Downsizing is a personal journey that will not be completely unfamiliar to most of us, says Marni Jameson, author of Downsizing the Family Home: What to Save, What to Let Go. This just-released new book was published by Sterling Publishing and AARP. Jameson has been helping folks declutter their homes for a decade, as host of “Clean House” on the Style network, a guest on many other local and national TV shows and author of numerous articles and two more books.
We all go through periods of purging, cleaning out closets and emptying jam-packed kitchen drawers, without getting tied up in emotional decisions about what to keep and what to throw away. But moving into a smaller home is a different animal. If you’re leaving a 3,000-square-foot home, you may have to make some tough choices, and you might feel overwhelmed by the sheer size of the task.
Jameson’s book is a great guide to making those decisions and features lots of practical advice on how to dispose of excess possessions. She speaks from experience, having helped her parents downsize when they moved from their family home of 45 years into a retirement community, and having gone through the same process in her own life when she moved from the home in which she had raised her children into a smaller house and a new life as a single woman. In addition, she culled advice from downsizing experts and others who have gone through the process.
Here are some of Jameson’s suggestions for a satisfying and liberating decluttering process.
Allow plenty of time, and have a schedule. It took 45 years to accumulate all of your stuff, and it’s going to take more than a couple of weekends to clear out the excess. The process of choosing what to keep should be thoughtful, but you want to keep it moving. Accept that it may take two or three rounds of decision-making to arrive at the place you want to be.
Start by looking around your home and asking yourself what brings you joy and comfort and what would break your heart to leave behind. The latter list should be short, Jameson writes, but it helps define your style and your sense of place. When she was downsizing, she found that, above all, she treasured her French writing desk, several paintings and her four-poster bed. Everything else was negotiable. Jameson liked the idea of creating a new life when she moved—you might consider thinking that way, too. You may find it more appropriate to keep only a few irreplaceable items and starting anew with the rest.
Use online space planning tools to help determine what will fit into your new home and what won’t. You’ll know the square footage of your new apartment, and using these tools, you can come up with a floor plan that will determine whether or not your sectional sofa is going to fit.
Technology also helps reduce storage space and frees up lots of room. You may want to keep a few of your favorite vinyl albums and special photographs, but why not convert music and photos to digital copies? Do you really need to keep all of your books, or can you bring a minimum and use an e-reader for future book purchases? You can store important documents offsite in a lock box, and you can scan and keep digital copies of birth certificates, wills and the like. You can accomplish the same thing by making a scale drawing of your new floor plan and making cutouts of the furniture.
Books were among the most difficult items for Jameson to part with, until she realized that she was never going to read most of them again. Even so, they felt like a part of her family. She eventually decided to cut her collection in half and donated several boxes full of books to her local library.
Ask your children what they want. You might be surprised! Your son might want the secretary where his dad sat down every month to pay bills. Your daughter might treasure the heritage china, and you can give her half of it and keep the rest. After all, you don’t need 12 place settings any more, do you?
Go through your home room by room, starting with the easiest places—the basement, the garage, the shed where you keep gardening tools. These decisions will be simple. You won’t need your lawn mower or snow shovel—and isn’t that great? Early decluttering successes will get you enthused about the process and will make the rest of the task easier.
Decluttering is a little bit like a treasure hunt, Jameson says. “Need, use, love” are the words to remember when digging through your stuff, she writes. “Do you need it to live your life right now? Would you use it? Do you love how it looks?” You may want to add your own criteria: Does it mean a lot to you? Will it go beautifully in your new home? Is it worth moving?
When you’ve winnowed down your possessions and moved into your lovely new apartment, you’ll find that you don’t miss the things you left behind. After all, material things are really less important than the new friends you’ll be making and the new knowledge you will discover as you create your retirement lifestyle.
A growing group of active, engaged folks have already decided that Canterbury Woods Gates Circle is the ideal place to do that. For those who value the excitement of urban living, this continuing care retirement community offers a high-quality lifestyle near the charming Elmwood Village neighborhood and in close proximity to the heart of downtown Buffalo.
If you would like to know more about this exciting new retirement community, please call us at 716-929-5811.