4 Tips For Downsizing Your Life

A simple Google search for “Downsizing Your Life” will show many,  many articles, filled with ideas on, not just how to downsize but why to downsize your life.

Six years ago I was asked to speak at the annual Domestic Estate Management Association convention. Since our company had already begun experiencing downsizing families (mostly octogenarians) I decided to do a Power Point presentation on the topic. Interestingly, 6 years ago while doing research on downsizing life, much of the Google searches had to do with corporate downsizing. In fact, Wikipedia’s definition of downsizing was all about corporate lay-offs. Needless to say, back then I was pretty much the only person who could see the coming wave of retiring Boomers and their parents.

Before we get into specific tips on how to downsize your life, let’s take a quick look at why we should downsize our lives.

For decades we “baby boomers” found our identity in our work, our families and in the things we collected. These things reflected our success as well as our families’ accomplishments (childhood memorabilia, sports trophies and photographs).  Also, many baby boomers collected their parents’ and grandparents’ furniture and heirloom items. As a result, not too many baby boomers that I know, have a whole lot of empty spaces in their primary homes.

Now, as almost 77 million people face retirement (the largest segment of our adult population to do so) we realize that these “things” are not what we want to identify ourselves with. As we approach a new stage in our lives we are realizing that the things we own actually “own” us. As we evaluate our limited time to exist we can see that all our stuff requires time and we’d rather use our time to experience things we have not experienced before. This is one reason that the travel industry is exploding.

Now that we have an idea as to why we want to downsize our lives, let’s take a look at 4 solid tips for downsizing our lives.

  • ASK YOURSELF, WHERE DO I WANT TO BE IN 10 YEARS?

Quite frankly, this is a good question we should all ask ourselves every few years, sort of like reviewing a business plan except for your life style. Do you picture yourself sitting at home or wanting to travel? How important is spending time with the grand children? Do you need to move closer to where they are? Do you prefer warmer winters? Are there potential health issues that will prevent you from climbing stairs or being able to get around outdoors?

These kinds of questions will help you make specific decisions in your first steps to downsize your life.

  • FAMILY INTERVENTION

Undoubtedly there are going to be things in your home that need to be sorted and gotten rid of.  Many of these items you were hanging onto for your grown children. Maybe there are some family heirlooms that your great grand-parents had. You will need to get the family involved to decide if anyone really wants this stuff you have collected. Chances are that you are the only one who ever wanted these family items.

  • DOWNSIZING YOUR LIFE STARTS WITH DONATE, DONATE, DONATE!

When you downsize your life, you will find that there are a number of things which might have value but no one in the family wants. Holding onto these items by putting them into storage is an expensive idea and should be avoided at all costs. Consignment and estate auctions are pretty much a thing of the past. However, many non-profits can reuse those items in their resale shops. Many charitable organizations will actually pick the items up and give you a tax-deductible receipt. This is a win, win, win situation for all parties.

  • WHEN IN DOUBT…”THROW IT OUT!!!”

This is probably my favorite quote. (In fact, I think I may have coined the phrase!)  For years I have been telling clients who are trying to downsize their life that in the end, when you have cleared and given away everything you can and there’s still stuff that has to go somewhere, just throw it out! It may be hard at first but, once you start chucking stuff into the dumpster (yes, I highly recommend getting a dumpster delivered to your house when you downsize your life) it will actually have a cleansing effect because now you have freed yourself up to have that downsized life that you were dreaming of.

I hope these tips are helpful for those homeowners who need to downsize their life. If so, than happy downsizing!!

-Jim