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Managing the Emotions That Come with Downsizing

Senior woman moving boxes while downsizing

You probably know a day will come when it’s time to downsize. You may dread it or perhaps you consider it a necessary step on the road of life. Whichever way you look at it, downsizing — or rightsizing your life — can be an emotional process. To help you get through it without feeling overwhelmed, here are some tips for dealing with the emotions of downsizing.

Acknowledge Your Feelings

As you sort, organize and dispose of belongings, it’s easy to focus so completely on the work you’re doing, that you ignore the emotions brewing under the surface. Give yourself time to pause and reflect periodically on what you’re feeling. Let memories surface. Consider writing down your feelings or memories, or turning to a friend or family member to share stories and recollections.

Reframe It as an Adventure

Your next home may be smaller, but it’s more suited to your future needs than where you live now. Often, people who move to a senior living community find it liberating once they’ve adjusted to their new residence. You’ll make new friends, enjoy new experiences, have new adventures, without any of the responsibilities of homeownership.

Make a Plan

Having a plan of action will help you feel more in control of the process and ease your anxiety. Get out your calendar and set dates to help you keep the project moving forward. Make a list of goals for each day to keep yourself on task. Contact friends and relatives to let them know when you’ll be needing their help so they can make room on their calendars, too.

Give Yourself Time

As you create your schedule, build plenty of time into the process. If you aren’t feeling rushed, the project will feel more doable. It’s best to start months ahead of moving day so you can take a methodical approach. Also include time for rest, so you have a chance to recharge between tasks and ample time for dealing with the emotions of downsizing.

Go Easy at First

You’ll build momentum and confidence if you start in small rooms where you feel the least emotional attachment. Tackle the laundry room or a linen closet first and you’ll enjoy a sense of accomplishment as you head into more challenging parts of the house.

Take Small Steps

Big, daunting, emotionally charged projects can trigger procrastination. Don’t beat yourself up if you find you’re putting off tasks. Give yourself permission to take one tiny step toward your next goal. For example, you can tell yourself you only need to spend 20 minutes sorting through your bedroom closet. Once the 20 minutes is up, you’ll probably have gathered momentum and want to keep going. If not, give yourself a 10-minute break and then set the timer for 20 more minutes of work. Slowly and steadily, you’ll work your way through your task list.

Have a System

As you sift through your belongings, some items will be easy to put in the yes pile or no pile. Others will pose a challenge. To make it simpler to sort and declutter, develop some criteria for deciding which items to keep and which to give away. You can follow Marie Kondo’s advice in “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and keep only the items that “spark joy” for you. Or if an item or collection has only sentimental value, ask yourself if having a photo of it would make it easier to give away. Also, consider letting your family members take items they will cherish — it can be less wrenching to part with things if you know they’re going to a good home.

Enlist Help

This is not a project to take on alone. Ask friends and family to pitch in, both for the heavy lifting and for emotional support, especially with the more challenging rooms that hold a lot of memories. Also consider hiring a move manager. They can coordinate the project from start to finish — lining up movers, disposing of unwanted items and getting your belongings settled into your new home — and make the project much less overwhelming.

Keep Your Eye on the Prize

Dealing with the emotions of downsizing is tough. It can help to acknowledge what you’re gaining. A move to a senior living community like Autumn Leaves may require that you downsize your home, but it can rightsize your life. In our cozy community, you can enjoy a maintenance-free lifestyle in a picturesque setting. Our continuum of care offers peace of mind, and our caring staff will make sure you feel right at home. Contact us to find out more about a rightsized life at Autumn Leaves.