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Don't wait too long to make the move


When it's time to move out of the big, old house and downsize, two strategies should be adopted.

First, plan the next move carefully. Second, don't change too much, too fast.

Dr. Mary Stang Furth, a psychiatrist based in Towson, said one patient moved to an area where she was near friends and family - so her move wasn't as drastic as if she had thrust herself into an unfamiliar environment.

"Those who are far away from their kids may be more likely to move to a supportive [adult care] environment," said Ilene Rosenthal, chief of housing services at the Maryland Office on Aging.

Making a wish list during house-hunting helps smooth the bumps, said Lea Hartman, who with her husband, Dean, moved into a Mays Chapel condominium.

Two years before the move, Lea made a list of details she wanted in a new home: everything from cross-ventilation to cupboards tall enough to hold cereal boxes upright. And they respected each other's feelings.

"We agreed that if either of us disliked the home, we'd drop it," Dean added.

"Take it slow. Be sure you like the new location and you're not too far from the normal conveniences. Be near things in walking distance, like bus services and stores," said Pat Hiban of Re/Max Advantage. That means boxing things slowly and gradually - and taking a year to really decide to move.

Even so, Lea Hartman advises not waiting "until you're giving away things without a conscious thought process. Don't wait until you're forced to by illness or death."

Mimi Sherman, a real estate agent with Hill & Co. in Cross Keys, says renting a home first can be a good trial period, "if you can tolerate moving twice." Renting storage space for extra heirloom furniture that won't fit into the new home can help those who downsize avoid getting rid of sentimental items.

Once the move is made, keeping active and avoiding isolation are also important.

"Don't look at it as the end. It's closing one chapter and opening a new chapter," Furth said.

"They've spent years and years in an acquisition mode. This is the opposite. A lot of people enjoy simplifying. You can get to the point where you're owned by your possessions," said Pam Mitchell of Moving On Inc.

And downsizing shouldn't be considered downgrading.

For $192,000, Marcia Shields got a townhouse in the Laurel community of Russett - complete with attached garage, lots of interior amenities - and community pools, landscaping and pathways that she doesn't have to mow or shovel.

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