And Can You Really Do It?

To all my Boomer followers, good day from southern California where the temperatures have rebounded from near freezing to a balmy 80 degrees during the day.

My BoomerGuy and I have had all sizes of homes throughout our life.  They’ve ranged from the smallest of 1400 sq ft to 6400 sq ft.  A great deal depends on when you have those various sizes, because the general tendency is to fill the home with furniture and other items so that it appears to be functional and lived-in.  That’s the right thing to do right?  We started out small, like so many married couples, then grew in size, then retreated into something more modest.  Along the way, we also decided one home was not enough, so we acquired a second one, and of course, that required the same diligence as the first—fill it!

I am the trustee to my parent’s home which is slightly short of 1400 sq ft and for us right now, that is too small because it lacks adequate office space and one extra bedroom, in addition to a bit larger kitchen since we both like to cook.  Yet even so, we have to maintain that home so we are part-time residents rubbing elbows as we pass each other in the hallway.

So, the question of the day is what is the perfect size home?  Well, that depends and the answer is different for each of us.  Ultimately, most of us will downsize because it’s just too difficult to maintain a larger dwelling with a spacious yard with gobs of landscaping.  As a result, now we’re faced with what to do with our belongings when and if we downsize. 

I started writing this while we were in northern California on business 30 miles east of Sacramento, in the Sierra foothills.  We had planned this trip for several months and were torn between flying and driving, we ultimately drove the full 500 miles.  Ugh.  During our time there, we stopped into our favorite storage facility to check on belongings stored when we left for southern California.  Along the way, we encountered many Boomers who were either disposing of their parent’s belongings or planning a move themselves.  In both, they were either eliminating a storage unit or adding one of their own.  We are certainly guilty of that, especially when we moved out of 6400 sq ft about 10 years ago into a smaller residence of 3500 sq ft.  All that “stuff” had to go somewhere.  

In our case, we have European antiques and a great many decorative items worth saving. While I would not consider it stuff, it probably is and this is where we have it stored, ready to be dispatched to the next destination to be lived with, cherished and showcased.

When we relocated to southern California, it was to help my parents who were just incapable of taking care of their home.  We downsized and found out we can certainly do with less, but in our case, did we really want to.  We all have “stuff”…. 

John Lennon’s song ‘Imagine’ is one of the 100 most performed songs year after year—it was written in 1971.  One verse in particular stands out, ‘imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can’….

Boomers, we all have choices to make and sometimes those choices are made for us.  Like my BoomerGuy and me, we relocated a number of times primarily due to corporate changes.  If you are considering a move and downsizing, it is quite often very stressful and a very tolling process, both emotionally and physically.  But it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

This is how you might feel whether it be the beginning, middle or the end. Believe me, it’s normal.

START EARLY.  Give yourself plenty of time to work through the process, because it will take longer than you think or expect.  Take your time and don’t try to sort through your house in a day or two or over a weekend, several weeks to a month is a more realistic timeframe.  And, take it one room at a time and give yourself moments where you just breathe.  Alison Kero, CEO of ACK Organizing in Brooklyn, New York says “if you aren’t rushed, you can find downsizing to be much less stressful.”  Oh how I wish I would have had that kind of time—our largest home sold in a record few days so we were on a rush to get everything packed and out-the-door, and that was quite stressful.

LEASE BACK.  My parents downsized when they were in their mid-80’s.  they moved from an acre of high maintenance gardening and landscaping to a 55+ senior, planned community with minimal outdoor upkeep.  In their case, they didn’t do any of the work because family stepped in.  Being a designer, I got involved and began to remodel and renovate their future home, which was 20 years old, and needless to say outdated.  It took me seven hard weeks and even with that, we had to lease back the sold home while I completed the work on the new one.  Something to keep in mind if you find you’re strapped for time.

UNDERSTAND YOUR NEEDS.  As an example, if you’re downsizing and moving into a two-bedroom home from a four-bedroom, then four sets of sheets are plenty.  The rest can go.  However, I do encourage you to go through each living area and be selective on what you cherish and need.

GARAGE, ATTICS, BASEMENTS.  “These are notorious for being the hardest rooms to tackle,” says Debra Blue of Blue Moon Estate Sales.  These rooms tend to accumulate all the old hobbies, boxes, Christmas decorations, and plain old clutter.  They’re also known to be uncomfortable spaces.  In the summer in most parts of the country, they can be quite hot, winter too cold, and sometimes too humid.  When you decide to attack these spaces, do it at a pace that’s comfortable for you, because most likely there will be stairs involved along with lots of dust and cobwebs.  Ugh.  

