Downsizing to Start a New Chapter
Updated: Mar 10
Many people long for adventure. For many years their home has served them and their family's needs, but life changes and a life beyond the home begins calling them. Many of my clients have told me they loved their home dearly, but after the kids moved out, it was too empty, and the cost to maintain it all seemed wasteful.
I'm not the only one who reports that most people who downsize are happy they made a move. Jacqueline Simon Gunn, a NewYork-based clinical psychologist, also states the following, "most people report being thrilled with the decision once they move. Many also find that living alone or in a smaller space is liberating. I have heard things like, 'I can't believe I waited this long. I feel lighter, and the smaller space is so much less work. I have time now to do other things.'" (Source: Lifetime Daily)
Undoubtedly, if you're being called to adventure, congratulations, adventures are thrilling!
I'm a firm believer in a Bucket List. I have so many places I have yet to travel because well, for me, life is busy with my family, children's school work, and, of course, my work. You bet, I'm going to want to visit Marrakesh, Greece, Costa Rica, and a wildlife reserve in Kenya someday.
I'm sure you also have a list of things you've put off for someday. The question you may want to ask yourself is this: is today finally that day?
Besides feeling a calling of adventure, travel, or activities that take you outside the home, unfortunately, there are some reasons to consider a move related to physical changes in your body or health as you age. It is a fact of life that we can't stay as agile and spry as a teenager, no matter how hard we try! Some get close, and kudos to you!
I have encountered clients who either no longer want to live with stairs or, unfortunately, can't live with stairs. They love their home, but it's becoming more precarious to make the trips upstairs each night and every morning. One false move and slip and fall can occur.
Other folks who can manage stairs just fine find that it's simply harder to maintain a larger home. It takes time and money to clean it, do seasonal repairs and maintenance, and heat or cool the entire house. Is that time or money still well spent? Only you can answer that.
Now, let's talk about packing, purging, and moving. Oh, my! There is a lot to cover here.
The time and energy it takes to pack the magnitude of belongings acquired over the years, and that can seem overwhelming. It is a big job that most of us tend to put off. We never meant to collect that much in the first place, but it happened. Now, we're stuck dealing with it.
When talking to home sellers, I've found that they procrastinate on moving due to the dreaded packing. If you want to move and buy a new home, procrastinating can have a devastating effect. As a seller, you can miss a hot selling season or miss out on a period of favorable interest rates for buyers. As a buyer, you can miss out on the perfect replacement home or even miss that fair rate for yourself.
So, what is it about packing that causes such dread and procrastination?
It's a BIG job. Most of us have filled every closet, every drawer, every shelf, and every cupboard. When considering the whole house plus, in most cases, a garage, we shrink into defeat.
Don't fret. Preparation and planning can help tremendously. Break down this big job into smaller, more manageable steps.
First, get the supplies you will need to complete the job. It's undoubtedly a time killer (not to mention a dampening of your spirits) to stop the packing and have to run to the store to buy more tape or more boxes every couple of days.
Moving.com has an excellent packing calculator that helps homeowners determine how many boxes, rolls of tape, and how much packing paper is required based on their number of bedrooms and packing skill level. It also adds up an estimated cost to determine how much money is needed to pack your home.
You can find that exact webpage by clicking here: https://www.moving.com/moving-boxes/packing-calculator.asp
You can save money on boxes by reaching out to friends and neighbors to see who has boxes they can donate to your cause. You can also find gently used boxes listed on local websites and apps such as Nextdoor, Craigslist, or Let Go. (Feel free to ask me for help connecting to some of these local resources.)
Local merchants such a grocery stores, Costco, or Target, have packing boxes they may be able to give to you. I suggest asking the store manager nicely.
At this point, you have your moving supplies, and you're feeling confident about our move. Suddenly, you find yourself flooded with emotions that stop you in your tracks.
There is an emotional side to packing up your family home. In many cases, your children grew up in this house. Many of the items in your home seem sentimental.
