Downsizing, To Move or Not to Move? That is the Question

Posted by Rosemary, Volunteer Mentor @rosemarya, Apr 12, 2020

At some point as we age, we will have to make a decision about leaving our homes and downsizing. Maybe in our own town or to another town. Maybe to smaller home, condo, apartment, or assisted living/senior community.

When the time comes to downsize, seniors can struggle with a multitude of emotional, physical, and financial challenges.

How do you make an informed decision about when to downsize?
What tips do you have to share?

@sueinmn

Well – This discussion prompted me to keep going. I just gave my sewing room a "first look" and emptied a large box that has been waiting for attention since we returned from Texas, pulled out an extra sewing machine I know I will never use again to "free cycle" through a neighborhood group, and made room to begin sorting/purging fabrics. That should keep me busy for a day or two. Today, unprompted, my husband cleared out a couple dozen never-worn t-shirts from his bureau, and says he will look in the closet as well. There is an advantage to spending 1/2 of each year in 400 square feet – one becomes very aware of controlling stuff!

I also noticed my daughters have failed to reclaim their left-behind possessions from the family room as I requested this summer. I'll remind them once more, then discard or donate.
Sue

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@sueinmn I have a love-hate relationship with sewing machines! I have two older Kenmores and I always head towards sewing machine ads on Facebook or Craigslist. But why do I need more than the two? This is coming from somebody who used to have 11 old machines! When we moved here all of my fabric was sorted by color, into bins and stacked. We traded the neighbors a steel Shelf unit 4 an armoire, so now all my fabric is in that armoire. Except for the Browns and Southwest Fabrics. I need to start sewing more donation quilts, and use this fabric up. It will feel good to organize and see what you truly have. I couldn't believe how many pairs of scissors I have!

My husband has increased his inventory of hand tools since we moved here, and brought much in the way of hardware with him. It has come in handy as he rebuilds things, so it's hard to complain about that. But we both released a lot of things before and during the move, and had little sentimental value to things. There is no need for some of the clothes that we had. But I did keep the heavier jackets! He affectionately tells his son that he is setting quite a nice workshop for him when he has passed.
Ginger

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@sueinmn

Well – This discussion prompted me to keep going. I just gave my sewing room a "first look" and emptied a large box that has been waiting for attention since we returned from Texas, pulled out an extra sewing machine I know I will never use again to "free cycle" through a neighborhood group, and made room to begin sorting/purging fabrics. That should keep me busy for a day or two. Today, unprompted, my husband cleared out a couple dozen never-worn t-shirts from his bureau, and says he will look in the closet as well. There is an advantage to spending 1/2 of each year in 400 square feet – one becomes very aware of controlling stuff!

I also noticed my daughters have failed to reclaim their left-behind possessions from the family room as I requested this summer. I'll remind them once more, then discard or donate.
Sue

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Hi Sue,
You posted giving sewing machine away. Some senior centers accept them, and give them to an in need senior who sews. Same with left over material.
I was a big knitter back in the days. When I quit knitting all supplies went to the senior center, and everything was put to good use.
You. and husband live in 400 sq.feet, did you mean 1,400?
Are you in a mobile home?
I’m on a SLOW ROLL today. Doing laundry, and clearing papers out. My goal is to empty entire rooms out. It’s a chore for sure.
Glad your husband is doing his part, but I’m sure he will hold onto his college books.
Funcountess

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@gingerw

@sueinmn I have a love-hate relationship with sewing machines! I have two older Kenmores and I always head towards sewing machine ads on Facebook or Craigslist. But why do I need more than the two? This is coming from somebody who used to have 11 old machines! When we moved here all of my fabric was sorted by color, into bins and stacked. We traded the neighbors a steel Shelf unit 4 an armoire, so now all my fabric is in that armoire. Except for the Browns and Southwest Fabrics. I need to start sewing more donation quilts, and use this fabric up. It will feel good to organize and see what you truly have. I couldn't believe how many pairs of scissors I have!

My husband has increased his inventory of hand tools since we moved here, and brought much in the way of hardware with him. It has come in handy as he rebuilds things, so it's hard to complain about that. But we both released a lot of things before and during the move, and had little sentimental value to things. There is no need for some of the clothes that we had. But I did keep the heavier jackets! He affectionately tells his son that he is setting quite a nice workshop for him when he has passed.
Ginger

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Without the Brother machine I'm giving away, I will have 4 in MN & 1 in TX – but I do use all of them, so don't feel bad about it. My quilting fabrics are well-organized by type & color in shallow bins. I have to admit 400 + masks and 2 quilts this Spring & Summer have not made a noticeable dent in the supply, even though I have not bought fabric all year – so I'm on a fabric diet for a while yet! Planning 2 t-shirt quilt Christmas gifts using fabric I already have on hand will be my next challenge.
My other fabrics date back to my working days & the times of costuming belly dancers. Not doing either any longer, it is time to part company with that which I will never use. (Some I saved thinking I might have little granddaughters, but I got my precious boys instead.) I belong to a Textile group and the American Sewing Guild, so my treasures will easily find new homes. Maybe that will gain me enough space to set up a dedicated painting area – right now I have to put all sewing stuff away & cover the cutting table every time I want to paint, so I don't do it often.
Sue

