Making decisions regarding your possessions

Making decisions about your possessions

Leaving home; the very phrase conjures up countless images of travel, adventure and independence…if you’re nineteen. But if you are an older adult leaving your family home of fifty years, it has a whole new meaning. To many, the family home is a symbol of what a person has achieved in life. And the possessions in that home may take on huge value regardless of their size, or their monetary worth. In our later years these possessions can represent our history and our legacy.  Unfortunately, these “things” can also become a burden.

Living a long and fruitful life will undoubtedly lead to a home full of personal items; some with great history, some purely sentimental and some still very necessary for the comfort and convenience in daily living. If we are considering a move to an assisted living community or retirement home we will surely have to deal with the idea of letting go of some of the things we have gathered throughout or lives.  But it can be a difficult task to decide what to keep, what to pass on to family and what to throw away.  Where to begin this process of downsizing?

Some very enlightened seniors are beginning to pare down before they need to. Some have downsized to condos or apartments for easier living. Perhaps they took the big step from the family home when they energy levels were higher and they had the desire for a lifestyle change.

But when we observe the living situations of many seniors, we find that many are living in the same home where they may have been for generations. Perhaps it is the home where they raised their children. Although they might be living in a house with many rooms; they have begun to actively occupy only a small portion of the home. Usually the spare bedrooms, the basement, the upstairs children’s rooms and the dining room are the ones we begin to ignore first. They may be filled with storage, old clothes, craft and sewing supplies or the possessions of long absent, adult children. The task of paring down should begin in these rooms.

To get started, consider the following steps:

  • Start in the rooms you no longer use
  • Work in one room at a time
  • Sort through and donate old clothes
  • Distribute furniture and household items to family – then donate what’s remaining
  • Box up all the family photos to sort later, once you make the move
  • Gather valuable items and determine what you will keep
  • Hire a commercial shredder for years of old papers
  • If feasible, involve family and friends in your downsizing

There are many professionals who can help you clear out the clutter from your home. They are compassionate but objective. They can do the physical labor and arrange for the junk to be removed. They can also connect you to dealers and appraisers for your valuables.  If you have already chosen your new home these professionals can help you decide what will fit in your new, “right-sized” residence and how those items can be arranged. They are called “senior move managers”.

If your health is in decline or you are finding the everyday tasks of running a home are becoming too much for you, now is the time to downsize. But what is the right size for your next home?

If you are considering assisted living or a retirement community do not try and take your entire house with you. You will find that in a communal setting, even with a large apartment, the common areas of the building may become your new living room, dining room or den. And your apartment may take on the role of a large suite where you will find privacy without the burden of cleaning out closets, kitchen cabinets and storage rooms. Many of your possessions such as a dining room set or a china cabinet are likely not necessary.

And finally, don’t move your old clutter to your new home. It can be so very freeing to rid your life of old possessions. Our “things” have a tight grip on us. Often they keep us from making the very important move that will simplify our future, lessen our burdens and improve the quality of our health and daily living for ourselves, and for our family.