• It's Time to Downsize

Boomers Downsize and Let Stuff Go!

If the 1980s were about greed and accumulating possessions, the current era is about downsizing and letting go of those possessions, says Denver gerontologist Karen Owen-Lee, author of "The Caring Code: What Baby Boomers Need to Learn About Seniors."   "The Baby Boomers already started turning 65, and their parents are in their 80s, and they need to assist their parents from moving from their house of 40 years to independent living or assisted living," Owen-Lee said.

"That can be psychologically hard. Last week, a woman called me and said that her mother is paralyzed by the task of cleaning out the basement. So we talked about some options. We came up with having a therapist talk to the mother, not more than for 15 minutes initially, to help understand that paralysis. And gradually increase that time, as the mother can handle it, until she's ready to tackle the basement."

Brace for the emotional, physical and, if you're not careful, monetary tolls of downsizing. Does the new home mean moving from a longtime neighborhood full of friends, shifting to an unfamiliar church or other house of worship? How will you forge relationships in the new community?

Reluctance to give up possessions tempts some people to rent storage units that cost $40 to $230 per month. A new home can seduce you into spending beyond your budget for upgrades to counters, window treatments and light fixtures. Or the profit from selling a longtime home can lure people into buying, along with their new, smaller primary home, a time share or vacation home that escalates monthly expenses -- and becomes a burden when an accident or illness keeps them homebound.

"Downsizing is scary, and it's a major event in life, like having an empty nest after the children leave," Owen-Lee said.

"One way to deal with that is by preserving the stories of the things you value. My parents owned an antique store in Pennsylvania, so my house is stocked with them. What I recommend, and what I do, is write the story of each piece, and put it on the back. I have a 91-year-old chest that an artist in my hometown painted with a tole pattern taken from the curtains in the room where it was kept. So we taped that story to the back of that furniture, so people will know where it came from."

Currently, Owen-Lee is collecting elders' stories for another book she's writing. The goal: Preserve important stories, and provide conversation prompts during family visits.

"So often what happens is that families go to visit a senior, but have nothing to talk about," she said.

"Gathering stories is fun. And often a senior who doesn't have a long attention span can remember and help tell stories about their lives," with a nudge from the note taped to a chair or chest.

For Mary Johnson, 77, a retired teacher now living at the Clermont Park retirement community in Denver, downsizing was a combination of habit and the lessons learned at her mother's side.

"I lived in 30 houses over 45 years, and the longest we ever lived in one place was four years," she said.

For Johnson, now 77, and her late husband, buying and selling houses was something of a part-time job. As teachers, they got a significant tax break when they bought a house as a primary residence and sold it within a certain time frame.

"It was kind of a hobby. We'd buy a house and sell it after two years, and pay no taxes. The next house would cost a little more than you made on the last one. We were good at moving. I really learned about downsizing when my mother and dad moved into a retirement place 20 years ago. They had a lot of things."

Helping her parents with that transition was radically different from the Johnsons' efficient pack-and-go routine.

Share the memories:

She sat down with her mother. They spent days going through every box and each drawer, talking about the memories associated with each souvenir and scarf, and debating over what to keep, entrust to her children and grandchildren, or donate.

"That way, you get to share the memories, and always have those in your heart, and the gift there was in spending that time with my mom," Johnson explained.

"Before I moved to Clermont Park, I used painter's tape to mark everything I wasn't taking here. Then I called the kids, and said to take whatever they wanted," she said. "And I gave them a deadline. You have to do that. Otherwise, kids procrastinate."

Downsizing at any age:

Reducing your stuff to life's essentials is key for aging adults moving from longtime homes to smaller, more efficient residences, but it's also not a bad idea for younger adults who want to avoid being overwhelmed by possessions.

Where to start?

Many retirement communities and real-estate companies can point prospective and new residents toward downsizing and organizing specialists. Younger people who want to scale back to save money can count on real estate businesses to help.

If you prefer to sort out your own belongings, do some research first. Some blogs and websites offer valuable advice on editing your belongings, and how to budget for the things that you'll find you need after you move.