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@funcountess

Hi Sue,
You posted giving sewing machine away. Some senior centers accept them, and give them to an in need senior who sews. Same with left over material.
I was a big knitter back in the days. When I quit knitting all supplies went to the senior center, and everything was put to good use.
You. and husband live in 400 sq.feet, did you mean 1,400?
Are you in a mobile home?
I’m on a SLOW ROLL today. Doing laundry, and clearing papers out. My goal is to empty entire rooms out. It’s a chore for sure.
Glad your husband is doing his part, but I’m sure he will hold onto his college books.
Funcountess

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Hi – Yes, we do live in 400 sq feet in winter – a one bedroom mobile home with great room & bath. It's just right – I can clean in 30 minutes. But we have to keep everything put away, all the time, or it becomes intolerable. Even my "big house" doesn't have quite 1400 sq feet.

Our senior center is still closed, so it's not an option for donations now, but we have a very active freecycle group in the community, and there are 2 active requests for a machine – one from a young Mom, so it will go to a good home. We have given away dozens of possessions to our neighbors over the past 2 years, and it's good to know items will be put to good use. The group rules allow me to decide who gets an item – not just the first to ask, so if I feel someone is just hoarding stuff, or turning around and selling it, I can give it to someone else. My kids use it too – much of the outdoor play equipment at both of our houses came from there.
Sue

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@starchy

Criss, I'm just in the middle of reading a book called The End of Old Age : Living a Longer More Purposeful Life by Marc Agronin. He's a geriatric psychiatrist with years of experience helping people deal with the changes of aging. He talks about the stages that we have to go through when we come to a crisis point such as making a major change, loss of a close relationship or dealing with a health crisis and how we need to find our way through and find the meaning in the new situation. It is similar to working through the stages of grief. All these changes can make us feel like we have lost control and don't know who we are anymore. It can be quite frightening and it seems to me that women deal better with such changes. I think we are used to having major changes in our roles through marriage, pregnancy, parenting, caretaking, etc. I just grabbed it off the shelf in the library and it has turned out to be such a good find. You might find it helpful too.

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Thanks for the recommendation Starchy. I'll look into that.

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@sueinmn

Hi – Yes, we do live in 400 sq feet in winter – a one bedroom mobile home with great room & bath. It's just right – I can clean in 30 minutes. But we have to keep everything put away, all the time, or it becomes intolerable. Even my "big house" doesn't have quite 1400 sq feet.

Our senior center is still closed, so it's not an option for donations now, but we have a very active freecycle group in the community, and there are 2 active requests for a machine – one from a young Mom, so it will go to a good home. We have given away dozens of possessions to our neighbors over the past 2 years, and it's good to know items will be put to good use. The group rules allow me to decide who gets an item – not just the first to ask, so if I feel someone is just hoarding stuff, or turning around and selling it, I can give it to someone else. My kids use it too – much of the outdoor play equipment at both of our houses came from there.
Sue

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Hi sue my name Is dave and I hope I'm sending this message to right person. You stated you had some boxes that were the kids possions right? So if this is right what my mom and dad would do is everytime I would stop by as I was leaving there was 1 more thing before I left and my parents would come out with a present. The present was a box wrapped in newspaper with my stuff in it. It was not overwhelming for either of us and as they say how do you eat an elephant one bite at a time.

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@starchy

Criss, I'm just in the middle of reading a book called The End of Old Age : Living a Longer More Purposeful Life by Marc Agronin. He's a geriatric psychiatrist with years of experience helping people deal with the changes of aging. He talks about the stages that we have to go through when we come to a crisis point such as making a major change, loss of a close relationship or dealing with a health crisis and how we need to find our way through and find the meaning in the new situation. It is similar to working through the stages of grief. All these changes can make us feel like we have lost control and don't know who we are anymore. It can be quite frightening and it seems to me that women deal better with such changes. I think we are used to having major changes in our roles through marriage, pregnancy, parenting, caretaking, etc. I just grabbed it off the shelf in the library and it has turned out to be such a good find. You might find it helpful too.

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@starchy, Your post was written so thoughtfully and curious about the book you mentioned: "The End of Old Age", I checked out the reviews on Amazon. What was most curious was that reviewers either gave it a 5-star rating or a 1 rating. I'll be checking with our library to see if it is available. I'm interested in how others come to decisions of whether to stay in place or change locations and have appreciated the posts shared here. I can make pro and con lists all day long, separate what is of greatest value from unnecessary but have yet to come up with a device that guides me to conclude which I'll pursue for the next 2-3 years.

