WRITER | LISA BECKER CAMPBELL
Trading Spaciousness for Simplicity
For many, the desire to live in smaller dwellings is increasing. In addition to the wave of Baby Boomers leaving their now-empty nests, households of all ages and sizes are embracing the popular tiny house trend and choosing to live a simpler lifestyle.
While the benefits of making a fresh start in a smaller space are many, the process of abandoning a spacious lifestyle and its accompanying clutter is an enormous, complicated undertaking. Movers must be ready emotionally and prepared logistically. Discarding items no longer practical may mean abandoning treasures and dreams. Taking a careful measure of your emotional readiness is particularly important for empty nesters, who will be parting with sentimental items.
To prepare yourself mentally, imagine living without certain heirlooms — such as your mother’s piano or Grandma’s formal china — in potential destinations. If you have the means, spend a week or more renting temporarily in the various locations.
Also, examine your goals for the future. Is it your hope to live near grandkids or to live in a resort town? Do you want to embark on a life in the heart of the city or spend your days gardening?
Once these goals are established, explore your best life options. Rent or buy? A smaller home, a condo or apartment, or an age-appropriate community?
Once you’ve decided where you want to go, then you must decide where to start!
According to Beth Mans, a relocation specialist in West Michigan, the first step in her recommended standard process is to set a target date to prepare for the move. Mans suggests setting a deadline of no more than two months to prevent procrastination.
Enlist family members to help. Invite them to select desired treasures and remove them from the property two weeks before the target date. Keep a journal and take pictures of sentimental gems before donating them or dispersing them to welcoming homes, and consider the joy other children will derive from your children’s donated toys and books.
Think practically – an organized, uncluttered home will be more attractive when you list it. “Tackle one room at a time, and one item at a time,” states Mans. “Sort items into four categories: save, sell, donate, and toss. Stock up on sturdy, clear plastic containers for saved items.”
If the project seems overwhelming, enlist an outside service to help pack and remove unwanted items. There are also companies that specialize in holding estate sales so that you don’t have to try to do it yourself.
Companies such as Seniors Moving Smarter in Grand Rapids can assist with organizing, downsizing, and space planning at the new locale. Specialty services offered include shipping of heirloom items, long-distance moves, and even hanging artwork in the new space.
Additional considerations for those downsizing to retirement communities include inquiring about pet policies, rules governing guests, and the accessibility of walking and transit. Finally, downsizing seniors should heed this advice: The sooner you go through preparation for downsizing, the easier it will be.
“Our mantra for seniors is: ‘Do your giving while you’re living, so you’re knowing where it’s going,’” states Mans.