Downsizing: Who Gets What?

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For many, as they approach retirement years and beyond, the idea of downsizing sounds both intriguing and overwhelming. Intriguing because empty-nesters rarely need as much space as they needed when raising a family. Downsizing equates to a smaller footprint, which means reduced costs of living and utilities. It seems overwhelming because the idea of going through decades of stuff and deciding who gets what is nothing short of exhausting. But it doesn’t need to be.

Downsizing is a difficult transition to make for everyone

When deciding to downsize, it starts with a plan and a list. What are your essentials? What are non-essentials that you simply can’t part with? And what can go and not be missed?

What are your essentials?

Start here. Determining what you absolutely must take will make the process easier. If you have duplicates, keep the items that are newer or better quality.

What are your non-essentials?

Don’t decide where the non-essentials will go, but simply identify what they are. For instance, unless you play the piano daily, the piano may be considered a non-essential. Don’t worry right now if it’s a family heirloom. Just identify what will have to go.

What are the non-essentials that won’t be missed?

Now that you have your lists, decide which non-essentials can go without worry. Identify a list of charities to donate to. Goodwill, Salvation Army, and Habitat for Humanity are popular choices. But consider other organizations, too, such as a battered women’s shelter, a homeless shelter, or even the Vietnam Veterans of America. Of course, you’ll want to make sure your children don’t want or need anything first, but begin thinking of where you want to donate your non-essentials.

What are the non-essentials that have sentimental value?

Call a family meeting. Invite your children, siblings, cousins, and even close family friends. Discuss these pieces. Share the family history and express your emotions. And then, let your loved ones discuss what they may need or want. Don’t demand an answer on the spot, but ask your loved ones to consider if there are some items they may want to use in their own homes or maybe use in place of something they already have.

Above all – don’t apply pressure or guilt. Downsizing is a difficult transition to make for everyone. Even the grown children who may not want or need your stuff may struggle with the idea that items they grew up with need to be disposed of.

It’s always a good idea, too, to have a neutral party involved. A senior move specialist like Jennifer Hammon of Monarch Living can help look at situations and items from a different, less emotional perspective.

And remember, it’s okay to shed a few tears along the way. While at the end of the day, it’s just “stuff,” it’s also about memories. Treasure the memories more than you treasure the things.