Congratulations! You’ve entered a brand-new stage of life. Perhaps you’re newly retired and are wanting a more relaxed, stress-free environment. Or maybe your nest is officially empty and even echoes a little. Possibly you’ve found keeping up that large home or property is becoming tedious. Now might be the time to think about downsizing.

One of the first things people think of when it is comes to downsizing is “Better call the realtor.” But downsizing doesn’t automatically mean moving to a smaller space. It can also mean staying put, but dramatically reducing the number of possessions you have.

So how do you decide if you should actually move or just get rid of a lot of your stuff? The reasoning can be different for everyone, but it is best to start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Am I using all of the rooms in my house?
  • Are there certain rooms I never go into anymore?
  • Am I shutting off certain rooms to save money on heating and cooling?

If the answer is yes to these questions, you may not need as much space.

Now ask yourself:

  • Has my home turned into one big storage unit for my children’s belongings?

If so, consider telling your kids to come and get all of their things and have them be responsible for storing it. Then decide how much you actually need for yourself. Is there still an excessive amount of stuff? If so, really ponder why you are clinging to so many things.  Be honest with yourself and realize that hanging on to many belongings that aren’t being used only inhibits you from moving forward with your life.

Next ask yourself:

  • Does my home have multiple stories or many sets of stairs?
  • Would a one-level house be easier for me to navigate and maintain?
  • Am I tired of yardwork?

These questions can help you to step back and examine your locale physically and functionally.  Assess whether or not your current space is serving you as well as it could. Think about whether or not your residence matches the lifestyle you want to have. Answers to these questions will help you to know which direction to go.

Whatever you do, don’t wait too long! Procrastination is one of the (few) pitfalls of downsizing, according to Kim Stanley, owner of Downsize My Home, a downsizing management and consulting service in Austin, Texas. “If you downsize and simplify your life when you are physically fit and able to fully enjoy the benefits of it, then the process is so much easier,” she says. “If too much time goes by and eventually something happens physically like a stroke or a broken hip, then a person is not in a position to make decisions.”

“I see this over and over again when adult children have to come in and move Mom or Dad because their home is no longer safe for them,” Kim continues. “The kids are left making a lot of decisions and that is never good.  I say downsize early and often.”

Whether you are going to move or not, one of the most challenging parts of downsizing can be getting started. Sorting through hundreds of items and deciding what to keep and what to get rid of can quickly become overwhelming and takes an emotional toll.

Kim and her team at Downsize My Home help clients process through the emotion in a positive way. “We understand that people have been hanging onto things for years because they’ve attached a meaning to them,” says Kim. “We suggest finding a way to honor the memories of those things, such as telling the stories behind them or even recording those stories; taking pictures of each item and creating a memory book or slideshow—finding some way to capture the memories of those belongings so you’ll always have them in some form.”

This tip could be especially helpful for Baby Boomers, because, as Kim says, one of the bigger trends she’s seen is boomers whose homes have become extremely cluttered with belongings they’ve just inherited from their parents.  They’re not sure what to do with all of it, but knowing the history behind many of the items could make the decision process much easier.

Overall, downsizing can seem like one huge, intimidating project. But like any project, it can be broken down into bite size chunks.  Start with one small chunk at a time. It’s also very difficult to stay focused when tackling this project alone and Kim recommends getting help from someone to stay on track throughout the process. Downsize My Home offers a wide variety of services that include free consultations, a complete starter kit with workbook, one-on-one coaching sessions and much more.  You can get all the details at

While most of us would probably prefer to simply push an “Easy Button” when it comes to the downsizing process, consider it is a journey with things to be learned along the way.

By going through the process of downsizing, you free up a great deal of energy, time and money. The extra energy, time and money can now be used in different ways you never thought of before. You will have the freedom to make new choices that were not previously available.

As you begin your downsizing journey, take the time to evaluate your current situation and figure out exactly what you want and where you want to be. Make the effort to do your homework, understand your options and don’t hesitate to ask for help. Then you’ll be able to confidently answer the question: “Should I stay or should I go?”

Marcia Janssen
Executive VP – Legacy Division

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