ITEM BY ITEM.  Go through your belongings one item at a time.  It’s important to give your full attention to every item you intend to pack or give to the local thrift store, or family and friends.  We’ve given away our fair share with all our moves.  One valuable by-product of giving to family and friends, it’s likely you will get to say “hello” to your possessions the next time you visit.    These are difficult choices to make, and this process will help you develop a great decision-making system because you will be learning to focus and then to choose.  It might be helpful to dive into those areas of the home where there is less emotional attachment, such as the laundry room, linen closets, and garage.  

LABEL, LABEL, LABEL.  Whether you’re putting your belongings in storage, or just moving them into your new digs, be sure to label both the top of the box and at least one side.  Place the boxes so that they line up with the side labeling for easy recognition.

COLOR CODING.  One helpful tip is to use colored stick on labels.  You don’t necessarily need to write on them, but we found it was a simple way of sorting boxes into their desired location.  For example, blue labels are from the living room, green from the kitchen, yellow from the master bedroom, etc.  Keep a record of the color coding, especially if you’re placing items into storage.  When retrieving them, it’s so much easier to sort them.

WRAP AND COVER.  When it comes to furniture that you’re planning to place into storage, whenever possible wrap your fine furniture with shrink wrap along with your rugs.  It will protect both from mildew and insects.  Cover everything else with heavy blankets or moving pads such as beds, mattresses and box springs, dining tables, desks, credenzas, bookcases, armoires, etc.  With regard to your fragile items from the kitchen, bedroom, family room and bath, wrap them liberally with bubble wrap—they will certainly be jostled about during the move but should survive nicely.  

MOVERS.  A very critical element to the overall success of your move, whether it’s into a storage unit or into your new dwelling.  Always check references, and one good way to find reputable movers is to source through your local self-storage company.  They most always have good recommendations for reliable and on-time movers.  Keep in mind, some movers, especially if it’s a local move within the same city or county, will have their own moving trucks.  Others will be hired to simply pack your items in the moving truck and unpack at your destination. Just make certain you have plenty of moving pads to protect fine furniture and TV’s and all your other fragile items.

STACKING.  Is this ever important!!!  In my humble opinion, one of the top two or three most important priorities when it comes to moving.  As we can attest, we hired a group of movers who simply threw caution to the wind and stacked things without giving any consideration to weight, balance and fragility.  Items were packed into a storage unit and in some cases the heaviest were placed at the top of the heap.  You can imagine what happened over time, the boxes below were crushed and their contents destroyed and there is no going back to collect from the movers on that one.  Be sure to supervise the handling, especially the items marked fragile.  You might even wish to mark “HEAVY” on those boxes you want placed at the bottom of the stack.  

REPURPOSE.  Your boxes are a major investment, so treat them with respect and they will last a long time, to be used over and over again.  When you unpack, carefully remove the old tape and fold them as they were when you first purchased them, then stack them in an appropriate space where they won’t get wet and mildewed.  

TAKE PHOTOS.  You might think your memory is solid when it comes to what you’ve boxed and what you’ve stored but believe me it’s a whole lot easier to just open a computer file and review the pictures.  In our case, we have storage units 500 miles away so it’s not like being able to drive down the street to check on things.  

As you might have guessed by now, this subject is quite emotional and detailed.  We will be sharing a full series of blogs on downsizing and decided not to overwhelm you any further, and will be addressing more helpful hints over the coming months in our following blogs.  

Also, we want to include you Boomers who choose to age in place and not move.  The decision to do so is sometimes just as difficult and important to your good health.  I just spoke with my sister and they are now concerned about the stairs to their second floor.  And while both are Boomers, they are in great shape. YIKES!  They’re now thinking of their future years.  

All that being said, we’re fast approaching the Holiday Seasons of Thanksgiving and Christmas.  And while this blog series is an important consideration, it’s time to get ready and have some fun.  This year our holiday gatherings might be slightly different as a result of COVID and depending on your state guidelines.  You can still prepare a feast for T-Day, albeit a smaller one, and you can still prepare to buy gifts online or in the store and wrap them for shipping to family members for the Christmas season. 

How fun.  Looking forward to it—I certainly am.  I’m in the process of removing all the fall decorations in favor of the twinkly lights, wreaths, ribbons, ornaments, nutcrackers, and all other things Christmassy.  ‘Oh what fun it is to ride…’  Next week it’s official, we can begin to decorate in earnest.  My BoomerGuy and I decorate together, although I’m pretty much the driver and he is the “go-fer.”  Just kidding.  We have a blast   It’s always been my favorite time of year whether I was single or married now for almost 36 years, and even if I had to switch on the A/C when we lived in the desert.  Now those folks really know how to decorate.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving and look for our next installments on downsizing and relocation.

Your Number One BoomerGal, Connie.

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