When interviewing moving or downsizing specialists, ask these questions:

-- How are your employees screened?

-- What is your pick-up and delivery timetable? (Specific times are preferable to a window spanning hours or days.)

-- Who will be the contact staffer tasked with monitoring the move from start to finish?

Some helpful tips from the pros:

-- Begin in the room you use least. School yourself to stay with that room, instead of allowing yourself to be distracted by sorting out another room.

-- Tell your adult children and friends that you're downsizing. Someone moving into student housing or their first home might be interested in your discards.

-- If certain items have special meaning in your family but you can't bring them to your new home, photograph each one, and e-mail or give a copy of the photographs to your children, with three check boxes: Must Have! Would Like. Pass. Tell the children to fill out the boxes judiciously, because they'll be the new owners.

-- If a room is too overwhelming, assign yourself to sort through one chest of drawers, or one closet, and then quit for the day.

-- Keep a camera or smartphone handy as you sort. Take photographs of clothing or objects that evoke fond memories. Then put the objects in the discard pile. It also helps to have a friend or relative willing to help with the sorting process.

Telling the story of the memory associated with the object can be help you let it go.

-- Remind yourself of moving costs. You'll save money by moving less, and your new residence will look spacious and inviting, not like a crowded secondhand store.

-- As you sort through your closet, reverse the hangers of the clothing you're ready to discard, or which you haven't worn in more than a year. After a week, collect the reversed hangers and discard that clothing.

-- Measure your new closets. Compare that measurement to your current closet. Try to eliminate enough clothing to leave some breathing room in the new closet.

-- Edit your linens: In your new, compact residence, you don't need as many towels and sheets.

-- Easy tosses and donations: Old magazines, books, lawn and gardening supplies, canned goods, spices, clippings, cleaning supplies, old bills and receipts.

-- Shred all papers except your most essential documents (including financial plan, estate plan, medical and insurance records, personal information).

5 Top Tips!

Five top tips for downsizing your home


Once you've decided you want to downsize the first practical step is to talk through the complete process with a solicitor. They will explain that downsizing – like most other aspects of the property market – has changed considerably over the past five years. Those unable to fund the move out of savings or investments (the majority) will most likely be advised to sell their present home before buying a smaller one. Otherwise this will mean securing bridging finance, which is likely to be expensive and, downsizers typically being of a certain age, not as easy to secure as it was in their earlier years.


Downsizing often equates to moving from a family home of many years standing, so consider the emotional ties that bind you to such a property and the effect that leaving it will have. Also, think hard about location if you intend moving from your immediate neighbourhood. Will you still have access to family and friends; be close to a GP surgery, bank and post office? What about public transport and social facilities?


Downsizing will incur all the costs associated with selling a property, including payment of stamp duty on the price of the new property, which for even relatively modest transactions can be considerable (eg: £9,000 on a purchase of £300,000). These factors will, of course, all combine to reduce the net surplus from the sale. However, set against this are regular annual savings made by giving up on the larger property, such as insurance, maintenance and the upkeep of the garden.


If yours is a "lifestyle" choice (eg: substituting a difficult-to-maintain family home for a luxury, modern flat) then the financial savings from downsizing may be modest at best. Downsizing specifically to realise a cash surplus to supplement pension income will probably mean settling for a new home that is not only smaller but offers less comfort and fewer facilities.


If your mind is made up then do it sooner rather than later, especially if married or in a long-term partnership. Many couples have regretted delaying until one or both develop health problems and, as a result, their options become more limited. These options are further limited – and downsizing becomes even more stressful – after one of the spouses/partners dies. Almost certainly, two can downsize better than one.

3 Things that will Help You Downsize!

First things first: When does it make sense to downsize and move to a smaller place? As you might expect with such a personal matter, Hulstrand says, it depends.

"Some people make the decision to downsize in advance, carefully weighing their probable future needs, but sometimes the need to downsize is suddenly thrust upon a family when there is a health crisis or a death," she says. "Of course it's better to have time to plan for a move and prepare gradually, but some people would be heartbroken to leave their homes and have made it clear that they never want to."

