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Downsizing and Moving: Tips from a Townhouse Buyer

written by: •edited by: Carly Stockwell•updated: 5/31/2018

There are various passages of time we know we will live through, such as learning to drive, having a child or buying your first home, and they become major life events as they should be and downsizing and the reasons to move are at the heart of this.

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    DOWNSIZING AND MOVING Famous commentator and satirist Will Rogers once said, “Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like."

    While this quote may seem funny and clever, it is also a truism.

    Perhaps we are older adults now and we have moved away from parenting. Maybe at middle-age, life seems overwhelming and we are looking to simplify and shift priorities. Or it could be your family has gotten smaller through divorce, death or by choice. Maybe you just want to align your lifestyle and choices closer to your values. No matter what your reason for downsizing and moving, there are some things to consider first.

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    The Packrat Culture

    It doesn’t matter what socio-economic level you currently live at, you probably have too many things. There are a thousand reduce-your-clutter books and so many guides that promise you will feel better after you shed responsibility and the caregiving of “stuff." One book even refers to us as slaves to our possessions.

    Is this a question you should ask? Do you spend an inordinate amount of time, shuffling things from one area to another, cleaning, and trying to make a path? Are you overly occupied by your physical surroundings and where to put things, creating ever more storage options and studying organizational guides ad nauseum?

    Maybe that’s not the immediate problem. First, it could be a head thing.

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    Coming to Terms

    First, you need to come to terms with letting go. You need to not just realize but ponder that, in this process of moving and getting smaller, because you will have to touch everything you currently own.

    If that seems as daunting as it sounds, we are getting somewhere. The roller coaster ride of ups and downs (sorry about the pun) about downsizing are many. And there are as many emotional and irrational feelings to go along with all the changes that will eventually happen.

    Some people profess to be relieved to be moving toward a change. Others are so majorly unhappy to have to part with objects, furnishings and accouterments that have created and commemorated their long life. And most people don’t want to make so many decisions in such a brief time.

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    Hoarding vs. Nesting

    You don’t have to be a hoarder or a nester to deny change. Change is hard, and some folks embrace it while others spend a lifetime denying it. To most of us, we think of our home as a haven, no matter what level of money we earn or have realized. It is still the place where we kick off our shoes after work and settle in to do what we really want to do.

    We may have raised children here and the notches of height marks on the door frame as you measured each child over the year, had meaning. The comforter your mother gave you for your first apartment, meant something. The dozens of photo frames and albums were moments of fun or folly.

    What you must do is create a vision. Think about how you want to be living in 5, 10 or even 20 years, if you can fathom that. For example, the garden you tended may have given you a place to exercise your nurturing or creative gene, but will you want to do yard work—serious yard work in summer heat five years from now? If not, think about becoming a member of a townhouse or condo where those duties are farmed out by the townhouse association for a fee.

    Look at and inspect further important questions such as: where do you want your time to go? How much attention do you want to pay to family, volunteering, animals or travel? It’s hard but you need to commit to the upcoming change. There is a lot of anxiety to making new choices, but once you set things in motion, commit.

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    Give It Numbers

    It might help you to make your decisions and cope with the obstacles if you can put a number to the change. For example, if you were paying $1,350 a month to lease a 2300-square foot house for you and your husband will you need the excessive costs or that kind of space if he passes away? If you can downsize to say, an 1800-square foot townhouse, with a mortgage hovering around $850 a month, that’s making a big financial plus.

    Perhaps with the extra money you can enjoy the traveling you missed or just think about retiring with less financial stress, less space and objects to care for, and a newer design, goal or pathway. It’s there for the planning.

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    Helpful Ideas

    It won’t help you here to listen to notes on how to de-clutter, although, that too, is a commitment and ultimate decision. But what we can say is try to capture your inner sense of not knowing everything and take this on as an adventure.

    Here too, are some considerations to help you along:

    • If you can find someone to help you pack, do that. Perhaps the fear of making a major life decision will dissipate somewhat with a friend to use as a temporary sounding board (just don’t bore them to death with repeating yourself—yes, there is some fear in all this).

    • Be honest about assessing the actual amount of space you will really need. Take scrupulous measurements room by room. Kind of define your new comfort level but keep it relative to your new set of needs.

    • An estate sale for your furniture may not be the best choice. At those functions the items are highly devalued and since it is an unregulated industry, you might be more than disappointed. It may suit your pocketbook and your sensibilities better, to storage large furnishings and sell them one by one. The caveat here is: put a time limit to the storage—if you can’t deal, there are many organizations like Volunteers of America, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, etc., that will pick up your items and find them a home; perhaps you just need to know it goes to someone who will value it.

    • Think about health issues. We may not always be so spry and there are a lot of aging changes to face. Maybe look for an entrance without stairs, find a bathroom with hand rails or awaken to more friendly areas with less obstacles.

    • Try to set timelines and break your tasks into a manageable period. Say, one room a week. Make sure your closing date and actual moving date are reasonable for you and your present commitments.

    Remind yourself that you don’t have to let go of everything, just pare it down.