When people move from a single-family home to a smaller space, like an apartment, downsizing is often an integral part of the process and can become a project in itself.
Gale Morgan, Senior Vice President of Sales at Mather, spoke about the reasons to downsize and why doing it right and early on makes the overall move a lot easier.
The primary type of resident at Mather living communities — with one opening up in McLean next year — are people “in their early 70s” who have “become empty nesters” and who are now realizing that “there’s a lot of rooms they don’t even use.” As their children go on to have their own families, lifestyles change too.
Morgan continues, “they look around and go, ‘wow, there’s a lot of this space I don’t use.’” Admittedly, “it can be an arduous task sorting through those possessions they’ve had forever…it becomes a real personal check of ‘do I need this? Yes or no?’”
This dynamic applies to a much broader extent, essentially with anyone in the same position — a transition from a larger home to a smaller space, with the change necessitating a reassessment of one’s household items, furniture, kitchen items, clothes, books and so forth.
Camille Prunka of Refreshingly Candid Coaching & Organizing — a business operating in the northern Virginia area — shared that many people, whether they are her customers or not, at times “overestimate what space can handle.”
“They see the [new] apartment empty” and in their minds try to “recreate how they’re comfortable in their new space,” imagining “their current couch” in the new apartment — without paying close attention to the actual new spatial limitations.
Prunka suggests bringing a “measuring tape and a piece of paper” to ascertain if the “furniture is actually going to fit.”
Claudia Taskier, of the Organizer DC, concurs, saying that getting a sense of where one is moving into, “even if it’s an estimate of the place,” is very important. She suggests taking photographs of the new place and maybe doing a quick “mock-up of what you want your living space to be.”
She underscores that it is very beneficial to “start early…give yourself a month or two while you’re thinking about buying a place.”
Aside from the rough planning, with downsizing — whether the person is a senior with a home full of heirlooms and other objects of sentimental value or a younger person with a lot of collectibles and general “stuff” — “keeping a list of all of these things is vital,” continues Taskier.
Prunka stresses “you really need to know what you have” and keep in mind questions like “is the item properly cared for?
Who is the buyer?” She also recommends knowing “the model of the item,” or at least being able to identify if it is a vintage item or not.
For older people who are embarking on a move, Morgan reminds them that “you can’t keep all the artwork.”
Some couples have a sizable amount of “collectibles or china,” which can also be difficult to part with.
Prunka warns that there is “not a huge, everyday market” for formal china. She says that people with expensive, formal china would do well finding “aficionados or collectors,” with Etsy.com now having established itself as a place for “people who specialize in vintage items.” Decluttering is key to downsizing.
Prunka adds that “locally, food kitchens will absolutely take unexpired food and personal items” such as shampoo, unused toothbrushes, “even toilet paper.”
“Some places will take adult incontinence items, too.” She lists Greater DC Diaper Bank as “a good resource in the region for families in need.”
“People don’t think to donate” along these kinds of avenues, but an organization like the Diaper Bank “will take a pack of open diapers in good, clean condition.”
Places like Goodwill and the Salvation Army will take furniture; GreenDrop, a non-profit that has “trailers set up in the Northern Virginia area in supermarket parking lots” makes donating in bulk “easy and convenient.”
Taskier says that “whether you’re willing to make an investment and hire an organizer or get a friend to help,” making sure that the decluttering, downsizing and donating goes thoroughly and well-planned pays off in the end.
Morgan, speaking specifically from her perspective working for Mather, shared that many people “express this huge relief when they’re done. It’s like ‘these possessions were sort of managing our lifestyle.’ They’re always excited that they did downsize.”
But this is something that extends to anyone who is about to move to a smaller place or is in the process of doing so.
Morgan adds that even an item that seems to be irreplaceable can sometimes provide a good opportunity for downsizing. Many people come to realize that “every joy, every moment came with me. It didn’t go with that piece of furniture.”