Downsizing in the New Year – Tips for Seniors

Have you ever bought something new, put it away for future use, and then months or even years later find it stuffed in a corner or back of a drawer – sometimes with the store tag or label still on it? You aren’t alone. We all accumulate stuff over the years – and yes, stuff we don’t even remember we have. Some items become heirlooms or even hold sentimental value that can’t be purchased like artwork created by children or grandchildren.

At some point, however, most of us will have to deal with all of the items we’ve accumulated over time as we move, downsize, or transition to a senior living community. Understandably, it can be hard to get rid of possessions, but it can also feel liberating and cleansing – a chance to get purge the excess and make room for the items that matter.

Downsizing can be challenging, but it doesn’t necessarily mean giving up possessions with which you have a history or special connection. It begins by separating items like old magazines, clothes you never wear, old books or games, and reclaiming the physical space they inhabit. It’s actually about creating more than just physical space-you clear mental space and a sense of freedom. When you are ready, ask yourself how you feel about downsizing – it’s ok to be sad, feel guilty, or even be nervous. Here are some strategies to help:

  • Go slow. You don’t have to clean your entire space in a day. If you have a move planned, give yourself plenty of time. Perhaps it’s going through one bookshelf or cabinet a day. It’s going to take time, and that’s OK.
  • Consult loved ones. If you no longer want items, consider asking loved ones if they want to go through any items before you get rid of them. Perhaps a grandchild, neighbor or friend LOVES a quilt that you no longer use and would be happy to have it.
  • Repurpose when possible. It’s not about throwing items away, it’s more about finding them new purposes! Items can be sold, donated, or given away to people who want or need them. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.
  • Channel Marie Kondo. If you don’t know who she is, you can learn more about her here. Her theory is that if it doesn’t spark joy, you shouldn’t keep it. So ask yourself if each item makes you happy, is useful, or invokes a powerful emotion. If it doesn’t – get rid of it.
  • Invest in organization. This can be something as simple as purchasing totes or bins to keep things organized or hiring someone to help you organize your possessions so they are easier to see, use, and enjoy. It all depends on what you want to do yourself and are capable of doing yourself.
  • Consider a storage space. If you have too many possessions and you just aren’t ready to part with them, finding a place to store them may give you some peace of mind. Whether you pay for a small storage space at a local unit facility or have family members willing to store items, it may be a great alternative until you are ready to do a secondary downsizing.
  • Understand it’s a process. Downsizing isn’t something that you can expect to have done in a day. It’s a process that requires some thought, organization, and time. For some, making quick decisions works best, for others, they need time to think things through and decide what they really want to keep or get rid of. Take it at your own pace.

Change is hard, especially if you are downsizing to move to a new space. It’s ok to have some mixed emotions, but downsizing can offer you more time and space, and freedom!

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