Many people like the idea of whittling down possessions and moving to a smaller home. But when it comes to the work of downsizing, it seems the devil is in the details.
At a recent presentation on “The Art of Downsizing” at AlmaVia of San Francisco, nearly three dozen residents and members of the community heard tips for lightening the burden of belongings.
Among the biggest challenges? Sales and Marketing Director Karen Johnson cited the time it takes to get the job done, along with the difficulty of “letting go of items that bring back memories.” But she added that the presentation — by Moira Brennan of Senior Settlers — included numerous tips for getting started with downsizing.
Start by identifying the items you definitely want to keep, Johnson said, including those you use every day, those you love and those you simply aren’t ready to let go. Next, ask yourself questions about the remaining items, such as “Do I really need more than three knives? How long has it been since I used this item? Does the item tell a story without having to explain it to someone else?”
Brennan, who is a certified senior move manager and a member of the National Association of Senior Move Managers, agreed that one of the hardest aspects of downsizing is simply getting started — followed by continuing with the momentum, especially if you’re sorting through your possessions without assistance.
“Downsizing is like any other big project that needs commitment,” Brennan said. “Think of sticking with a diet or getting into a regular exercise program. It helps to have a friend or network to keep you accountable, keep you on task, make it less lonely and even make it fun!”
She added that setting small, incremental, achievable goals can be helpful. For instance, instead of taking on downsizing an entire kitchen, commit to just cleaning out one drawer or clearing off one shelf. Over time, those short bouts of decluttering add up.
“Then treat yourself to a little reward for a job well done,” Brennan said.
Getting Started With Downsizing
Brennan offered tips for older adults who wish to begin downsizing their possessions in anticipation of a move to a smaller home or a senior living community:
- Start as soon as possible, and ask for help from friends, family members and professionals.
- Begin by organizing closets, attics, basements and filing cabinets; work on one area each month until you’re done.
- Make a list of the items you use regularly or love enough to keep, and box up everything not on the list. After a year, discard or donate the contents of the boxes.
- Try to use up the food you have, or donate it to a food pantry.
- Use a floor plan of your new space to determine how your furniture and belongings will fit.
By starting now, Brennan said, you’ll have fewer items to pack and move — along with a smaller moving bill.