It's common to attach feelings onto your home and belongings, and packing up those belongings can stir up emotions. Some face emotions they haven't adequately dealt with while others feel like they are discarding memories. Whether this is true or just our emotional side taking over, these are feelings that should be acknowledged. Letting the emotion get the better of you can easily cause that procrastination again.
I believe there is a positive side buried within the emotion here. The question you should ask yourself is this. Do you want material items standing in the way of this new life you envision for yourself? Keeping a few things can spark that memory, so pick the most special and even better if it's the smallest. Or, better yet, remember that memories live within you. You don't need material items to keep a memory alive.
You can also take pictures of your sentimental objects and write out the story behind them. It's a far more in-depth and meaningful way to remember that moment in your life. The item itself can't tell the story, but so you can. It's simple to turn this story into a hardcover book with websites such as Shutterfly or Apple books. (Let me know if you need help figuring out how to prepare a photo book.) Photobooks are so much lighter than carrying a box from place to place.
You can also set limits for keepsakes. Keep one cherished item per each particular person in your life. Or, designate one small keepsake box and fill it with only the essential things you want to keep. They must fit in the keepsake box, though. Lastly, get creative with multiple items. I've seen a quilt-style blanket made from a box of sentimental t-shirts.
Realize that memories don't have to stay with a home or an object. Memories come with you.
You may find it tough to part with those items that you no longer need. The act of deciding how to treat this "junk" can get in your way of packing. Do you toss it in the dumpster? Do you attempt to sell the old furniture? Do you pass down that set of encyclopedias to your son? Does he even want them? So many questions arise, and we can overthink the process of packing before we get started.
A quick fix would be to close your eyes and envision yourself living with a lighter load, only the things you genuinely need or choose. It's a simpler, cleaner life. You're in charge, and it's a freeing feeling.
If imagining isn't enough to stop you from procrastinating, then ask a family member or a friend to help you purge. Another opinion can help persuade you to donate, sell, or toss. It does help if you call your most sensible friend.
Goodness, let's not limit the help of friends and family just to purging. Accept help from as many people as you can during the moving process. You'd be amazed at the support you can enlist when you offer food and drink.
Oh, we're on a roll now. We've let go of some figurative and literal baggage at this point, but that clock is ticking. We hear it getting louder and louder. Time can get in the way of our packing and purging.
Packing takes time. Time not all of us have, or perhaps, the time we don't want to surrender to packing. When packing, many people don't allow enough time to prepare appropriately, and when they run out of time, stress enters the equation. Even the thought of dedicating time to packing is enough to stop people before they start.
Did you know that experts suggest taking 3-5 days to pack each room? You can make that determination based on the room's size and the number of items in that space.
Let's do some math! In this example, I'll use a 2,500 SF home with four bedrooms and three baths. This home also has a formal living room, a dining room, and a separate family room. I'll include the kitchen, the laundry room, and the garage adding up to 13 different rooms that need to be packed up.
If your garage is as full a mine, I know I'd need a full five days to pack it. It is safe to allow that much time for the kitchen, although you can most likely pack it faster. The master bedroom is usually the largest of the bedrooms, so I would allow three days to pack it up. Livingrooms, dining rooms, and family rooms are often filled with more significant furniture pieces with less clutter, so those rooms may only take two days, maybe even less. Bathrooms and generally smaller laundry rooms can be packed in 1 day. The other bedrooms can vary between one, two, and three days, depending on the use of the bedroom's current usage. Bedrooms used as an office have more items to pack while bedrooms used a guestroom are generally emptier. For this example, I will allocate two days each for the three remaining bedrooms. I'll add one day off day, bringing the total to 30 days.
So, let's nip this in the bud now. If you plan and give yourself enough time to get the job done, time is no longer an issue.
While downsizing isn't an easy feat, I have to go back to a familiar saying. Nothing worth doing is ever easy. With proper planning and preparation, it can be done. It will be an emotional ride, but if you understand that before you start, you'll be able to recognize and manage those feelings when they arise. Enlist friends, family, and neighbors to help. It may even end up being a fun, memorable experience.
If you are still struggling to leave your home to start a new chapter in your lift, I hope you can find some comfort in the fact I mentioned above - most people report they are happy with their move.