I was packing up after another DownsizeColumbus event. The Kathy Chiero Group has presented over a dozen of these seminars, hosting over 2000 Central Ohio downsizers. Charlotte, a woman in her mid-70’s walked up to me and said “I just want to thank you for showing me that I’m not alone and I’m not crazy.” She went on to tell me that the decision to downsize was overwhelming to her. More accurately, when she began facing the multitude of decisions that go into this transition we call ‘downsizing’ – she was overwhelmed.
No Charlotte, you’re not alone and you’re not crazy. Over 9000 Americans a day are turning 55 and many of them are, or will, face the same decisions you are. However, there are cultural , sociological, medical, and financial reasons this transition is more complex than in preceding generations. Whether you enter this “Act 3” with an ensemble cast or standing on stage alone – entering these years on your terms involves careful planning and execution. When I began presenting the DownsizeColumbus seminar in 2013 I naively believed it was all about selling the house. Over the years I have listened to my attendees and gone through a downsize myself. I have learned that while selling a residence is a piece of the downsize puzzle it is a relatively small piece and one of the last pieces to complete the transition picture. In the middle is a myriad of decisions which makes one feel like you’re in a real life corn maze: dead ends and blind turns, back tracking and second–guessing. All the while facing an unstoppable move of time in which you hope your decisions lead you out of the maze wisely, successfully, and happily.
What has changed?
The downsize decision is often not yours: Many of you are considering selling your home and moving to a smaller space because you are being told you need to. Your children, your doctors, your spouse are insisting that you make a move that you may not feel you need to, may not want, and are not ready to make.
Our kids do not live near us: Increased mobility, jobs, spouses from different states (or countries) means that our children are no longer down the street. While they love us and want the best for us they are not physically there or able to do for us. Much of the (sometimes literal) heavy lifting of the downsize decision and move is left in the head and hands of the downsizer and spouse. If the spouse is deceased or divorce has left you single these decisions can be intimidating, frightening and overwhelming. The response can be that you are immobilized by the fear of making a mistake. This, in itself, can be the biggest mistake you make.
Our kids do not want our stuff: When I began DownsizeColumbus I quickly learned that “getting rid of stuff” was Job #1 – and the most difficult faced by seniors. We moved through life saving things with the assumption that the children and grandchildren would want the family furniture; grandma’s china, and Aunt Tilly’s 1920-era armoire. If you haven’t discovered already: they don’t. If it wasn’t purchased at Front Room, Ikea, or The Pottery Barn it doesn’t fit in their home or lifestyle. This means much of it has to go. Where? There are resources to sell, give away for tax deduction, or throw away these items but the first step is yours: a commitment to tackle one room at a time and empty your life, home, and psyche of “stuff”.
When should you start thinking about downsizing? Earlier than you think. In my experience it takes two to three years to get to the point of sale of residence and transition when the task is tackled with purpose, a plan, help and deadlines. It doesn’t just happen. As a Realtor I have had to witness adult children suspend grief over the loss of a parent because they were mired for months, even years, in settling a parents affairs, selling a home, and divesting the family of Mom and Dad’s “stuff”. No one wants that for their children.
Where can you start? Come to DownsizeColumbus (www.DownSizeColumbus.com). It is a free event where you will meet 25+ transition partners and hear experts in the five major areas of Transition: Medical, Emotional, Legal, Financial, and Residential. The event is free, but you must register at www.DownsizeColumbus.com You’ll leave armed with information and the assurance that no, you’re not alone and you’re not crazy.