by Lilianne Fuller
There’s more to downsizing than simply moving. After living in a large family home for many years, a move can be daunting, especially if it’s to smaller surroundings. However, the rewards of future travel, embracing new interests or having a bigger nest egg can make the move well worth the effort. In the larger urban areas like Calgary and Edmonton, seminars on the topic are springing up at senior’s centres and libraries. Seniors are learning there could be ‘gold’ in the walls of their homes.
If this is something that you want to do, the first step is to picture your future lifestyle and start planning. Have you always wanted to see the world? Maybe you’d like to do some missions work? Perhaps there’s a hobby you’d like to try but the demands of keeping up a big house and ranch won’t allow it? But, before you can strap on your travelling shoes or start a new life chapter, downsizing your home must begin first, and it’s a process that can be very intimidating. After 30,40 or, even 50 years in the same house, there’s sure to be a large accumulation of possessions.
It’s important to remember that downsizing is a process and it can be a very emotional one. We accumulate and keep various items for a reason.
Shannon Lang, owner and founder of Elder Move Inc, a professional downsizing and relocation company, advises, “Take it slow and ask for help. Sorting with a friend can be lots of fun,” she says. “Be patient, this is a very emotional time,” she adds.
In your will, you can bequeath the family home as an inheritance. But what about some of the family heirlooms? Why not gift your children and grandchildren early? Perhaps your daughter has always admired your formal table linens, or you may have already decided who will get a favourite painting or sculpture? Why wait until the day your will is read? Do it early. Your family will have the enjoyment of your gifts and the heirloom will be out of your house.
A good idea when starting the downsizing process, is to call a family meeting to discuss your plans and how your children or grandchildren can help. Karen Fraser, a realtor with Remax Southern Realty in High River feels that family involvement is an essential part of the process. “I encourage the family to be present at each meeting if possible. That eliminates significant things getting lost in translation,” she says. “Your realtor can get an idea how long you will need to dispose of possessions no longer needed,” she explains. With Skype or FaceTime, it’s easy to include the whole family in the planning process even if they live far away.
Possibly a lot of the stuff in your basement, attic or garage belongs to your children. After they’ve moved out a lot of their possessions may have stayed behind. If this is the case, make a deadline and be firm. Tell them, if they don’t pick up their stuff by the time they’ve agreed upon, their stuff will be going to charity. On the other hand, you may have to remind your kids that it is your move and there are items that must come with you. “Be patient and don’t argue with your parents,” says Lang. “Remember who is moving; if you think mom’s favourite chair is ugly but she wants to take it with her, then she does” Lang continues. If you’re going from 2,500 square feet to a thousand, much of your furniture will not fit in your new space. Do your best to avoid putting your furniture and extra possessions in storage, you’ll be paying monthly rent and the truth of the matter is when an item is of sight, it’s probably out of mind as well. Red Deer senior Marcy Prystay can attest. “I’m doing a daily trip to my storage locker in anticipation of moving into my new smaller digs,” she says. “My locker is full and there’s stuff in there that I really don’t want. The things I’ve forgotten about, I obviously don’t need.”
Consider selling or consigning some of your furniture and possessions. Online sales sites such as Kijiji or Bidding Wars on Facebook make it easy to dispose of items as large as furniture or as small as knickknacks. Perhaps your tech-savvy grandchildren could help. Why not sweeten the pot for them by promising a commission on everything they sell? What doesn’t sell, can go to your favourite charity.
Downsizing can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Just remember to start early, make a plan and if you need it, ask for help. The rewards of finding a place you love and enjoying your golden years are well worth the effort it takes to downsize.