Navigating the Downsize


Gearing up for paring down – what to expect as you prepare to age in place
By Nina Sher
Should we stay, or should we go? That was the nagging question that had been swirling around my head since we received the news of my husband’s Parkinson’s diagnosis.
Honestly, the question surfaced long before that. Aaron and I have been empty‐nesters for more than a decade. Our adult children are married and have children of their own. So, why do we still need a four‐bedroom house? As a parent, all kinds of “what‐if” scenarios plagued me in the middle of the night. After all, isn’t that what nighttime is for ‐ worrying? Where would our company stay? What if we regret moving? How will we sort through all of our stuff?
Living in a state of limbo and stressing over an endless list of perceived roadblocks conveniently aided our avoiding the subject altogether. As a licensed real estate professional, I’ve seen too many people wait to downsize and end up breaking a hip…or worse. Moving while in crisis is an unsettling ordeal, and family members may have to make difficult decisions on your behalf. We knew we had to decide on our own.
After contemplating the pros and cons, my husband and I decided that it would be best for us to move. And just like that, our house‐hunting search began. On the surface, it looked like we’d be spending more for less space. What people don’t consider is the cost of aging in place, especially if you don’t have a first‐floor bedroom, full bath, and laundry. Whatever your decision is, it’s a highly personal one that only you can make. After many months, we ended up finding a nice single floor, three‐bedroom townhouse with an HOA, unfinished basement, and a two‐car garage. No more hiring someone to mow the lawn, shovel the driveway, trim the bushes, paint the house. Our new place is maintenance‐free, and we look forward to enjoying those perks after we move in.
Facing the stuff that we had collected over the years was the next step. We knew we couldn’t do it alone, so we hired friends who are professional organizers to help with this huge task. Their help was immeasurable because they kept us motivated and on schedule. If you cannot afford to hire professionals, ask supportive friends and family for help.
We started in our weary basement and then moved throughout the house; room to room. As we began the sorting process, our lives flashed before us. The memories all came flooding back. We allowed ourselves time to cry, to mourn, to laugh, and to cherish all that we’ve shared as a couple and as a family. I think that no matter what age we are, we ask ourselves how we got here so fast. We generally don’t feel our age, so how is it that we’re in our 60s and 70s?
It is interesting what we keep. Aaron tends to be more of a packrat than me, except when it comes to paperwork! I had kept 25 years’ worth of tax returns and financial records, among other special mementos from my teaching days, living in Paris, and some contents from my mother’s house. And of course, our kids’ stuff was all over.
Aaron had kept the first microscope he used as a young doctor, his Japanese‐issued license plates from his service in the Army, along with a lot of Japan‐related trinkets, furniture, and accessories that were eventually relegated to the basement.
Taking the time to sort through your stuff is a luxury that you don’t get to enjoy when you have to move in a crisis. Get started today. Set a completion date and stick to it. The decluttering process had a deeply cathartic effect on both Aaron and me.
What’s next? We’re working on our punch list so that we can put our home on the market while waiting to close on our new home. This process, as we move through it, has given me a newfound appreciation for the amount of emotion and love that can be tied to things, and to a home. This is where we have raised our children, where we have kissed scraped knees, where we have helped with homework, and where we laundered loads of clothes during college breaks. This is where we truly lived and loved, laughed and cried. It’s what makes a house a home. Now it is time to say goodbye, to curate our new lives and cull down our possessions. This is how we start our new adventure. It is all bittersweet, but oh, so exciting!
A specialist in downsizing, Nina Sher is the creator of a downsizing guide and workshops, tools to help homeowners gain some clarity around the many financial, practical, and emotional factors that go into it. Follow her downsizing journey on her Facebook business page.


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