Of all the words we use in our industry, none seems to strike fear in the hearts of people like “downsizing” does. The idea of giving up treasures, loved items, memories or just everyday stuff is unpleasant to many and downright paralyzing to others. Typically, the work of downsizing is put off to some distant date that never comes to pass. The actual act of downsizing often falls to family members once the owner of the stuff is forced to move due to medical issues or they pass away.
While there is no easy remedy for downsizing paralysis, many people have found downsizing to be less painful than imagined and for those who are fortunate enough to decide to tackle it with enthusiasm, it can be liberating.
In any event, we have put together a list of ideas that you may want to consider which will help you ease into downsizing mode and should prove not to be too painful. Many of the ideas can be done slowly or you can jump right in and get down with downsizing!
*Disclaimer for everything listed below, if you regularly use an item, it’s probably not appropriate for downsizing. For each heading, focus on the things that you haven’t used for a year or more and are not likely to use for another year, if ever.
Eliminating the Small “Low Hanging Fruit” Stuff
Duplicate Items – Lose the back-ups. For example, if you have four extra irons in case your main one stops working, pick the best one you have and jettison the rest. This is especially good for large and/or inexpensive items. Large items simply take up too much room and inexpensive items can easily be replaced if the unlikely need for them ever arises.
Sports Equipment and Musical Instruments – Here we have a sticky wicket (to use a sporting phrase) as most people who have sporting equipment around believe that they are going to use it again. While that may be the case, sometimes we just aren’t going to quarterback the football team or bowl the perfect game again and we need to come to terms with that. The same goes with hitting it big on the rock concert circuit. Some of the musical instruments that haven’t been touched in years could be a great starter instrument for an up and coming niece or nephew. You can determine the likelihood of using your sports and musical items again and proceed from there.
Kitchen Appliances and Gadgets – This is simply about what actually gets used vs. what I might need someday. If you find things that are very rarely used, it might be best to get rid of them and borrow if you happen to need an item in the distant future.
Keepsakes and Items from the Past – This is a very personal area and will require more thought than some of the other categories. Yearbooks, trophies, old employment giveaways, items from an old relationship and the like can be fun for a walk down memory lane. If some of those items don’t really provide a fun memory or you can’t remember what they were even about, it may be time to let them go. Maybe you have friends, co-workers or a teammate that you shared a previous experience with that
would like the item(s) for their memories? In any event, be careful with downsizing this type of stuff. It is rarely replaceable and has the potential to bring back memories that are very pleasant and enjoyable to reminisce about for years to come.
Decorative and Knick-Knacks – The easiest way to decide what to do in this area is to look around and see if things look too busy or cluttered. You may need a trusted assistant for this task as we all get familiar and comfortable with our surroundings and may not see what is obvious to others. Besides the clutter, we need to be aware of safety issues, for example, if clutter on the floor or near stairways presents a tripping hazard. Again, a trusted assistant will be very helpful in this area.
Eliminating the Big/Bulky Stuff
Clothing – Take a look in your closets and see if there are some clothing items that haven’t been worn in many months. There may be some items that aren’t sized right anymore or maybe they are out of style or aren’t age appropriate. The place to start looking is at the BACK of the closet! Clothes take up a lot of room and there are many people in the world that would probably be very happy to have some of the clothes that you aren’t using anymore. Consider donating gently used clothing to your favorite charity.
Bags and Baggage – Talk about baggage! If you don’t travel as often as you used to, you may be able to get rid of some of the duplicate size bags and save the room that they take up. Don’t forget extra purses, backpacks, laptop bags and so on. Storing bags by “nesting” them together can save room as well.
Unused Furniture – We all tend to overfill rooms with furniture. It may be time to see if some of the furniture in your home could be pared down. You may end up with a more open, airy look that is not only eye-pleasing but will be safer due to less congestion and wider paths of travel for you and your guests.
Holiday Decorations – Do you still use all or any of your holiday decorations? It may make sense to eliminate the old and unused decorations or update to newer, more energy efficient decorations. Hang on to family favorites that get used but a new look may be just the thing to pep-up the holidays. If you have a lot of decorations and use them all, it may be worthwhile to investigate offsite storage to keep your home well organized. Our preferred storage company is Callbox Storage, (833) WE -STORE, www.callboxstorage.com. See the “If You Must” section below for more details on Callbox Storage.
Exercise Equipment – OK, hard truth time, are you really using that exercise bike as it is intended or as a clothes rack? If moving, is there exercise equipment available at your new location? Most retirement communities and many assisted living communities have exercise rooms and programs available. As a rule, exercise equipment takes up a ton of space and despite good intentions, is not used with regularity.
Autos, RV’s, Toys, Bikes – Are you using your automobile(s) or other vehicles that you own? Rarely? Never? If alternate modes of transportation will work for you then you can eliminate the costs of fuel, upkeep, licensing and insurance by selling your vehicles and using public transportation and/or rentals for special situations or unusual needs. Researching the available transportation in your area prior to selling is always a good policy. Look before you leap!
Ideas for the More Tech Savvy
Eliminate Overlapping Tech – Take inventory on the different tech items you have and see if there is a way to eliminate one or two items. Most computers, laptops, tablets and phones can basically do the same things. You may find that a tablet or phone is all you really need.
Digitize Photos – Whew, where did all those photo albums and boxes of pictures come from? A great way to keep all the photos you want and yet eliminate the bulk storage is to digitize the photos to a small thumb drive. This service is becoming easier to find and is also becoming more economical. As an added bonus you can order multiple thumb drives to share the photos with other family members.
Books and Magazines – Have you got a lot of old books and magazines that seem to magically multiply? Setting a maximum time frame to keep them will help you eliminate too much clutter and keep your reading material fresh. Consider reading books and periodicals online to save space and paper all together.
CD’s and DVD’s– Let’s face it, it’s a new world out there for music and movies. Most of us have experienced records, 8-track tapes and cassette tapes among other things but there has been such improvement that top quality sound and movies are available right from your smartphone. Letting go of the CD’s and DVD’s that are available in your phone will allow you to free up some room and maybe make a few dollars selling them at a yard sale.
Go Paperless – Bill paying and online accounts are routine these days. They will allow you to not only cut down on paperwork but to save time and money by not sending bills through the US Mail. Be sure to change passwords regularly and to share your account information and passwords with a trusted family member or friend.
If You Must
Storage – In some cases it’s nearly impossible to pare things down quickly to fit in a new living space. When that happens, it may end up being a good idea to store some items that are “on the fence” for a time to see if you can get along without them. We recommend using Callbox Storage (833) WE-STORE or www.callboxstorage.com. Callbox will pick-up, store (in their secure, climate-controlled building), and deliver items back to you when you need them. They itemize your belongings with a photo inventory so you can remember what you have stored by looking at the photos online. Their prices are very competitive, and they save you from all the heavy lifting and transportation headaches.
Hopefully some or all of these tips have been helpful. Please check back with Family Friend Estate Solutions (www.familyfriendestate.com) frequently for more tips and tricks for downsizing and senior moves. As always, the team at Family Friend Estate Solutions will be happy and honored to assist you and your family with any estate moves or changes.