Conquering the emotions of downsizing

Created date

May 14th, 2019
An African American man and woman smile and pose with their moving boxes, getting ready to downsize.

Downsizing is not just physically demanding—it can also be emotionally challenging as well.

Let’s face it. Letting go of belongings can be stressful! And it’s not just the physical act of sorting through hundreds of items in your house; it’s the emotional and psychological impact of making decisions about things you’ve owned for years, decades, or even generations.

At retirement communities managed by Erickson Living, we recognize that downsizing is a complex process on many levels. That’s why we carefully vet and then partner with professionals who are experts in helping seniors tackle this important task.

If you’re ready to begin the process of downsizing, consider working with an Erickson Living-approved company like Wayforth. Based in Richmond, Va., Wayforth currently has offices in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Northern Virginia.

One of Wayforth’s founders, Matt Paxton, was the host of the popular cable show Hoarders, so he has tackled some of the most challenging downsizing projects imaginable. Here are some insights he recently shared during a gathering of personal moving consultants:

Downsizing takes patience. You did not accumulate all of your possessions in a weekend, so don’t expect to sort through them and decide exactly what you’ll keep or discard in a couple of days. Take a systematic approach to downsizing and the process will be much less stressful.

It’s never about the stuff. It’s always about the story. Many of the possessions we surround ourselves with evoke memories. They symbolize special times in our lives, important accomplishments, or happy moments we never want to forget. But the item is just that: a symbol. Letting it go doesn’t erase what it signifies. As you downsize, consider taking photos of these belongings and writing a short description of what they represent in your life. Then release them and make room for new memories and experiences.

It’s important to celebrate your successes. When it comes to downsizing, start simple. Set personal milestones like cleaning out the closet in your spare bedroom or going through all of the tools in your garage. Then pat yourself on the back when you complete the task. By tackling a room—or a closet—at a time, you’ll maintain momentum and feel a true sense of accomplishment.

Make this a family affair. If you have children or grandchildren, involve them in the decluttering process. Many hands make light work! Best of all, you’ll have the opportunity to share stories and pass along the family history associated with your belongings.

Give things away. If you’re torn about whether to sell an item or donate it, be honest with yourself about the monetary worth of a possession. Some things we paid handsomely for in the past have not held their value—but they may be priceless to an organization or individual in need. It’s extremely gratifying when things that have sat dormant in our homes have a useful purpose again.

When it doubt, have it assessed. Is your grandmother’s necklace a priceless antique or a lovely replica? Could that box of baseball cards be worth a fortune? An independent appraiser will know! Your personal moving consultant or senior move manager can put you in touch with an expert in your area who can tell you the true value of your keepsakes and help you decide if you should keep them, sell them, or discard them.

Don’t go it alone! I’ll say it again—downsizing can be stressful and emotional. So seek the support of an expert who understands the challenge and can provide the advice and guidance you need to be successful in accomplishing this important task. In the end, you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel when you’ve lightened your load.

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