"What's most important," she adds, "is that the people involved in the move are, whenever possible, the ones to make the decision."

Sometimes, you can spot a window of opportunity to downsize, according to Hetzer.  Both major life events and small changes present a time to reflect and an opportunity to clean out.

"Imagine for a moment that your child is ready to leave for college and you have to sort through everything your child owned or used for 18 years," says Hetzer. "It's likely that, at regular intervals, you got rid of donated, handed down items your child no longer needed."

That "throw as you go" philosophy also works well for a grown-up's things.

"Use your life events to trigger a mini-downsizing," Hetzer urges. "Buying a new computer or upgrading your phone presents an opportunity to sort through older electronics and their manuals and donate them in ecologically responsible ways. Your child leasing a first apartment is a good time to sort through your kitchen cabinets for equipment you no longer use."

A nonprofit collecting used books to sell, a community shoe drive, an organization looking for furniture to furnish an apartment for someone in need, or a natural disaster such as a hurricane, tornado, fire or flood, also present opportunities to give things to people who can use them.

How to go about it?  In their book, Hulstrand and Hetzer make three main recommendations. Those are:

1. Take your time. 2. Keep the lines of communication open, and consult with others who may want to or need to be involved in the process.  3. Get help--professional or otherwise--when you need it.

Of those three tips, the most important is to take plenty of time. If it took 30 or 40 years to fill a house, says Hulstrand, "you're not going to be able to get rid of everything that has accumulated there in a week or two -- at least not in a way that will leave everyone feeling satisfied that the job has been done right.'"

Pretty much everyone who has downsized says to give it plenty of time.  Sorry folks, that means if you're reading this post, the time to start is ... now.

How?  Some organizers suggest starting with small, manageable tasks, kind of the "one drawer, one shelf at a time" approach, according to Hulstrand.  Others say it's good to start with getting rid of big objects (like maybe a piano?) to get more of a sense of accomplishment and inspiration.  It also frees floor space for sorting items and piling up boxes.

The method depends on the individuals involved, the situation, the time available, the quantity and types of things that need to be dealt with, and so on.  According to Hetzer and Hulstrand, the key thing is to get started on the task and to stay with it. Their blog, Downsizing the Home: Lessons Learned, offers further advice and guidance on exactly how to deal with certain kinds of "pesky" items, such as carpeting, shoes, and old electronics.

As someone who finds satisfaction in organizing, I wondered what makes downsizing different from a good cleaning out.  Not a lot, says Hetzer.  "No matter how you look at it, or whether it precedes a move, it means being honest with yourself."

She says to ask yourself questions such as, "Do I still wear this? Is this item still useful? Do I respond positively to seeing this? Am I saving this because I don't know what to do with it? Can someone else use this more than I can?"

If it helps, Hetzer points out that going through this process before a move means that you will be more 'right-sized' in your new place.

Still, we know most people would rather age in place.  Which begs the question,

Can we downsize without moving?

Hetzer reminded me that we all have to edit our possessions periodically to keep our belongings from overtaking our homes. "Not only can we downsize without moving, we probably should downsize as we remain in our homes," she notes.

She points out the potential upside.  "The process allows us to choose what is important to us.  We pick what we want to live with, how we want our homes to look and feel and function. Downsizing along the way helps us have homes that work for us during different phases of our lives and allows us to stay in our homes so we can age in place."

In much of the world, downsizing is not a "thing."  How much excess do we tend to cart around anyway?

Most people in the United States have too much stuff. "It is part of our culture, a piece of our DNA, to want more, to buy more, to want the latest thing," says Hetzer.

Thus, many of us have to acknowledge that we have more than we'll ever use before we can think about paring down what we own.  "That realization, that we can live our lives with much less than what we have is the first step in being able to downsize," Hetzer believes.

But what happens when insight is there but people still need help?

Hulstrand says that for someone with genuine anxiety about getting rid of things, the professionals brought in to help need to be sensitive to how upsetting it is going to be. "Barreling in like a drill sergeant or even a cheerleader would probably not help," she comments. With patience and compassion, she adds, most people can make headway.  Being shamed into action, or having all control taken away from them, is not the best way to go about it.

