2003-11-06 / Savvy Senior




I’m looking for some sound advice. I am an 80 year-old woman who has lived in the same house for 53 years. My husband passed away last year and I can’t handle this big house on my own, nor do I want to. I need to reduce my possessions and would like to move to a small place near my daughter but I don’t know where to start. I’m feeling overwhelmed with the idea of going through all my things. I’ve also never been one to throw things out so I fear that this will be very difficult for me. Where do I start?


Dear Overwhelmed:

Take a deep breath and remember to take one step at a time. Weeding through a lifetime’s worth of stuff is bound to take some time, so take your time! Also know that letting go of material possessions brings freedom. And remember, "You never see a U-Haul following a hearse."

Savvy Fact: More than 30 percent of homeowners age 65 and over have lived for 30-plus years in their home.

In our American culture where bigger is better and more is marvelous — the idea of less is ludicrous! The process of downsizing requires a willingness to make changes and the ability to take charge of your life. It’s a savvy person who knows when it is the right time to "let go."

Where do I begin? Begin by asking yourself What would make life easier? Do I really need all this? How much space can I manage easily? Are there some possessions which could be better used and more appreciated by others? What are my financial resources?

Savvy Tip: Set small achievable goals, and always keep in mind your needs vs. your wants.

If you know you’ll be moving to a smaller place, consider these downsizing tips.

• Make a floor plan showing each room and the placement of each piece of furniture. Try to take act-ual measurements of the rooms, and include locations of doors, windows, heaters, outlets, etc. Make copies of the floor plan.

• Concentrate on what you’re going to take to make you comfortable, provide adequate storage, and preserve the cozy feeling of your home.

• Assess your space-to-space needs. Where will items from built-in spaces go? If you’re not taking your china cupboard, where will the china go? Will a twin bed give you more living space than a double bed will?

• Focus on sorting, separating, and paring down. Be realistic, Never leave behind something you’ll regret, but you can’t take every gift, book, blanket, and mug you own (your friends and family will un-derstand). Set a simple goal to complete a small task every day.

Problem Areas: Books, papers, nick knack’s, linens, wardrobe and kitchen items.

Avoid turning your house into chaos. Have a trash bag handy; if it’s trash throw it out. If it can be donated or sold, separate it from what you’re taking with you but try to leave it in place. Pull a chair up to kitchen drawers or bookshelves. Recruit the help of friends and family to help, especially with high shel-ves and hard to reach places. Sort things on shelves from shelf to shelf or side to side, sort drawers from drawer to drawer. Sort clothes side-to-side on closet rods. When you’re done things are sorted but still in place.

What to do with the things you’re not taking? First, offer it to family and friends, but remember their houses are already full. If there’s lots of stuff, an estate sale may be the best way to get rid of it. Reputable estate sale people will get the best price for your things and leave the house broom clean for a 25-30 percent commission. Most estate sale people will come out to see what you have for no charge. If you consider an auction, they may have charges for transportation and insurance and you’ll still have stuff left.

If possible, let the movers do it. They can pack your things in 3-5 hours the day before you move. This information was obtained in part from Busy Buddies. See their Web site at www.busybuddiesinc. com.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit wwwsavvysenior.org.

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