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I hope you will be able to get ahold of the book. He stresses the importance of having a plan (a road map) in place ahead of time which sounds like what you are working on. If we just move somewhere new or retire from our career without a plan in place then we may end up feeling abandoned and stuck. For me, when I retired, my church community was a great support. I knew they would always be there and provide lots of interesting activities and connections so that I wouldn't feel bereft of my work colleagues. I also had a new grandson and I committed to helping with his care for a few months so that gave me a new role in life. However, the first day as I was travelling to his house to take up my new role, there were a lot of mixed emotions. If I hadn't had those supports in place, I might have continued working longer, just because I didn't have a "future" planned. Press on. It's so worth it.

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I have had another thought on this subject. Is it possible to simplify without downsizing or moving?

Some examples:
Edit possessions and give away/sell that which we no longer need.
Clear out space in the house to make it safer and easier to get around (and easier to keep up.)
Do a comprehensive safety upgrade – replace door knobs with levers & fix all sticking doors, install extra handrails, safer bathing facilities, grab bars in bath (we incorporated attractive ones in a remodel several years ago.)
Possibly alter the location of living spaces like moving a laundry to the main floor.
Replace high-maintenance gardens with more easy-care shrubs & heavy mulch.

To take it even farther, create a second living space where someone can live in exchange for yard care & household tasks.

Has anyone considered or tried these options?
Sue

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All really good ideas. For a while before we moved into our independent community, we lived in a condo that had been built for senior citizens. Wide doors and hallways, trigger door knobs, no thresholds, no shower sill, grab bars in bathrooms, wheel accessible everything. Easy to retro-fit other places like this.

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@sueinmn

I have had another thought on this subject. Is it possible to simplify without downsizing or moving?

Some examples:
Edit possessions and give away/sell that which we no longer need.
Clear out space in the house to make it safer and easier to get around (and easier to keep up.)
Do a comprehensive safety upgrade – replace door knobs with levers & fix all sticking doors, install extra handrails, safer bathing facilities, grab bars in bath (we incorporated attractive ones in a remodel several years ago.)
Possibly alter the location of living spaces like moving a laundry to the main floor.
Replace high-maintenance gardens with more easy-care shrubs & heavy mulch.

To take it even farther, create a second living space where someone can live in exchange for yard care & household tasks.

Has anyone considered or tried these options?
Sue

Jump to this post

@sueinmn Good thoughts here! Is this something you and your husband are considering?
Ginger

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@sueinmn

I have had another thought on this subject. Is it possible to simplify without downsizing or moving?

Some examples:
Edit possessions and give away/sell that which we no longer need.
Clear out space in the house to make it safer and easier to get around (and easier to keep up.)
Do a comprehensive safety upgrade – replace door knobs with levers & fix all sticking doors, install extra handrails, safer bathing facilities, grab bars in bath (we incorporated attractive ones in a remodel several years ago.)
Possibly alter the location of living spaces like moving a laundry to the main floor.
Replace high-maintenance gardens with more easy-care shrubs & heavy mulch.

To take it even farther, create a second living space where someone can live in exchange for yard care & household tasks.

Has anyone considered or tried these options?
Sue

Jump to this post

Hi there @sueinmn, yes I have tried some of these options. And my life has certainly changed. Jay and I had been going back and forth between my mountain home in Idyllwild to Adam's Landing here in St. Cloud. Two summers ago in 2018, with the realization that my known health conditions were progressing, leaving me in greater pain and discomfort, I decided to perform a test. I flew back to the mountain with the goal of seeing if I could manage by myself for a month. Living in a valley at the top of a mountain range brings with it lots of unusual living life issues. Everything is "off the hill" especially medical facilities.

My granddaughter drove me up from San Diego and I settled in. Within a week or so the five plume fire was created by an arsonist. I was sitting playing mahjongg with friends when I got the call to evacuate.

I struggled with all of the evacuation details and found it difficult to get all the hot embers off my decks, refrigerators emptied and contents lugged to the transfer station, AKA the dump. So….we assessed our options and chose to sell my mountain home. The home we have in Minnesota lends itself to "aging in place". There is a guest suite that can be used for us when we need daily care. The main floor can accommodate the laundry in the overflow pantry. And we are planning a "kitchenette" for the guest suite.

Here's the great part…..I feel light as a feather. The house sold immediately while Jay was still doing 5 days a week of proton therapy at Mayo and we were staying at Hope Lodge. My friends face timed me and I made "stay or go" decisions remotely. We left Mayo and flew to CA with 3 days left before the close. So….not much of the sorting and decision making was left to be done. And emotionally, I held it all together.

My home was filled with art from my gallery and there was so much entertaining "stuff" because I would have 75 folks come for up close and personal evenings with my artists. I also had an office and studio for my design clients.

I gave all of it away…..to customers, friends and families of friends. There is great joy in giving. The coffee shop needed a microwave and the newspaper office needed a shredder. A newly married young couple needed furniture. Customers wanted pieces from their favorite artists. Although I think about some of the "released" items once in a while…..I am very comfortable living without the closets of objects that I had collected over the years. I have one box of keepsakes……my grandfather's pocket watch and a few envelopes with family history treasures. That's enough.

May you have happiness and the causes of happiness.
Chris

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