What happens when the kids are grown, you have reached the age of retirement and the house becomes too big? Through the years you have accumulated lots of “stuff” thinking someday your kids or grandkids will need it. Maybe it is time to downsize and possibly move to a smaller place. The thought of no yard work, no upkeep on the house, and being able to travel and not worry about what is happening at home are all factors in the decision to downsize.  

        The hard part of downsizing is where to begin.  So many of our belongings have not only monetary value but more likely have sentimental value. The reality of throwing something away that has sentimental value can be extremely stressful. But hanging onto a place that is too big to care for or items that no longer are useful can be harmful too. During my years doing admissions at Sierra View Homes Retirement Community I have visited people at their home where more than 50% of their stuff was being held for others. It can become a health hazard when too much “stuff” is kept. Downsizing although difficult can be a healthy way to deal with the retirement years.

      If you have decided the time has come to downsize it is important to look at your options. Whether you are looking to move or stay where you are, ridding yourself of unneeded or unnecessary things can be a healthy and a way to simplify your life. If you plan to move to a smaller place you need to ask some important questions.  Do you want to rent or own the next place you live in? Do you want a house or an apartment?  Looking at the retirement communities is a good place to start planning to downsize. Retirement communities offer apartments or houses with many opportunities for entertainment, food, friendship and security.

      I asked a few residents of Sierra View Homes Retirement Community how difficult it was for them to downsize and how did they do it? Caroll and Jerry Strader said they downsized several times before they came to Sierra View. They had a few things they decided they must keep and then they called their children and grandchildren to come and take what they wanted. They had a yard sale and the rest they gave to the Salavation Army. Their hope was to help someone else with their donation. Caroll and Jerry moved and downsized three times before they came to Sierra View.

      Agnes Jantz arrived at Sierra View with many of her house hold belongings. She worked with her family to see what pieces worked in her apartment and what did not. She suggests making a list of what you want to accomplish and check off as you accomplish the items on the list. Agnes decided to rent a storage space and has decided to slowly let go of items that she does not need or do not fit.  “Giving items away can be a very freeing experience when you let go of the attachment you have to it” she states.

     The experts suggest you assess your actual needs as you plan to downsize. What furniture do you actually use all the time? Look at your daily life and prioritize the activities and items that are part of your lifestyle. Walk through your house and evaluate everything you see. Go through each room and identify the things you must take with you. Ask the question about each item on your list “have I used the item in the past year or how important is this item to me?” Think about, where your items came from and who gave you that something special? Consider all the things you have hung on to for reading or doing at a later date. You might want to put some things in storage and then check back in 6 months to re-evaluate the items. If you do not need or use them within 6 months it might be time to give, sell or throw them away.

      If you are moving to a smaller place, measure your furniture to see how or if it will fit. Also, get the room measurements and floor plans to know the shape and size of the rooms establish where the windows and doors are. Plan out where you will put the furniture you plan to take. The furniture that does not fit in the new smaller place will need to be given way or sold. You have the opportunity to give items to family and friends. Or you may want to sell items to raise extra money.

      Research suggests that you move your largest pieces of furniture into your new place first. Then work on the smaller items. Assess walking spaces and the availability of doorways. It is important there are no tripping hazards.

      Parting with long kept belongings presents a significant change that can be both physically and emotionally draining. It can be especially difficult if you are older.  Downsizing may mean you are moving from the beloved family home or from a home that has many memories from years of living there.  Look for support from family and friends. Allow yourself to grieve over the changes that are being made but also look to the future. Downsizing can give you freedom to do more activities you find interesting. It can give you opportunity to share important memories with your family.  Downsizing to a retirement community can offer friendships, possibilities for nutritious meals, exercise opportunities and the freedom to live your retirement years with fewer worries.