How To Downsize

by Judy Baxter, Marketing Director – Westchester Village of Lenexa

Downsizing (spring cleaning or purging) is a common topic of many conversations. The idea is to eliminate items no longer needed, wanted, or used. Some find the process exciting while others are overwhelmed by it. In my 12 years of professional experience, I’ve guided guide many through this process and found that downsizing can be liberating and freeing.

Two realizations must be noted. First, what you use and need on a day to day basis is different now than it was 10, 20 or 30 years ago. Second, what is you think is important, meaningful and priceless to YOU, may not hold the same significance or relevance to others (i.e. children and grandchildren). Please do not be offended by this perspective. Third, remember, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” so do not expect to go through an entire house in a day. Pace yourself and set reasonable goals (maybe one room a week).

With the ground rules set, let’s begin the process of downsizing! For each item (big or small) think in terms of the following categories:

1) KEEP

Is this an item you need and use on a regular basis? Also, consider repurposing items. For example, a library table or entry hall console table can be repurposed as a TV stand. If you are preparing to move into a smaller residence, select the end table with drawers (to maximize storage) instead of a basic tabletop. Drop leaf dining tables are wonderful because they offer additional space when needed.

2) DONATE (TO FAMILY OR CHARITY)

Think of the joy you will experience when a family member or another individual is using the item. Remember the joy you felt using a bedroom set and think of the joy that will give another family member, or family in need.

3) DISCARD/TRASH

It could be time to part with an item. If its broken, stained, or needs repair, consider throwing it out. Give yourself permission to purge old books, magazines, greeting cards, and even children’s treasured art projects.

Whether your downsizing is motivated by a move to a new residence within a senior living community or wanting to clean your home, consider the following tips. First, it could be helpful to go through an area two or three times. For example, the kitchen holds many items; additional passes will allow you to be more discerning in what you need to keep. You may wonder if you need four cookie sheets and four dozen muffin tins when two cookie sheets and two dozen muffin tins will actually be sufficient. Second, use your “good” dishes as “everyday” dishes — enjoy your treasures and belongings. Third, have your adult children move their boxes of childhood and college mementos out of your house. Give a firm date for them to collect the items, and let them know unclaimed boxes will be donated. Every family has a different approach to this idea. My in-laws rented a U-HAUL truck and drove halfway across the country to deliver items to my husband and his sisters. On the other hand, my dad paid to have a treasured piece of family furniture delivered to me with a note that said “Merry Christmas”. Finally, have a designated place in your house that you place DONATE or DISCARD items. Every time family members come to visit, encourage them to visit that area and pick up any item(s) of interest. This can be very helpful to a grandchild’s first apartment or a newlywed’s home.

Whether the day is filled with snow, showers, or heat, it’s always a good time to downsize. Try a little at a time and you will be surprised at the progress! Good luck, and have fun.

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