downsizingMoving from a family home to an apartment likely means the need to downsize. Going through decades of accumulations is a big job, but it’s an important way to start your new life and make sure items you no longer need find the right new home.

You certainly will keep items you regularly use or wear, and those that hold special meaning. Many times, it’s easier to get rid of dishes and clothes than seashells from a family vacation to Florida when your children were young. But your grandchildren probably would love to have the shells and hear your stories about what their parents were like as vacationing children.

Take our advice for downsizing:

  • It’ll take time. Allow sufficient time to go through everything in your house. Start with a smaller room for a quick success. Orchard Estates apartment manager Nancy Ellefson says that it’s often easier to figure out which items to sell or give away after you have moved into your apartment. That way, you know exactly what you are dealing with.
  • Develop a system. Use a sorting system that works for you, such as making designated areas for categories, or using different-colored stickers to mark items that can be thrown away, donated to charity, sold or passed on to family members. As you pack, make sure you mark each box with its contents.
  • Plan for your new home. Identify what you will need in your new home and, just as importantly, what will fit. You will need a bed and dresser, a sofa, a table for eating, sufficient clothing for each season and household items like dishes, personal care items and cleaning supplies. If you wish to have a microwave, please make plans to bring one. It’s also important to keep in mind that, at this stage in your life, you probably just need one winter coat, for example, and one set of dishes. With home maintenance no longer an issue, you won’t need a full toolbox, but you might want to bring a hammer and a screwdriver.
  • Prioritize. Identify what other items you can’t part with. That could include family photo albums; a special, homemade gift from a child or grandchild; love letters from long ago; jewelry or a family heirloom. What’s important to you could be a small table that’s been in your family for years, books, sewing supplies or items used in favorite hobbies.
  • Pass on special items. Talk to your children and close friends about special items they would like to keep. It’s also time to give your “kids” their old report cards, prom dresses and sports equipment that have been stored in your attic for years.
  • Help the less fortunate. Know that others could use clothing and household goods. A number of local charities would welcome what you no longer need.
  • Have a back-up plan. If you run out of time to go through everything before your move-in date, you could put items in storage for now with a timetable for when you will go through them.

While parting with items you’ve had in your life for many years can be difficult, consider this a new start and know that items you can’t take with you will be put to good use.

For more on downsizing to a smaller home, we recommend this article from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) website:

Downsizing in Retirement