Lorraine Cox knows all too well that the decision to downsize can be overwhelming and stressful. Aside from helping hundreds of clients downsize, she and her husband Mal are currently downsizing and making a sea change themselves…
You look around your home and just know the time is coming when you must downsize and move. You don’t want to, but the upkeep is getting too hard and expensive, with the lawns to mow and large house to clean —then wonderful memories of special times flood your mind and you tell yourself it will be fine, you can manage… But you know deep down you will need to move sooner or later and realise you want this decision to be yours and not taken out of your hands when you may not be able to make the decision.
Many people will tell you downsizing is stressful and — you know what? — they’re right. But you can suffer stress that is overwhelming and debilitating or you can feel stress that’s actually exhilarating and exciting — that’s where you should be when moving, so do some planning, get started and give yourself the stress-free move you deserve.
Start with the end in mind
So where do you start? Start by taking a deep breath and actually start at the end. Think about how long it would be until you would like to move and work backwards. If you need help doing this, ask your children, a friend or a downsizing consultant.
Think about where you might like to move to; perhaps a villa, unit, town house or a retirement village. How big would you like it to be, how many bedrooms? What furniture would you like to take with you or would you like to splurge and get some lovely contemporary furniture to mark this exciting new chapter in your life? And what are you going to do with your unwanted items or things that just won’t fit in the new place?
Make notes, lots of notes. Some people like to have a journal and document all of their thoughts in a very organised way; others just get a corkboard and anytime they think of something they scribble a note and pin it to the board. You might like to use scraps of paper, jot down your thoughts and pop them into a box to get out and sort later. Remember, this is your move and you must do it the way you want to.
When you finally look at all the notes you have made and your wants and needs, it actually starts becoming real and then very exciting. Of course, the more prepared you are when you finally make those decisions to start looking for a new home, the less stressful it’s going to be.
Put precious things first
Here’s a little hint: start with the items that mean the most to you. Don’t wait to start going through your precious things until you have sold. It all becomes too rushed and you will either take too much with you (making it more expensive and stressful to move) or you will end up throwing out things you really wanted to keep.
My greatest tip when starting to cull is to start with what means the most to you first. I’d like to share a personal anecdote: I love cards — my daughter on the other hand does not have the same attachment — but we all have that one thing that is so hard to let go of. We had decided to sell and downsize. I warned my husband, “I am going to start going through all the cards and letters — I am locking myself away in the office and enter at your peril, unless it is 5pm and you have a glass of red wine in your hand for me!”
I had six boxes of cards and letters. I started with the cards that once belonged to my parents. The first ones I opened were sweet and sentimental… “To my darling wife Dot, with love your husband Ben”. And, “To my special husband Ben, from your loving wife Dot”. How touching! But then I kept reading and started to chuckle. “To dear Dot, love Ben”. “To Dear Ben, Love Dot”. Then, “To Dot from Ben”, “To Ben from Dot”. When they read “Dot” at the top and “Ben” at the bottom of the card and vice versa, I knew it was time to start the culling process. They clearly knew each other’s name and had been great mates, but I didn’t need to keep boxes of cards to prove that to me.
I kept going for the rest of the day, sorting cards and letters from friends, cards from my children and cards my children had written to my parents. I kept all the special ones but I had to be strong and made a pile to be recycled. I wrapped the special cards up in a lovely ribbon and went from six boxes to three.
So the process had started. Did I cry buckets that day? I certainly did, but I also laughed a lot and rejoiced in the wonderful memories I was lucky enough to have.
If I could get rid of those treasured keepsakes, I could handle anything. Let the downsizing process begin.
This blog first appeared as editorial in The Retiree Magazine, where Lorraine Cox features as a regular contributor.
What excites you about your downsize move? What are you looking forward to in your new life the most? Share your experiences and concerns in the comments section below.