Downsize to rightsize your life
The onerous task of downsizing and sorting through a lifetime of ‘stuff’ is a major reason why people put off moving to more suitable accommodation to match their needs as they age.
Decluttering and downsizing can be a stressful and emotional process. It’s something that can’t be rushed … look at it as a marathon not a sprint.
Before you really launch into downsizing, walk through your home and consider what furniture you no longer want or need in your new life. Have a clear vision of your new apartment and lifestyle. Start one room at a time, if that’s too hard to contemplate then begin with a drawer or a cupboard. Don’t let yourself become overwhelmed by the task or you’ll just give up.
Have a floor plan of your retirement village apartment to know exactly how much space you have and measure large furniture to ensure it fits. A vital part of downsizing is doing a review of your possessions and matching it to your new space.
The aim is to simplify your life and pare down those years of accumulated belongings. However, you don’t need to get rid of all your possessions – keep your favourite things that hold memories, those items you love to have around and enjoy using. If you think about all the things you actually use in your home on a daily or regular basis it will only amount to a fraction of the thousands of items you own.
Begin your decluttering efforts in the areas of the house you don’t use such as spare bedrooms. In this way it won’t be so disruptive and the things in these rooms are unlikely to be missed. If items are being passed on to family members use coloured post-it notes to identify the recipients. Box or bag items for charity and have another pile for the rubbish bin each week.
Charities often have regular collection days in your suburb so phone them to find out when they can collect. When the pile for donation is large enough to justify a collection call the charity to keep the flow of your unwanted items heading out the door. Charities such as Lifeline are keen to receive books and will gladly collect them for their major annual fundraiser, the Lifeline Bookfest.
Opportunities to sell some unwanted items during the downsizing process will provide a welcome upsizing of your bank account.
You might be sorting through several generations of possessions and this can be a burden if you have inherited items that a grandparent or parent had placed great value in. Even if you don’t share their value or sentimentality for the item you will probably still feel a duty to find it a good home. When passing on heirlooms provide a note to the recipient with a little about its history. Tell the story of who owned it, when and where the item was used. An object comes to life when connected to a story or a person. Another family member may treasure that heirloom you don’t really connect with.
Joan and Robert are survivors of the downsizing process and now live happily with fewer possessions and less clutter. The couple still live in the western Brisbane suburb they love, after moving from their large old Queenslander where they had resided for 30 years to the Kingsford Terrace retirement community in Corinda.
Joan says downsizing had been a challenge but after they purchased their three-bedroom apartment in the vertical-living village community she got busy with cut outs on the floorplan and quickly worked out what furniture would fit in their new home.
She says parting with paintings was the hardest part of the downsizing process but she knew that most wouldn’t suit the modern styling of their apartment. One treasured item Joan kept was her mother’s extendable dining table that she matched with the couple’s own chairs. “The table has extra sentimental value because my father restored it. The things that meant the most and would fit, we were able to keep.’’
But if the task of downsizing and decluttering becomes too overwhelming there’s help available. Professionals like Karen Morgan of Brisbane company Task Tamers can assist through the downsizing process to make your move as easy as possible. They become your support team so you can get excited about the next phase in your life - rather than worry about the move.
Karen suggests starting as early as possible and take your time, spending only an hour or two working through the clutter at a pace that is comfortable for you. “This is not a task that you can do for long periods - there will be many emotions and memories stirred up because, in essence, you are sorting through your life. Take time to savour the fond memories and to share stories with friends and family,’’ Karen says. “Be flexible when making decisions. Remember you are free to change your mind about any item as long as it’s still in your possession. By breaking down your ‘to do’ list into small chunks at a time, you’ll be surprised how manageable it becomes.’’
Preparing for the new phase of your life should fill you with excitement, not dread. Without the weight of all that unnecessary clutter you will feel relief and soon you’ll be revelling in your new lifestyle and won’t miss all those things – in fact you’ll probably wish you’d downsized years earlier!