June 5, 2013 — We surveyed our members last week, asking them for future article and survey ideas. It wasn’t much of a surprise to see downsizing and moving right up there near the top of the list, since we’ve noticed baby boomers love to share their downsizing travails and experiences. To answer that need we’ve prepared this article, which will be a companion piece to “12 Steps to Successful Downsizing“, which we also just wrote. This article will report on the experiences of 3 baby boomers who just went through the downsizing process.
A Really Big Move for Sandy –
Newly retired Sandy and his wife had had just about enough of living in an expensive New York suburb. Their taxes were astronomical, and so was just about everything else, including their country club. Skiing and outdoor buffs all their lives and very familiar with the West, they moved in May to Colorado’s Banana Belt – west of Denver and near the Beaver Creek resort. So far they really love their new lifestyle, although they are sad to report their downsizing is still an ongoing process.
Knowing they intended to move, they started de-cluttering last fall in preparation for putting their home on the market in January. Long time collectors, they had many beautiful things in their home. The good news was that the house sold quickly and the deal was closed in April. The bad news was that that success made the downsizing process a lot quicker than they had intended. So in just a short time the couple went from doing a pretty decent job of divesting their stuff to a mad scramble. Along the way they bought their home in Colorado. This May the movers delivered what was left of their worldly goods to the new home – 300 boxes in a 53′ moving van!
Here are some of the things the couple learned going through this process:
– Start now – it takes longer than you think
– You can’t believe how much you have to throw away
– Furniture is really hard to get rid of
– Craigslist is full of scammers; and who wants strangers traipsing through in a tag sale
– It’s hard to throw away stuff – like books you love but will never read again
– Knowing what to take to your new home; a lot of stuff you like just won’t fit or work
– Clothes – the clothes that work for a New York executive just aren’t needed in the mountains. Sandy disposed of 30 shirts along with piles of other really nice clothes
– Know where does the stuff is going to go in your new home. Is your new home ready to receive it? If you tell the movers to stack it in the garage you are just adding to your work. If it won’t fit you are creating a second downsizing
– Unpacking is painful
– Some decisions are particularly wrenching: family albums, military medals, honors, and papers from ancestors who could be biographical subjects, children’s books and clothes you’ve been saving for your kids’ kids, a godfather’s desk, a leatherbound Encyclopedia Britannica set.
Having just gone through the process Sandy has learned many lessons about downsizing. Here are his top pieces of advice:
– Start earlier than…early
– Get your relatives and friends involved – better to give them anything they want than throw it away
– Tread lightly with important pieces of family history. These items deserve more time and attention to the decision
One final question – how do you think you will feel a year from now?
“Liberated, and a whole lot better!”
Jan Goes from Tudor to Victorian
Jan Brogan is a mystery writer who lives in the Boston suburbs in a 5 bedroom, 5000 sq.ft. Tudor. In a few short months she moves up a few centuries and royal lineages to a 2200 sq.ft. restored Victorian. And even though she and her husband have already filled a large dumpster, there appear to many more divestitures like that before they are ready to move.
Jan had some interesting advice for Topretirements members. She urged us all to think carefully about what you want in your next life iteration, because it might not be what you have always thought. For example, she was tired of living in a rural environment where she had to drive everywhere. She thought city life in downtown Boston would be for her. But after a lot of searching, she determined she wanted something halfway to that – a much smaller home still in the suburbs, but just a short walk to downtown Dedham. A self-described person who keeps friends better than making new ones, Jan wanted to keep her car and be able to visit her friends who still live in the suburbs, while also having the option to take public transportation into Boston.
Some other advice:
– Start early, particularly with the kids stuff. That will be hard and very emotional, be prepared for it
– Talk to friends who have gone through downsizing and get their advice and ideas. Most of Jan’s friends told her they can’t believe they waited so long to do it. One friend impressed her with the comments that we are all just “all we are doing in these big houses is warehousing our stuff”. So, why not get rid of it sooner and save trouble and money.
– Jan and her husband are really looking forward to using their new home and the things in it, instead of just rattling around in a their current too-big home.
– Pay attention to what will work in your new home. In her case, although Tudor sounds close to Victorian stylistically, it really isn’t.
Tim and his wife went from a stunning home on the Connecticut River (with corresponding taxes and maintenance costs) to a restored barn closer to the coast. The first step was cleaning out that big house, putting what they decided to keep in storage (with the added difficulty of not knowing what their new home would be like), and moving into a very small rental. Their situation was made easier…and harder… because their current landlord is very flexible about when they leave their apartment. The result is moving piecemeal into the new place; as it drags out, it has left them feeling exhausted.
Obviously this couple has learned a lot along the way about how to part with both their treasures and the things they no longer care about. Tim is quite philosophical about the process. He advises that positive planning can actually make more of less, or addition by subtraction. When you are downsizing you are always fearful to some degree of losing elements of your home and family lifestyle that you become accustomed to. But in reality you can gain and improve your lifestyle by downsizing. Those improvements includes gains in efficiency, cost, flexibility, even the opportunity to purchase a second home with your newly liberated capital.
Comments? Please share your moving and downsizing stories, particularly your best… and worst… tactics and decisions. Let us know in the Comments section below.
For further reading:
12 Steps to Downsizing Success
Downsizing Checklist and Tips
Topretirements Members Getting Ready for Big Moves
eDivvyup – a Web-based tool for dividing property
How to Run an Estate Sale
About Home Downsizing (eHow)
Downsizing Tips (Yahoo)
Downsizing Baby Boomers Looking to Sell Their Stuff (Smart Money)