"It's essential to be aware of how stressful the situation is for these clients," she says, "and how vulnerable they are to criticism of their 'pack rat' ways."  True that.  Who wants to be likened to a rat?

And who are our role models ... those lucky folks who can downsize without delay and in good cheer, without servants?

Hulstrand says they tend to be flexible, optimistic and open to change. "And, of course, they may have been blessed with a knack for organizing. We're not all like that, which is why some people need more help than others."

No matter what your approach to downsizing, there's one ultimate goal to keep in mind:

When is it Time To Downsize?

Studies show the majority of people prefer living in their existing home for as long as possible. However, "aging in place" can be challenging, especially if the house is multilevel, too large for current needs, requires a lot of maintenance or yard care or is inconveniently located. Downsizing to a smaller house or townhouse may be the answer for those who are physically able to live independently but who are looking for an easier, more accessible, less expensive and safer living space. Additionally, there are several residential retirement communities in the Shreveport-Bossier City area that offer smaller houses or townhouses specifically designed for seniors who are looking for community amenities and opportunities for fellowship.

You might consider the following before deciding on a move:

•  Are you regularly using only a small percentage of your current home, yard and garage?

•  Are the expenses associated with your existing house affordable? Consider the increased costs of maintaining, repairing, cleaning and upkeep of a large house and yard, as well as the higher taxes, insurance and utility costs of a larger living area.

•  Does your present home require extensive remodeling or modifications to make it safer and easily accessible?

•  Is your neighborhood in a safe area and easily accessible to friends, relatives, doctors, hospitals, shopping and entertainment?

•  Are you staying in your current home to accommodate the kids and grandkids when they come to town for a visit? If so, consider alternatives such as hotels, other relatives in the area, or a townhouse that has several bedrooms but no exterior or yard maintenance.

•  Do you resent spending a large amount of your free time, energy and effort on cleaning, yard work and maintenance?

If you decide to move to a smaller space, there are a number of things that can make the transition easier:

•  Assess your current situation and determine how much space will accommodate your present and future needs. Enlist the advice of others who have downsized or the aid of a real estate agent or other professional to assist you.

•  Reduce the amount you have to move. Begin in an unused room or area of the house, sorting through large items such as furniture, then through the smaller ones. Give any valuable but unnecessary items to family members or friends. Consider selling or donating any unwanted items to a worthy charity.

•  Begin packing or hire professional packers and movers. Make sure all boxes are clearly labeled.

•  Make sure to set aside essentials for the first few days in your new home so you do not have to spend an inordinate amount of time (not to mention frustration) opening multiple boxes looking for something you need.

I typically recommend anyone considering a move should consult their immediate family members, attorney, accountant and financial planner for advice and guidance before making this and any other major decision.

Moving can be physically exhausting, and sorting through a lifetime accumulation of items can be emotionally draining. Take your time and acknowledge your feelings. Enlist the aid of friends and family or consider hiring a senior move manager who can assist with packing, unpacking, furniture layout, decorating, and arranging for the sale and donation of items.

Home DownsizingTakes Careful Consideration

nce their kids have left the nest, many men and women over 50 begin to consider downsizing their homes. Downsizing to a smaller home can be beneficial for a variety of reasons, including less home to clean and maintain, more affordable utility bills and lower property taxes. But the decision to downsize is rarely black and white, and men and women often struggle with that decision.                    Perhaps the most difficult part of the decision of whether or not to downsize to a smaller home concerns the sentimental attachment many homeowners, especially those with children, have to their homes. The home might be too big for your current needs, but it also was the same place where your son took his first steps and where your daughter lost her first tooth.

Saying goodbye to a place that was home to so many memories isn't easy.

But there's more than just sentimental value to consider when deciding whether or not to downsize your home after the kids have grown up and moved out.

