In every season of life, we accumulate new and different items – furniture, clothes, tools, knick knacks, toys and more “stuff” than we can even imagine. For most people, it’s important to take inventory of our belongings at certain points and decide what we still want to keep around, because, believe it or not, clutter can play a significant role in our mental and emotional health. According to research, clutter can cause stress, difficulty focusing, anxiety, guilt, lack of productivity and more.
This clutter conundrum is typically most prevalent among seniors. Often, they have lived in – and accumulated belongings in – the same house for three, four, even five decades. So when they hit their retirement years and decide to downsize to a smaller home or retirement community, that’s usually when the reality of just how much stuff they have REALLY sets in.
But don’t worry: With over 130 years of working with retirees, we’ve seen “that look” countless times, so we have prepared five tips to get you started with the daunting downsizing process.
1. Set “bite-sized” goals
It’s easy to fall into the trap of over-ambition. Try not to look at the “big picture” every minute of every day, but instead, focus on small, short-term goals – with your smallest projects early. If your first goal is to go through your large basement, you might find yourself feeling overwhelmed before you even start. Instead, have your goals go from easiest to hardest so you can experience a sense of accomplishment every time you reach your next goal.
2. Allot time for reminiscing
Keep in mind that once you start going through drawers and boxes you haven’t opened in awhile, you’re bound to find all kinds of things that bring back memories. Set aside time to go down those “rabbit holes” as you are deciding what to keep and what to pitch.
3. Make it fun
Downsizing doesn’t need to be a dirty word. Going into it with a positive attitude can help lighten the load. Allow yourself to go down memory lane and find forgotten treasures. Invite your family and make it a downsizing party, complete with refreshments games. Take a moment to feel a sense of accomplishment and reward yourself after each new small goal is reached. Just make sure the reward is not more stuff… our residents have told us that ice cream works well!
4. Make a schedule and stick to it
When working on a long-term project like downsizing, it’s easy to fall into the mindset that since the end is so far away, we can wait until “tomorrow” to make progress. Set deadlines for yourself and create a schedule of tasks to help stay on track. And don’t forget about the rewards we mentioned earlier!
5. Create categories for your stuff
We have found that the following five categories can help you separate all the items you’re going through: 1) personal items for sorting; 2) items earmarked for family and/or friends; 3) donation items; 4) items to be sold; and 5) trash and recycling. And remember that just because you are throwing something away, that doesn’t mean the item didn’t have value or importance in your life at one time. Sometimes we get so attached to certain objects that, in an odd way, we feel like we’re betraying them by getting rid of them!
Hopefully those tips are enough to get you started! For seniors interested in more downsizing information or learning about their options for moving to a retirement living community, we have two upcoming downsizing seminars. The events will be held on Friday, October 21 from 10-11:30 a.m. AND 2-3:30 p.m. at Concordia at Rebecca Residence in Allison Park. To register, or if you have questions, call 724-444-1521. If leaving a message, please provide your name, phone number, which time you plan on attending and how many are in your party. To learn more about the retirement community we’re building at our Concordia at Rebecca Residence location, visit www.HighpointeRebecca.org.
Concordia offers free, personalized tours (and open houses) of our senior living communities. To schedule one or learn more about a specific location, check out our Locations Map and visit the website of the facility/building you are interested in. For general information, call our administrative headquarters at 724-352-1571 or message us through the Contact form here.
There is always a LOT happening at Concordia! Would you like to stay up-to-date with our news and events? Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter here.