The term downsizing carries with it a lot of emotion and, ironically, baggage. The reality is that while it's played up as being a joyous transition between Act I and Act II of life, downsizing can feel like a really scary thing. An intermission, when the curtain closes and you're expected to pare down to the essentials, usually in the dark. But, you don't need to go at it alone. Calling in experts to shed some light on the subject and to help prepare you for what's next can make the transition to a smaller, more efficient living space feel like a beautifully choreographed step in the right direction.
"Downsizing is difficult because we value the things that we own. Whether we have accumulated items or have carefully chosen them, they hold meaning and emotional value," says Sherry Parrish, LCSW-C, director of resident life at Charlestown Retirement Community in Catonsville. "By the time we get to retirement we have six or seven decades of acquisitions. Lay on top of that the emotional value we attach to the items, and it is hard to let go," Parrish continues.
You can try to minimize some of the feelings of loss by seeing downsizing as an opportunity to be generous. "When we find an honorable home for our belongings it's easier to let them go. You can give certain items to family members, friends and charities that you know will cherish the gift," Parrish explains.
"To downsize successfully one needs to realize that downsizing is not about getting rid of everything you have. Downsizing is about surrounding yourself with only the things you love and need, so that going forward you have the highest quality of life," Parrish says.
"I tell people to use the term 'rightsize' instead of 'downsize' and to think about the things that are important to them now. What are they using now in their lives? If they used to have lavish dinner parties and are no longer entertaining a lot of people, maybe they don't 'need' 38 wine glasses. When I get a smirk or smile from them, I know they get it," Cindy Bernstein, professional organizer and owner of Aim 4 Order says.
"Maybe you just keep the tea pot to your favorite set of china and not all 10 pieces," Parrish adds. "Very few of us naturally shed belongings. Downsizing is an unburdening process that with support gets easier and easier."
Organizational experts help with de-cluttering and setting up a new smaller space to maximize efficiency. Bernstein, past winner of "Baltimore's Best Organizing Expert," helps with everything from sorting through belongings and helping them find new homes to helping a client unpack and arrange for the most efficient placement of items.
"It is truly a gift to be able to turn the whole process over to a professional organizer who you trust. A skilled organizer will serve as the liaison between family members to ensure that everyone is informed in who is taking what and scheduling the many pieces of the puzzle to ensure a safe and smooth move," Bernstein explains. Bernstein is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) and a member of the Organizing for Seniors and Moving and Relocation special interest groups of NAPO. For additional information, visit aim4order.com and napo.net. Other experts can be found through the National Association of Senior Move Managers, nasmm.org.
Senior Real Estate Specialists (SRES), an official designation from the National Association of Realtors, specializes in the needs of older Americans buying, selling, renting or relocating. Bob Lucido, heads the No. 1 Keller Williams team in the world and has a unique division of his team dedicated to providing specialty services to addressing challenges associated with a senior move.
There are a number of reasons that one may opt to downsize. Whether you're choosing to move due to a lifestyle change, safety, financial reasons or being closer to one's family, your needs are your needs. "This is not a one-size-fits-all process," says Lucido, an award-winning real estate professional specializing in property sales in Central Maryland.
"If you're considering downsizing, this has to be about what is in your best interest. I cannot emphasize enough, that you should always be thinking in the long-term. If you move into a smaller home with several sets of stairs and your mobility is declining, what will that mean for you in five or 10 years?"
If you think downsizing may be in your future there are certainly ways you can begin to prepare. What makes a home sell in one area may not have much of an impact in another market, so Lucido encourages sellers to work with a professional who will know market trends first-hand.
Lucido offers a few rules of thumb that can help you boost the appeal of your home, "Generally speaking, most buyers prefer hardwood flooring. We also suggest that sellers keep the home's color scheme as neutral as possible," says Lucido, who notes that sellers working with his team receive the complimentary benefit of working with professional home stagers who know the best ways to make a home appealing to today's buyers.
If you're looking for a place to start, Lucido suggests you focus on three areas of the home: the kitchen, bathroom and basement. "Most buyers prefer a finished basement, and want updated bathrooms and kitchens.
"I'm not saying that everyone who wants to sell their home needs to gut their bathrooms and start fresh. Sometimes all you need to do is give the impression that a room has been updated, which can be easily executed by making minor updates. For the bathroom, you could replace the faucets, mirror and light fixture. For a kitchen, maybe all you need to do is have matching appliances and new cabinet hardware," Lucido explains.
"A real estate professional will know the best way to maximize value for your specific market. We work with buyers and sellers, so my team and I are focused on minimizing the work for the sellers, while enhancing the home to entice buyers. Working with a professional is going to get you the best return," says Lucido. To learn more about The Bob Lucido Team, The Silver Group or SRES, visit boblucidoteam.com and sres.org.
Another professional that can help with the downsizing process is a financial planner. Depending on your personalized needs, you may require only hourly-paid advice. The Financial Consulate in Hunt Valley holds standing with The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) and offers programs like S.E.N.I.O.R. Connect, which was developed to help guide families through the process of organizing health and financial matters, identify senior living communities and plan for transitions. S.E.N.I.O.R. Connect services are offered on an hourly basis to accommodate each individual's unique situation. To find a financial advisor near you, visit napfa.org, which allows a user to search names within a ZIP code for fee-based compensation.
Maintaining unused possessions may keep you connected to memories, but they can also prevent you from making healthy changes. By downsizing, you minimize your emotional stress by having fewer responsibilities, a smaller workload and an increased cash flow. Tackling the process can seem overwhelming at first, but don't be afraid to ask for help. A few skilled experts can certainly smooth the transition and set you up for a strong and successful second act. •