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Getting ready for your move

Practical and creative approaches to right-sizing

Created date

September 22nd, 2014

When you decide to rightsize your home and your lifestyle for retirement, it’s inevitable that you’ll have to get rid of some of your stuff—and for many people, that process is daunting. What will you need in your new home? Which items would you miss if they were gone? Which pieces should you keep because they are valuable? Which items would your children like to have? 

Paring down your belongings can be difficult, but much less so if you have the help of professionals who are experienced at helping older adults make smart decisions about downsizing. That is why Riderwood connects its prospective residents with downsizing and moving industry professionals who make the process liberating instead of stressful. 

When people decide to move to

Riderwood taps into Antiques Roadshow judge 

One of those valued experts is Matt Quinn of Quinn’s Auction Galleries. Quinn grew up scouring estate sales and antique stores with his parents and officially joined his family’s auction business in 2001. He and his brother have grown Quinn’s Auction Galleries into a trusted auction house that serves clients throughout the Mid-Atlantic. Among other media appearances, Quinn has served as a guest judge on Antiques Roadshow since 2010. 

Over the years, Quinn has helped quite a few Erickson Living residents pare down their possessions in a thoughtful way, and recently spoke at a Riderwood event to teach local retirees effective strategies for downsizing. His presentation included tips on how to determine which items in your household are potentially valuable—and which you’re probably hanging onto for purely emotional reasons.

“Generally, the hurdle in getting rid of things is the emotion,” Quinn says. “Rarely does it have to do with monetary value.”

The key to successful downsizing is determining which items hold the most emotional value for you—and keeping those things. Quinn says the best items to hang onto are those that trigger a memory but also serve a utilitarian purpose, such as a nightstand that you received as a wedding gift. If it continues to function well, looks nice, and reminds you of a special time in your life, then it’s a keeper. 

The trick, Quinn says, is to curate your collection of pieces that bring back warm memories. For example, if you have three pieces of furniture that all trigger memories of your newlywed years, consider letting go of two of them and just keeping your favorite. If you downsize with the goal of keeping the items you truly cherish, Quinn says wherever you live will feel like home.

“We work with people who are going from five bedrooms to one or two, and we tell them everything in their house is just stuff—wood, canvas, plastic, metal,” Quinn says. “But, if you as the individual can figure out where all the memories are, your new place will feel like home because you will have all of your memories.”

What to do with the rest

Once you determine which pieces of furniture and personal belongings your want to keep, the next step is figuring out the best way to discard the rest. Many downsizing retirees envision passing on a lot of pieces to their children. But, Quinn says many adult children already have full houses—and possibly different décor styles—and may not be as interested as you think in inheriting your furniture. Quinn’s advice is to be intentional about what you decide to give to the next generation.

“Instead of trying to pass on your whole collection, pick a favorite piece, that maybe you bought with that person, so they can put it on the mantle and see it every day,” he says. “If you give them the whole collection, they are probably going to stick it in a box in the garage. One piece will go a lot further than a whole box of stuff.”

For the items you don’t want to keep or give to your family, consider an estate sale or an auction. Quinn says estate sales work best for houses that are full of many items and are located in densely populated areas. If you have fewer items to sell, an auction may be your best bet. In either scenario, Quinn cautions people not to be overly optimistic about the price your possessions will command on the open market. He says to think of the process as less about making money and more about an easy solution for moving out of a big house to a smaller home. 

“It’s human nature—we all think our stuff is worth more than it is,” Quinn says.

Spacious homes at Riderwood

People moving to Erickson Living communities like Riderwood are typically able to keep much of their furniture and household items because the apartment homes are quite spacious. He says Riderwood residents typically have fewer items to sell, so he often recommends an auction over an estate sale.

“Folks in larger units can spread out and that is fantastic,” Quinn says. “You can still get a lot of stuff in these [apartment homes]. That is why the auction model is better because many residents aren’t selling enough for an estate sale because they can bring quite a bit [to Riderwood].”