With the kids grown and gone, you’ve decided to downsize your home. But clearing out years of belongings is intimidating. Here’s how to do it painlessly.
Decide where to live
The first step to downsize homes is to ask yourself where you want to live. You may want to stay in your current community, but just find a smaller house. Do you want to be close to kids and grand kids? Have you considered one of the many active retirement communities for people aged fifty-five plus?
How much size difference
To how much of a smaller space do you want to downsize your home? With this question, do an inventory of your furniture, accessories and stored items. What are you willing to part with? Make a list of what stays and what goes. This will give you the best picture of what size house you’ll need.
Aging in place
Right now you may not give thought to how your capabilities may erode in the future, but you should plan ahead. For example, you may not mind doing landscape maintenance now, but if you intend to stay in this next house for many years, consider a condo community where the homeowners’ association dues fund those services. You also should consider a one story home rather than two, and one built with features such as wide doors, levered door handles and lipless thresholds, for aging in place.
Purging years of stuff
Once you’ve decided where you will live it’s time to tackle the Great Purge. Don’t go wobbly! You can do this.
Your stuff should be categorized thus: things to keep, things to sell, donations, recyclables and garbage. Any items that can still command a decent resale price can be sold for free on Craig’s List. For items to be given away, contact organizations such as Salvation Army that will take donations or recycle goods.
It may help clear your thinking to sort items by each room to which they belong. This will narrow down the things to purge.
Measure the rooms in your new house and determine, room by room, which of your furniture pieces you can keep and which must go.
Compare the amount of closet, attic, basement and garage storage your new home will have compared to your current space, so as to strengthen your resolve in purging unneeded clutter.
Other downsizing decisions
Besides the fact that your new space will dictate how much you can keep, here are some other considerations.
You can offer your kids their childhood keepsakes, but don’t be hurt if they decline or later trash them. If the items still mean something to you, take pictures of them.
Many financial records can be scanned to disks and so can whole picture albums. Old VHS family movies can be converted to DVDs or flash drive sticks.
Clothes: do you really need your old football letter jacket or cheerleader uniform? And no, that shirt probably won’t come back in style. If you haven’t worn something in a year, get rid of it.
Properly dispense with household chemicals through your local government’s hazardous waste disposal program.
Reduce holiday decorations taking up storage space. You won’t need as much with a smaller house.
You don’t have to accomplish all of this in one weekend. Take your time, choose carefully and you’ll soon be enjoying the liberating feeling of having less clutter in a cozier home.