and socks, squat onto the floor and find inner peace… but go for it if that works for you. What I will suggest is taking a step back.
“This is a marathon, not a sprint,” says Lori Fike, founder and owner of Chaos to Calm, a senior move management company based in North Carolina.
Lori prefers the term “rightsizing” to downsizing.
“It’s all in the mindset,” she says. “Downsizing often has a negative connotation. What this process is really about is what is ‘right’ for you right now.”
“Rightsizing is a process that takes perseverance, discipline and most importantly the ability to laugh.”
Accept from the get-go that this is going to take time and effort, prepare yourself mentally for that challenge and then get to it. You’ve worked your entire adult life to get to retirement. You can certainly handle this.
Have a Strategy:
Chances are you’ve been in your home for several years, even decades. It’s likely you have a room or two by now that has so much stuff in it, it’s become nothing more than an oversized, overstuffed closet. When was the last time you could even fit a car in your garage?
Don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed by trying to focus on your entire home and property all at once. Developing a strategy that works for you and sticking with it will help make downsizing a more manageable process.
Go room by room, create an inventory list and move on. This is not the time to sit and stare lovingly at that wood carving you picked up at a yard sale in 1983. Write it down and get on to the next item.
Squirrel! Don’t let yourself be the dog easily distracted by the backyard rodent. If you start in one bedroom, finish it before you move on to another. Bouncing around will not only slow you down, it can lead to organizational mishaps down the road.
Manage Your Stuff:
This is a critical point in the downsizing process. You have your inventory. Now it’s time to decide what is coming with you, what is going to family, what you want to sell, and what’s going for a ride in the garbage truck.
Do you feel the stress and anxiety mounting just at the thought of making all those item-by-item decisions? Don’t. It’s not all on you.
First thing’s first, determine realistically what you need to bring with you in your new and improved retirement life.
Margit Novack is a leader in the senior move management business and the founder of Moving Solutions and eSMMART, the industry’s first employee training program. She describes this part of the downsizing process as “smart self-talk.”
“We tend to rationalize why we keep things. Drop that. It’s a yes or no,” Novack says.
“If I have a 1-quart, 2-quart and 3-quart sauce pan, can I cook everything I need in just one?”
“How many T-shirts do I need? Pick a number and get to it.”
Don’t get bogged down with, “Do I like this one, do I like that one.”
Manage Your Children:
Remember when I said, it’s not all on you? Well, here’s why. Grab your inventory list with everything still on it that’s not coming with you and hand it over to your kids. Let them take the lead on deciding what stays in the family and what is destined for the trash heap.
Managing your inventory in this manner will benefit the emotional wellbeing of everyone involved.
Novack points out that many adult children don’t want what you’ve been saving, so allow them to make the decision and don’t take it personal.
She also notes the importance of not “giving gifts with strings.”
“If you part with something, it’s not yours.”
Novack adds it’s important to overcome the emotional connections people tend to have to a specific item.
“Stories about those we love are more valuable than items passed on,” she says.
“We feel obligated” to keep things, but this is a perfect time to give yourself permission to part ways.
Set Reasonable Goals:
“Remember,” Fike says, “you didn’t get here in one month, a year or even a decade. This is a lifetime you are redefining.”
Whether it’s the home you’ve been in for decades, or one you moved to in more recent years, those walls and roof hold items that span generations. That can’t be undone in a weekend or even a week. Taking that fact into consideration, be sure to set a realistic timeframe for accomplishing your downsizing project and then sprinkle that timeline with short-term goals.
Like anything else we do in life, goals are the perfect milestones on the path to achievement. They can also help make the process of down(right)sizing more enjoyable, as each minor success builds up to the day the challenge is met.
Downsize and Move On
Be kind to yourself. Don’t let downsizing keep you from relishing this well-deserved part of your life. You’ve already made the decision to enjoy retirement in a community where you believe you can thrive – do you have a moving plan? Learn how Acts Retirement-Life Communities can take the stress out of moving and selling your house! Our trusted relocation management team can help you sell you house and move into your new community in as few as 30 days.