Rightsizing: Advice from those who have been there before

by Jeannine Bryant

We know that downsizing is hard.  We see it all the time.  We try hard to meet our clients where they’re at, and realize that even though we guide our clients through this process each and every week, this still may be the first move this particular client has been through in 20, 30, 40, or even 50 years.  It’s easy for us to say, in an offhanded way, “It’ll be alright.  You’ll feel so much less of a burden once you’ve downsized.”  But it’s not our homes, now is it?  And it’s not our stuff.  It’s their home, their stuff.

So when we interact with clients who are moving, especially to a retirement community, we remind them that the other residents there have all been through exactly the same process – virtually everyone had to downsize in order to move into their new apartment.  They know what it’s like to say goodbye to family mementos and make difficult decisions about what to keep and what to give up.  So in an effort to give good advice to those considering a move, we decided to turn to the rightsizing experts – our former clients!  We surveyed some of the wonderful folks we’ve had the pleasure of knowing in the last few years and they shared some of their wisdom about rightsizing with us.

One of the universal pieces of advice they shared had to do with deciding on the “big stuff.”  In fact, this is often the first step we take with clients – a floorplan.  Making a floorplan, to scale, and measuring your furniture to that same scale is essential, said many of our clients.  It allows you to enter into move day with a clear plan of what furniture will go where in your new home.  Once you know which furniture will be moving, you’ll have a better sense of how much (or how little) storage space you’ll have.  This dictates how much of the “small stuff” you can bring.

This is where one of the biggest challenges came from, said our former client Ron, who said that “furniture was easy to deal with but personal family items were difficult.”  He wished he had started earlier and made a box for each child/grandchild for when they were sorting family items.  One way he made it easier was to sort through photo albums and remove the pictures.  He took them to Costco in Omaha, where they scanned the photos onto a DVD for him.  There are other companies online that will do the same.

Another client, Marlo, wished he had tackled some of the “problem areas” of his home sooner.  For him, that meant his woodshop.  For others, it might be a basement or garage.  The items in these areas take a bit more planning and work to clear out – whether you plan to sell, donate or give away the items in these areas, often it requires quite a bit of sorting beforehand, so start early!

For clients Gates and Daisy, the hardest part of the entire process was just “thinking about it!”  Oftentimes, the anticipation is worse than the actual event.  This is why we encourage clients to simply put one foot in front of the other and take the transition in small steps – taking action always feels better than inaction, coupled with “stewing.”  Now that the process is over, say Gates and Daisy, they are so glad they went through the rightsizing process.  “There is so much less work for our own children in the future,” they said.

Ed and Vickie echoed that sentiment, saying they are so glad they went through the rightsizing process when they did:  “We decided where stuff was to go, someone else did not make the decisions.  We didn’t have to relinquish control to kids or others.”  Starting early, we always say, keeps you in the driver’s seat.

In the end, the best reminder came from Ed and Vickie who said:  “Things are just things.  We haven’t forgotten mom just because we don’t have her cranberry compote any longer.”