Where we left off: WHILE DOWNSIZING FROM MY FAMILY HOME, LIKE MANY PROSPECTS, I EXPERIENCED DEEP FEELINGS OF APPREHENSION AND GRIEF WHEN FACED WITH MAKING THE MOVE FROM THIS HOME TO A SMALLER HOUSE.
This is the final blog in the series, Becoming the Senior We Serve. While I have shared the myriad of emotions and struggles I faced when confronting my mortality:
- forcing myself to make a plan
- choosing a senior living option
- selling my “forever home”
Nothing was quite like the difficult and painful act of downsizing by purging the material items that filled my home.
Once again, because of my profession in senior living, I benefited from observing others make the downsizing adjustment. Since it appeared that the transition was easier for those who purged a little each year rather than waiting to tackle the chore of sorting through a cluttered attic, basement, and children’s rooms while at the same time planning a big move, I was careful to do a little purging every other year. Easy, right? Well…not so much.
Conducting a Material Item Purge
Conducting a “purge-lite” every other year allowed me to rid myself of things that were definitely not cherished:
- that third pair of black shoes
- the pants that had not fit for five years
- a hippie jacket I loved but would never wear again
- broken items that had awaited repair six months or more
- things in the back of closets I had forgotten even existed
My rules for the gentle purge were not rigid; I just got rid of as much as I could. The true purge to downsize presented a more daunting task: I was required to eliminate the equivalent of 800 square feet of livable space and about 1200 square feet of storage. In addition, I was forced to consider limitations such as a reduction of closet and kitchen cabinet space. OVERWHELMING!
My husband and I began to use a half-day every Saturday to select items that were functional enough to donate, gift to children or friends, place in the trash, or travel with us through our transition. Again, sounds easy….but not so.
Let’s start with donations. My husband and I are thrifty (no…maybe cheap). We still owned old televisions with the large cubed back. Guess what? NO ONE WANTS THEM. Neither Goodwill nor the Salvation Army would take them as a donation. Likewise, antiquated computers. As for the items to give to children. Guess what? I think you know the answer. CHILDREN DON’T WANT THEM. My house was full of antiques, but my children had furnished homes with zero room for additional items that did not even match their taste or décor. Oh my gosh! Who will care for my cherished, antique walnut table? I still remember standing in the freezing rain at an auction where I beat out the other bidders to get my precious $1500 walnut table for a mere $700. I recall hours spent refreshing these pieces back to beauty. Now my cherished antiques will be sold to strangers!! Noooooooooooooooo! ……Okay, I had a moment. They are only things. I’ll eventually be okay with that.
The Trash Pile
I would say the trash pile was the easiest, but even that had its battles. For instance, my husband and I cared for my mother during her illness and death. As she grew frailer, she began to feel she had no purpose. Being the matriarch and best cook in the family, we proposed that she train her apprentice, my husband. She spent her final days in a wheelchair in the kitchen sharing all of her favorite recipes and what made them delicious. Being older, mom used an old, metal, weight scale. It was ancient, nasty and stained. We saved it after her death; it sat at the back of one of our kitchen cabinets. Now, we would be moving to a location with limited cabinet space. Shouldn’t this be an item for the trash pile? It might seem an easy decision, but that darn scale created hours of discussion. Believe it or not, I was ready to trash it, but my husband was not. Guess what? Yep, that trashy scale went with us.
An item can carry profound meaning, sentimentality or a story. It is the sentiment with which we find it hard to part.
Yes, we know that our prospects have to de-clutter and sell their homes. But, do we acknowledge the emotional upheaval it presents to their lives, or dismiss it with “I can recommend a downsizer or move-manager”? It is not an easy process. It is a loss of material things, but sometimes those things have far deeper meanings. An empathetic ear or even asking our prospects how they are dealing with the transition could open a door to reconciliation during this process.
So….enough emotional sharing. I will return to the series, Becoming the Senior We Serve on a quarterly basis, with the next episode to be shared in June.
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About the Author
Patty Scotten is a consultant with Retirement DYNAMICS® and serves as their marketing manager. Patty has over twenty five years’ experience in the senior living industry and has led several communities in preselling expansions or increasing occupancy levels. She graduated from Elon University and holds a Masters Degree from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Patty is licensed as both an assisted living and nursing home administrator.