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The best downsizing tips for empty nesters

Jim Bernardine

The son of a highly successful REALTOR in the region, Jim grew up around Main Line real estate...

The son of a highly successful REALTOR in the region, Jim grew up around Main Line real estate...

Feb 8 5 minutes read

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Ahh, the kids are grown and you have the house to yourself.  Bittersweet, isn’t it?  Take the opportunity to change things up and think about your future.  A smaller, more manageable home will help you stay independent through your golden years.  Here are some tips on how to make that happen.

Declutter.   The first step toward downsizing is to declutter.  Check with your family and friends to see what items they want.  Experts cited by The Washington Post note, “It’s amazing how many things one can accumulate over a lifetime.  As we age, we also tend to hold onto things as they connect us with our past. ...Unfortunately, things that we think are important to our children may not be, and things that we think are disposable may have tremendous intrinsic value to our loved ones.”  The things your loved ones want? Give them away now to lighten your load.  You may have a few keepsakes left you can’t part with, such as mementos from raising your children.  Then there’s all that other “stuff.”  Now what?  

  • Things with value can be sold online or in yard sales.  If you don’t want to bother, call a junk man.  Check flea markets and community bulletin boards for contact information.
  • Donate items that are still useful but you won’t need.  
  • Go through your closets and remove clothing you no longer wear.
  • If you find you purchased duplicate items or are buying new things to replace items that are wearing out, throw away the old ones.  
  • US News and World Report suggest that some towns offer bulk pickup a few times per year, or you can routinely max out your trash service for a while.  

Know when to hire help.  If you're feeling really overwhelmed by this task, it might be time to call in the help of a professional organizer.  These folks can sort your piles of paperwork and other items in a systematic manner that will alleviate your stress and help you through the process.  

Make a plan.  Think about how you want to redefine your lifestyle.  The Chicago Tribune recommends taking a full inventory of what is important to you and formulating a plan.  Is the city for you, or do you prefer the countryside?  Do you want to be within walking distance to the farmer’s market?  Would you enjoy driving a golf cart to the course instead of your car?  Is spending time in the garden and on the riding mower a hobby you enjoy, or is a yard just something that will tie you down?  This is your opportunity to reframe how you spend your days.  Decide how you want your life to look, and pursue changes with that in mind.

Your new place.  It’s to your advantage to choose a home offering universal design.  This means the home will be appropriate for aging, even if your ability begins to decline.  Single-story homes with wide doorways, flat thresholds, non-slip flooring, and grab bars are features to include in your purchase, or ones to consider adding later.  Don’t forget, when you finally make the big move to alert every one of your new address and follow this change of address checklist so no one is forgotten. 

Rethink space.  When downsizing to a smaller home, HGTV recommends being creative in how you use shelves, nooks, and crannies.  Rethink large, overstuffed furniture that may be too bulky in your new place, and opt for pieces that are multipurpose, such as a storage coffee table or ottoman.  A closet could become a small office, or a shelf with some bins could turn into your new sewing studio.  

Home is where the heart is.  Being an empty-nester offers big advantages.  It’s a perfect time for moving into a smaller home that’s easier to maintain.  Downsizing can be challenging, so if you need help, hire an organizer to keep things on track.  Make a plan and select a property that fits with how you want your life to look, then make smart choices in how you use your space.  

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