You Can’t Take a U-Haul to Heaven

I recently returned from a trip to Hawaii.  My friend asked what souvenir I wanted to bring back.  My quick reply was “NONE”.
I no longer accumulate possessions.  I see the toll it takes on our clients, parting with these dusty items. 

As the owner of Silver Linings Transitions, I’m frequently the first person who meets with a client once they’ve made the decision to move.  I view myself as an expert, not because I’ve been through the process myself but because I’ve walked through the journey with our clients and am able to learn and share from their experiences.
Though this article is mainly written for people moving from their homes into senior communities, much of the content can be applied to anyone who’s downsizing or de-cluttering, regardless of where.

This past week, I was on two jobs for senior clients moving to the same community. The community is a continuum of care where the resident buys in and can “age in place” remaining in their apartments regardless of their care needs and able to age with assurance that they will be cared for as age takes its toll on their minds and bodies.  
I started the morning packing in one home and ended the day unpacking in another.  As we were packing multiple sets of 12 dishes and other miscellaneous kitchen items, I questioned where all of this would go when we unpacked for the client.
Unpacking for the next client was an even bigger struggle.  The couple moved items that had been in storage for more than 10 years, after their remarriage joined two houses. 

I’ve come to realize that it’s not really about the stuff.  It’s the reality of our own mortality.  Just like the country’s obsession with toilet paper when the pandemic broke out, stuff grounds us in uncertain times.  I can’t think of anything more uncertain than aging.  What will happen to my body?  What will happen to my mind?  And perhaps the most important question,  will I be remembered when I’m gone?
Though divorce is not the exact same transition, I’ve gone through the downsizing process personally and I too have held onto items like my size 2 jeans from college, reminiscent and hopeful they’d be used again.

I also have a mother who hangs a sign in her home, “this isn’t clutter, these are my collectibles”.

If you or a loved one is going through the downsizing process, here are some tips I hope will bring peace to your family and calm to your clutter:
  1. Remember the Pareto Principle.  We use 20% of what we have 80% of the time.  Think of downsizing like you did college or summer camp.  You didn’t take everything you needed but you brought your favorites and the essentials.  
  2. Be realistic about your space.  If you have to climb a step stool to access it, decide whether climbing that stool is worth the risk you’ll take. 
  3. Are you keeping it because you LOVE it or out of some sense of responsibility? If you’re feeling guilt but it’s not an item you REALLY enjoy or use, let it go.
  4. Offer smaller, more meaningful items to loved ones.  Generational differences mean we are leaning toward having fewer things and priorities are different.  Fancy Sunday dinners have been replaced with paper plates and BBQs.  Remember, younger generations value experiences over things.  
  5. Gather like items together.  When you see what you really have, it’s easier to pare down what you really need.
  6. You can hold onto the memory without holding onto the item.  Photograph the item and make a display book.
  7. If the item has collected dust, perhaps you don’t really “need it”.
  8. Start small.  Break the task down into manageable pieces and do a little at a time.  Use stickers or the 10 minute toss.  Momentum is really key here.
  9. Have a goal date.  Call the donation company and schedule the pick up before you start on the process.  For more information on charities, visit our website.
  10. Be kind to yourself and make the process easier.  Reward yourself as you go.  Solicit help from people who will support rather than criticize. (I’m sorry Mom. I wasn’t doing this work when we went through this process several years ago.)
And one last bonus tip, 
  1. If you didn’t use it or repair it during the lockdown, perhaps “someday” is never?

For some of our clients, going through a lifetime of possessions, a household they’ve spent years in is freeing.  Others really struggle with the process.   

Don’t think of downsizing as good bye.  Find meaningful ways to commemorate your possessions and life experiences utilizing current technology doing a video version of “show and tell” and recording your stories rather than keeping the item.

One thing I hear frequently after we’ve completed the move, is that our clients really don’t miss all the stuff and their larger homes.  For the majority of our clients, they love the lives they create in their new communities and the freedom that comes with less responsibility.

If you have a home to sell, the easiest, best transition we provide into senior community living is the “Get Settled, Get Sold” program in partnership with the Devore Realty Group.  In this program, we get you settled into your new home while allowing you access to what you’ve left behind alleviating much of the pressure of the decision making process.  Then Bryan Devore works with you to determine the best strategy to sell your home for top dollar and your peace of mind.  If your money is tied up in your home, you can make a move with little to no out of pocket expenses.