Personal finances

Your financial situation merits significant consideration when deciding if the time is right to downsize your home. If your retirement nest egg is not as substantial as you would like it to be, then it would seem as though downsizing to a smaller, more affordable home is a great opportunity for you to start catching up on your retirement savings. But that's only true if your new home won't incur any additional expenses that are already taken care of in your current home. For example, your current home may be fully furnished, while a new, smaller home may require you to buy all new furniture because your existing items simply won't fit. The cost of such furnishings can be considerable. If you plan to move into a condominium, you can expect to pay monthly homeowners association fees, and such fees are often substantial.

So while the condo itself might be smaller, the additional expenses associated with the property may end up making the smaller home more expensive and prevent you from saving more money for retirement.

Real estate market

There are seller's markets and there are buyer's markets, and ideally you would like to sell your home in a seller's market. But keep in mind that this might be the same market in which you hope to buy a new home. The nature of the real estate market depends on a host of factors, including geography.

If the city or town where you currently live is in the midst of a seller's market and you are planning on moving to a location where buyers have the upper hand, then now might be a great time to move. But if you currently live in a buyer's market and hope to move to a seller's market, then you may end up paying a steep price, even when downsizing to a smaller home. Things may even themselves out if you want to downsize to a smaller home within your current community, but do your homework nonetheless, researching the time of year when you're most likely to get the most for your home and find the best deal on your next place. The advantage men and women considering downsizing have is that they are rarely in a rush to move out of their current home and into their next one. This gives them ample time to make the real estate market work for them.


How much space do you really need? Once the kids have moved out, couples may feel like all of that extra space is going to waste. But that can be a knee-jerk reaction, and upon a more thorough examination of the space and your needs you may just find that you can put all of that extra square footage to good use after all. If you have always wanted your own art studio, then now might be the perfect time to make that a reality. Always wanted a room devoted to home theater? Get to work on converting your basement from an all-purpose game room to your own private movie theater.

If, after considering the space in your home, you find that the extra square footage really is just upkeep you aren't especially interested in doing, then you would no doubt like a cozier home that's less of a responsibility to maintain

Downsizing a Home an Option for Seniors

When a person comes to a certain age and the children move out and on with their own lives, a home may become too big for its occupants. At this point, residents may feel it's time to downsize to a smaller home.

Downsizing can be exciting and challenging at the same time. Going through and packing belongings can be a trip down memory lane. But chances are a smaller space will mean that a person will have to part with a number of his belongings collected over time.

To make the process easier, first assess how much space there will be in the new home. Many times floor plans or room dimensions are available. First measure large items, such as furniture, to be sure they will fit in the rooms. Then think about storage possibilities.

Next, make a running list of what items can be discarded and where those items will go. Some belongings can be donated to charity, while others may be given to family and friends. Many other things could end up in the trash or recycling bins.

Knowing where things will go will make them easier to sort. When actually beginning to get rid of things, start with the areas that receive the least amount of use. Belongings stored in the attic or basement may be simply taking up space and hold less sentimental value.

People can then work their way toward items that are used on a regular basis. It can be cathartic to clear out clutter and get ready to start anew. Some people find they have to downsize because of financial reasons. In these cases, thinning out belongings can also be a way to earn a few extra bucks. Selling seldom used items may produce a little extra cash that can help finance moving expenses or even bills.

Downsizing Tips

Moving to a smaller place? Over time, we tend to accumulate stuff - lots of stuff. We have drawers full of stuff, gifts that we have never used (and never will), furniture we don't really need but keep "just in case" and items that we've had for years may be difficult to part with due to nothing more than familiarity while serving no functional purpose. The size of the average american home has kept growing over the past years and still storage space for families is a blooming industries

Now is the time to get rid of excess baggage (literally!) and pare down to the essentials

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Top 10 Reasons can be different for everyone.  It is always individual.  Recently a client downsized from a more expensive 2 bedroom condo in New West to a modular home in White Rock, and the difference in price enabled them to retire sooner, and start enjoying life.  Most of these changes were brought on by a health scare, and they wanted to stop working and start enjoying the equity that was built up by all of the years of hard work.  I say, "Good for them"!

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