If you’re just jumping into this Blog series, I encourage you to go back and read Parts 1-4. I’ve been sharing about my experiences as a residential Realtor® working with the Over-55 homeowner. In this capacity I often work with couples who are not in agreement on the need or desire to move to safer or smaller living spaces. Today we are going to talk about Reason #6. I have saved it for last because it is the #1 problem homeowners have when made the decision to downsize: getting rid of stuff.
We are a culture of stuff. We have all sorts of events and celebrations to bring stuff into our homes: birthdays, Christmas, Hanukkah, anniversaries, housewarmings, etc. We have only one ritual (that I can think of) for getting rid of stuff: garage or tag sales. The result is that after years in a home, our decision to downsize may not be OUR decision: it is often dictated by our willingness and ability to get rid of stuff. For many homeowners this is perceived as an impossible task or, at every least, not on the top of a “to do” list and therefore suffers death by procrastination.
6) Unwillingness to give up stuff. This point of resistance is extremely difficult because you may be in a situation where stuff does rule your decision. Getting rid of personal items, furniture, and other detritus of our lives after decades in a home is hard, time consuming, expensive, and physically exhausting. This is true if there is no emotional attachment to the items. If there is an emotional inability to get rid of things the move will be virtually impossible and requires professional intervention. I won’t deal with that in this blog.
I have found that generally an over-55 homeowner has the capacity to clear a home, but that ability diminishes as one ages.
Age 50-60: Most homeowners have the mental and physical ability to make and execute the decisions involved in clearing their homes.
Age 60-70: Health and physical limitations begin to inhibit the ability to remove things or cognitive issues cloud the ability to make decisions.
Age 70+: The ability to clear a house is often not possible without third party help.
The first thing I ask you to fully grasp is this: Someone must do it. If not you, it will be your adult kids, friends, or other family members. Do you want to pass the burden to them? Do you want them to be in your personal items and making decisions for you? Clearing a home is a tremendous amount of work and expense. I have had adult children tell me that getting rid of Mom and Dad’s stuff took a huge toll on their lives. In addition to the physical burden of doing it, the task strained marriages, finances and relationships, permanently divided siblings, and delayed or squashed the ability to grieve the loss of a parent.
“Claire” told me that 3 years after clearing her dad’s home she was still angry at him for putting the burden on her. Prior to his death she and her brother had begged their father to deal with his “stuff”. They offered their help and assistance, but he refused. The settling of the estate and getting rid of her dad’s household items took 18 months of weekends, evenings, and holidays. It kept Claire and her husband from going on vacations and even put off having their first child because she knew she had to get this task off her agenda before she could be a mom. Only recently did she begin talking with her brother. The task had put so much strain on that relationship that she thought the estrangement was permanent. Do you want that for your family?
Experts have said that it takes one week of full-time clearing of a home for every year you have lived in the home. I think that estimate is optimistic unless one hires professional help. Most of my clients have said it took them months, even a year or longer to be ready to move to a smaller space. Hiring a third-party organizer is very helpful and expedites the process. Be prepared to spend $10,000 or more to clear a traditional 4 BR 2.5 bath home, more if there is stuff in a basement or garage.
Finally, recognize that if you don’t make the decision to clear your home and downsize, the decision will be made for you. Age is not a respecter of our timetables or desires. There will come a day when a medical emergency or even death takes this decision out of your hands and puts the task on others. Be proactive and in control of that path by getting started now.
This blog is written by Kathy Chiero. Kathy is the Team Lead for The Kathy Chiero Group of Keller Williams Greater Columbus Realtors. Kathy has written a resource for Central Ohio homeowners who wish to get rid of stuff. Find Kathy’s book “Got Stuff Get Help” at our website www.DownSizeColumbus.com Thinking of Buyer or selling a home? Find Kathy and her team at www.OurOhioHome.com