Downsizing Before a Move
Living in a home for any amount of time is a source of comfort. Familiar surroundings, set patterns and routines that scaffold our life. Our homes are extensions of us. They are where we store our memories in the form of photos, knick-knacks, cartoons on the fridge, cards from loved ones, gifts given to us… even kitchen tables and chairs bring memories of fun times shared over a family meal. Over time our homes become a comforting cocoon of memories, especially after decades of living the same home.
The consistency we experience living daily in our homes make the unexpected events in life more tolerable, but what about when it is our home we are leaving? Over 6 months later after Hurricane Harvey I still hear stories nearly every week from people I know who experienced the instant loss that Harvey brought. Loss of family treasures, comfortable surroundings, photos, family keepsakes, favorite clothes or shoes, furniture – everything gone or unsalvageable. What can we learn from their experiences to help others to downsize before a move?
A comment several “Harvey” friends have made, is that in spite of the shock of losing so much, they came to realize they really didn’t need as much as they owned. Whether they instantly lost their entire wardrobe due to contaminated water, or their wardrobe was buried at the bottom of a pile in the upstairs family room for several months, many found that they really didn’t need the majority of their clothes. Although they weren’t given the luxury of choosing the items in advance, there were only a few select articles they really missed having.
To downsize into a closet space that is a fraction of what is currently available, start with the easiest decisions first; often that is what isn’t liked or is devoid of emotional attachments. To assist you, here are my reflective questions for closet organizing and downsizing.
If you are helping an elderly parent downsize their wardrobe, be patient; this may not be an easy task for them. Be sure you ask questions using neutral tones and are not attached to the outcome. Allow whomever you are helping to reach the conclusions on their own. This is where an organizer is really helpful. We have helped many people, including seniors, downsize in a fun and playful way because we have no attachment to the outcome. We can gently guide and on occasion provide a slight nudge towards scaling back further.
When downsizing it helps to have a floor plan with measurements of the new home. There are simple and free programs online to plan your rooms, or you can even do it old school using graph paper and cut up post-its. Either way, you start by measuring all the furniture and plotting it out, being sure to allow for walking space around the furniture by measuring the distance between the furniture you have now and include that on your measurements sheet.
Sometimes it comes right down to what will fit. In a lot of ways it is easier because it is cut and dry. I have done several floor plans in which the client gave me criterion of what is important from most to least and I plotted what would fit. Very straight forward and it is much easier to make decisions from fact than speculation.
So much of our personalities are tied up in our décor. Next to our clothing it is an extension of us but also, it’s what we look at all every day. When I’m advising people in this area, it’s easiest to start with things that are no longer wanted. If it has been stored in a closet for the past 5 years, even if it is something that is adored it can probably move on to “someone else’s house” .
Room measurements and dimensions are important in planning out the new home and will be an ally in decision making because there is only a finite amount of wall space. Whatever doesn’t fit can be photographed and placed on a digital frame that repeatedly scrolls through all photos for continued enjoyment.
When in doubt, hang onto it. Bringing an additional 6, 10 or even 15 paintings or knick knacks can be crowded, but sometimes we just don’t know until we get there what will “feel right”. Allow it to happen. It’s just as easy to peel away the items that don’t make the final cut in the new place, but once they are gone, that’s it they are gone.
To me this is by far the biggest challenge to downsizing, especially if you are moving into a tiny apartment with limited storage. For most people it is the photos that they feel most connected to. The images of loved ones that can’t be replaced. Scrapbooks of our grandchildren or children that we really made for us (even though we thought we were making it for them).
For an elderly person who is downsizing and simply can not bring everything with them, it can be painful to part with these types of things and they make look to you to take them. I have been on both sides of this equation – helping the elderly parent and helping the recipient of all these keepsakes. It’s overwhelming for both parties and there is no easy answer or solution but if you are helping an elderly person downsize, I will offer these words: Cheerfully take the photos.
The comfort this will bring them is enormous. Regardless of how exciting this time of transition can be, it is still difficult, and the photos often mean the most but by having someone they know and love take the photos makes this point of the transition easier to handle. Take the photos as an act of kindness.
When it’s Hard to Let Go, Take Pictures
For many people the small act of taking a picture of “it” makes a huge difference towards letting go. And with digital frames we can easily load those photos into a digital frame to keep those memories close by. It might even be fun to have the kids sit next to that lion statue that there just isn’t room for, or someone stand next to the enormous painting that won’t fit into the new home… Not only do you get to preserve the memory of the painting, but it captures new memories as well. Keep it light and fun so that the captured new memory elicits happy feelings instead of a reminder of what was left behind. Even if adding that playful element to the downsizing isn’t an option, it only takes a moment to snap a quick pic and move on.
Allow Enough Time, Make a List and Use it
It’s rare we are thrust into a “gotta move RIGHT NOW” situation, like my Harvey friends experienced. For that the rest of us can be grateful, and we can start preparations early. Procrastination can serve as motivation, but when there is an entire home that is relatively full there is no time to procrastinate. Remember, everything should be looked at but it doesn’t need to be done all at once. Start with the easiest room first, or the easiest decisions, or by measuring all the furniture or by eliminating unwanted clothing… it doesn’t matter where you start, just start and keep making weekly progress. Just like any other goal you set in life, listing out the action steps helps guide you, especially when you are in the thick of it and can lose your way. Look to your list to realign you with your course.
Downsizing can be a challenge, but for seniors downsizing is an emotional time as well – both positive and negative. The more time given to prepare and take action, the smoother the move will be. If moving into a retirement home is the next step, then you will want to read The Senior Guide for Decluttering and Feeling at Home in a Retirement Home by Alejandra Roca. After going through this when she moved her mother into a retirement home, she wrote her experience and advice down to help others be better prepared. I highly recommend it as an additional resource to help you as the adult-child prepare.
Katy Home Organizer Can Help You Downsize
If you need help downsizing and de-cluttering before or after a move, Katy Home Organizer can help. We are the neutral voice to help you make the best decisions for you. We love to help our customers gain clarity that downsizing brings and talking it out with someone while taking action creates momentum and with that progress is made. Give us a call right now to schedule an appointment.