I recently downsized from a 2-story colonial to a townhouse. I found the process to be freeing, frustrating, exhausting, joyful, and tearful, all at the same time.
It was a 20-year trip back in time. This was the house where my 2 children were raised, the house where one child kicked his foot through the bathroom door and where another child stabbed a knife into the kitchen cabinet. (If you have boys, you will know this is pretty standard stuff.)
I cried as I painted over the growth chart drawn on the master bedroom closet wall that measured boys as small as 6 months old, and even the 2-year-old black Labrador retriever.
How does a person effectively and efficiently go through the collection of a life well lived, keeping what matters most and letting the rest go?
Moving out of the family home and into a smaller, more hands-free lifestyle is an opportunity many of us will face at least once in our lives. No more mowing the lawn, plowing snow, and taking care of the aging house.
Depending on the timing, this can be an exciting change, but it also starts a grieving process all its own. Whether a positive or not-so-positive move, stress will take its toll on you and those who love and support you. Websites like Caring.com and Caregiver.org have some wonderful tips that rang true for me. These are my top 10:
- Avoid tackling the whole house in one go. This is an emotional process, and tackling one room at a time is easier on those emotions.
- Use the new space as a guide. Get the measurements of the rooms and storage areas. My 9-foot Christmas tree had nowhere to live in my new space unless I wanted to keep it up year-round.
- Banish the maybe pile. Keep, donate, toss.
- Pack representative bits of favorite items and not the whole collection. Consider digitizing pictures, and keep only those that would look good up on the wall or on tabletops. You can always print new ones to put into frames when you want a change.
- Get high-value items appraised before selling on ebay or Craigslist. Don’t give out your address or phone number until you are sure they’re a strong buyer. If someone needs to come to your home to purchase an item, have someone else there with you. Cash only.
- Give the things you promised to someone else to that person now. What a wonderful time to honor your legacy, while you’re still here with us.
- Don’t think you have to haul it all away yourself. Services like 1-800-Got-Junk and your local Salvation Army and Goodwill have pick-up services for a fee.
- Shred, shred, shred. Invest in your own shredder or watch the newspapers for shredding events. Never throw away anything with personal information on it. This includes shredding the hard drives of old computers.
- Now is the time for your grown children to take home their own things. Your home is no longer a museum for their old high school yearbooks, prom dresses, and baseball trophies.
- Take breaks! A glass of wine or a cup of coffee will re-energize you or help you relax, depending on what you need at the moment.
Lora Felger is a community and broker liaison at Health Alliance. She is the mother of 2 terrific boys, a world traveler, and a major Iowa State Cyclones fan.