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How to embrace downsizing

The gateway to a simpler lifestyle

Created date

November 20th, 2014
women on stage giving a seminar about simplifying and downsizing

The thought of downsizing feels overwhelming for many people. Even if you’re looking forward to moving to a smaller home and beginning a simpler lifestyle for your retirement, you may not know where to start when it comes to clearing out closets that have been overstuffed for years and sorting through decades of tax returns or bank statements. 

Fortunately, people who make the choice to move to

This past summer and fall, Riderwood hosted a series of events to provide area retirees with practical information about how to begin—and complete—the downsizing process in order to begin the next chapters of their lives. 

Riderwood Personal Moving Coordinators Kimberly Schoeberlein and Diane Thometz often work closely with Maryland move management company Let’s Move. Move Manager Yvonne Quade from Let’s Move made presentations at Riderwood’s recent seminars.  

Conquer your paper mountain

This year, Quade put on a presentation called “Conquering the Paper Mountain.” She demonstrated realistic strategies for simplifying your paperwork. Riderwood residents Pam Silverwood and David Hack assisted Quade by putting on a comical skit about a couple attempting to downsize who are shocked by how long they have hung onto things. 

Joking aside, Quade says, “Downsizing seems to be the roadblock that keeps many people from moving. It’s never too early [to start], but a lot of people dread it. So we say, embrace it. You can revisit the past by going through things and then can look forward to a simpler lifestyle at an Erickson Living community. Releasing the things you don’t need is just a gateway to a simpler lifestyle.”

Paperwork can be a big problem area for many people, Quade says. Her recommendation is to start small, say by organizing one filing cabinet or a single drawer at a time, rather than trying to tackle your entire home office in one afternoon.

“Stay there and stay with that job,” Quade says, “because so often we get distracted and never finish.” 

One way to get paper clutter under control is to reduce the volume that makes its way into your home in the first place. Quade recommends taking steps to get your name off of unsolicited mail lists. She also recommends opening your mail next to the recycling bin. That way, you can you can toss pieces you don’t need before they end up in a pile on the kitchen counter or stuffed in a desk drawer.

“If you don’t get to it immediately, it stacks up,” Quade says.

In her presentation, Quade also discussed how long people need to hang onto different types of paper files, from receipts to tax returns. Obviously, you want to safely store critical documents like birth and marriage certificates and military records. But many other items like credit card statements and utility bills can be destroyed after a period of time. 

Those tax returns from the 1990s that you’ve been dutifully storing for decades? “We give people permission to get rid of those after seven years,” Quade says. 

Keep the things you use every day

Quade returned to Riderwood for another presentation on how to “Simplify Your Space.” At that seminar, she discussed strategies for downsizing clothing and shoes, kitchen cabinets, linen closets, and other areas of the house where unneeded items tend to pile up. 

Streamlining your wardrobe can be simple once you develop some good habits. Quade recommends keeping a box next to your closet so that each time you encounter something you no longer wear (those pretty but uncomfortable pumps or the pants that have always been a size too small, for example), you can simply deposit it in the box. Every time the box fills up, donate it to your favorite charity or resale shop. 

Quade says many people cook less frequently in retirement as compared to when they had a house full of kids. At Riderwood, for instance, residents have full kitchens in their apartment homes for when they do want to cook, but most people eat the majority of their meals at one of the community’s on-site restaurants. That means the kitchen is prime territory for simplifying your space. 

“Release those casserole dishes and appliances you might only use once a year,” Quade says. “You’re not going to have large leftovers anymore, so get rid of larger Tupperware and keep the smaller pieces.”

As for what to bring with you when you move to a right-sized space, Quade says to focus on the items you use every day. She says that if you get creative about storage solutions, you can keep more of the pieces you love. For example, if you have a large china hutch you don’t want to part with, consider gifting the china inside it (perhaps to a recently married granddaughter), and using the hutch to store your everyday dishes or small kitchen appliances. 

“Then it’s like an overflow pantry,” Quade says. “If you repurpose it a little bit, you can take advantage of as much storage as possible.”

Need some help with downsizing?

If having some professional assistance while you embark on the journey of simplifying your life (and your house) sounds wonderful, then working with Let’s Move might be right for you. Quade says that she and her team offer hands-on help.

“We will go out to their houses and spend hours with them, pulling stuff from high shelves and asking them if they would like to move these items or not,” Quade says. 

While the professionals from Let’s Move can provide guidance and some muscle power for the downsizing process, Quade emphasizes that all of the decisions about what to keep, toss, donate, or gift are entirely up to the homeowners. 

“We are just there to facilitate,” Quade says. “Items they decide to get rid of or send to a granddaughter or donate, we box up for them, put aside for family to review, or donate it for them and give them a receipt for their taxes.”