We accumulate a LOT of stuff over the course of our lives. In fact, research shows that the average American home has 300,000 items! And that number only increases as we get older. Having so much “stuff” can lead to a lot of stress for seniors -- especially when it comes time for downsizing.
Downsizing and minimalism -- essentially, getting rid of excess stuff that doesn’t “bring you joy” as famous “declutterer” and TV star Marie Kondo likes to say -- are popular trends right now. But for seniors who are making the move into independent or assisted living, downsizing is for many a stressful necessity.
Downsizing doesn’t have to be stressful.
With a little creativity and planning -- plus these tips -- downsizing can be less stressful and even a little fun:
Focus on what you’re keeping
Not only can this tip help you develop a plan for your downsizing, it can help you focus on what’s really important -- keeping the items that truly bring you joy and add value! This is an expert tip from Marie Kondo and her KonMari method: Focus on what you’re keeping rather than what you’re selling, recycling, or giving away.
As you begin looking at your items, set aside those items that are absolute “musts” -- the items that belong in any home of any size. You’ll be off to a great start!
Set a schedule and plan
Remember that 300,000 number -- that’s a LOT of belongings! It’s going to take time to go through them all, and that’s okay. But, to be sure you don’t inadvertently make downsizing more stressful, be sure to schedule at least a few weeks, and block out time in those weeks, so that you have plenty of opportunity to finish your downsizing with minimal stress.
At a minimum, be sure to choose a start date and an end date. If you’re going to enlist the help of friends or loved ones, this also ensures their availability (and helps keep you on track).
Once you have your dates mapped out, you may want to outline a plan of attack. You’re already starting by focusing on what you’re keeping rather than what you’re giving away. Next, lay out a plan for how you’re going to downsize your belongings. There are a few different ways of approaching this:
- By location/room. Many people like the tried-and-true method of downsizing/decluttering, which is starting in one room and moving onto the next once that room is complete. A lot of times, it means starting in one closet, dresser, or shelf in that room, then expanding into the rest of the room! But regardless, you’ll be finishing up one location before moving onto the next.
- By category. Here’s some additional inspiration from Marie Kondo -- she recommends downsizing by category to make the process less stressful. Those five categories are clothes, books, papers, sentimental items, and miscellaneous belongings.
Deploy the six-month rule
Focusing on the items we absolutely want to keep is probably the easiest and least stressful step of downsizing, but this tip can be a gamechanger when it comes to clothes, practical items, and even things like books, which can add a LOT of clutter to independent or assisted living homes.
The six-month rule is actually very self-explanatory. Pick up that piece of clothing, that old book, or that quesadilla maker (as an example!). If you haven’t used it in the past six months, or you’re not 100% positive that you will use it in the next six months, then it’s time to give it away, sell it, or toss it.
There’s another variation on this that can be helpful. If you can’t remember the last time you used something and it costs less than $20 to replace, then give it away, sell it, or toss it. Chances are, your $20 will be safe and you won’t miss it! But, the peace of mind in knowing that it’s easy to replace if need be can make your downsizing far less stressful.
Put “unsure” items out of sight for awhile
Sometimes it can be difficult to know for sure that you no longer need or want an item. After all, many items have served you well over the years. Uncertainty about particular items is one of the most stressful parts of downsizing.
This tip from The Minimalists can be especially helpful when it comes to practical items: Put those items in a box and store them out of sight somewhere. Only take out items when you absolutely need them. Chances are, you won’t miss those items at all, and after a few weeks (or whenever you’re comfortable), you can give them away without any additional stress.
Now, this tip doesn’t work for everything -- otherwise you’re not downsizing at all! But, if you’re on the fence about certain practical items, this can be an excellent way to help illuminate what you really need in your new, downsized home.
Retirement living at Veranda of Pensacola can make life less stressful!
With resort-style amenities, modern apartments, and a vacation lifestyle, Veranda of Pensacola is here to help you live your best retirement years. To learn more or schedule a tour, contact our team today. We’re here to help!