For some, the idea of making a move to retirement or seniors’ communities holds great appeal, but the thought of downsizing has a paralyzing effect.
It’s easy to understand why. Some have spent decades in their homes, raising their families, harvesting memories and amassing great collections of meaningful keepsakes. Sifting through these sentimental treasures is sure to stir up longings for days gone by.
Others have moved more frequently throughout their lives and perhaps done plenty of downsizing. Some actually enjoy thinning out their belongings at regular intervals. However, as age becomes a factor, the process of paring down can become overwhelming especially for those experiencing challenges such as diminished strength, ailing health, and/or waning energy.
Moving at any stage of life can be stressful. How does one manage such a feat when first you have to reduce the contents of an eight- to 10-room home to fit into one or two rooms? How do you choose which of your prize possessions to keep, which to give away and what to pitch? Where do you even start?
In most major centres there are companies that specialize in just this; helping people downsize so they can move to a more manageable space with amenities and supports close at hand. Some offer assistance at every stage of the process, including mapping out how furniture and accessories will fit in your new living space, and packing for the move.
Suggested steps for doing it yourself
- If time allows, just live with the idea for a few months, giving yourself sufficient time to grapple with the change and gear up for the task.
- Enlist the help and support of a trusted family member or friend.
- Consider your new space and map out that same amount of space in your current home. All that you wish to keep will need to fit in this space.
- Take inventory of your possessions and categorize them into four piles: A) Things to keep, B) offer to family or friends, C) sell or give to charity, and D) garbage. Go room by room – not all on the same day!
- If you have items that you intend to give as a gift or legacy, consider giving now while you are able to witness the joy your gift creates.
- Consider your new lifestyle and choose your possessions accordingly (e.g. if your new facility has an exercise room, do you really need your treadmill?).
- Take a break from your decisions and then come back for a second review.
It’s important to know, you are not alone in this daunting exercise. A 2011study of aging Canadians showed there are nearly five million seniors living in Canada, and more than 90 per cent of them reside in private residences. The same study showed that factors such as age, health issues (e.g. dementia) and availability of in-home care are causing growing numbers of people to consider moving to retirement communities or senior homes.
This may not be an easy step, but holding fast to the image of a relaxed and comfortable new dwelling with your all your needs aptly met, will help. And remember moments well-lived don’t require physical time or space. Your meaningful life experiences, recollections and sentimental feeling are yours to keep wherever you go.