Residents Tell It Like It Is: The Upside to Downsizing


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The decision to downsize can be stressful, emotional and complicated. However, relocating to a home and community that better suits your needs is well worth the effort in the end. Don’t believe us? Take it from residents who have been there, done that.

Kendal at Lexington residents held a forum to discuss their downsizing experience. Six residents from different backgrounds and situations shared how they made the downsizing decision, tips for handling stress and advice for navigating the transition.

Here are a few highlights from the forum to help guide your downsizing process:

Get in the Right Frame of Mind

As resident Beth puts it, “You have to be in the right frame of mind. Don’t even think about it if you’re depressed, sick or stressed over other things because it won’t happen.”

When it comes to downsizing, attitude really is everything. If you go into the process knowing there will be some tough decisions, but it will be worth it in the end, then you can stay focused on why you made the choice to downsize in the first place.

Divide and Conquer

Diane Herrick says, for her, having an outlined plan in advance of how she planned to go through each room of her house helped the task seemed less enormous. “If you take it tablespoon by tablespoon, you can do it,” she says. Beth also recommends dividing your belongings into three piles in order to make the final decision about what stays and what goes. Designate one pile as “must take,” one pile as “give away” and one pile as “trash.”

As an added tip for downsizers who may have multiple children, Beth suggests asking each child to prioritize in order which items they want most of all, then dividing belongings up accordingly. Everyone might not get their first choice, but requiring a ranking system may keep some squabbles at bay.

Visualize Your New Space

The more organized you can be, the better. Heather Marion kept a downsizing notebook throughout the process, which included photographs of every piece of furniture she and her husband Hardin owned. Several of the residents recommended using floor plans to help visualize how your belongings will fit in your new space. Beth even created cut outs of her furniture to see how it would fit to scale. This helps you to know ahead of time what you can keep and what needs to find a new home.

Find New Homes for Your Belongings

And speaking of that, there are numerous possibilities for “re-homing” your belongings. If family members aren’t interested, donating is always a good option. Heather donated five trucks to the Habitat for Humanity Restore, and Goodwill and the Salvation Army are also good options. Or, if you have a specific collection that you know a certain place may want, reach out to them directly. For instance, Hardin donated more than 1,000 books to Washington and Lee University and his entire Library of America series of books to the Kendal library. “You can live with a lot less than what you have,” he says.

In addition to donating, you may find some of your belongings have monetary value. Kay Quirk took some of her more upscale items to a resale shop and sold collectible items on eBay. Gordon Baker worked with an antique dealer and sold several items for cash. While it may be difficult to part with some things, it’s important to remember the good times. “I have happy memories of all those things that I used to have,” she says.

Don’t Be Afraid to Keep Things

As important as it is to make the tough decisions, it’s also OK to keep things that you don’t want to part with. Kay says that, while she doesn’t have a lot of use for her fine crystal, she likes it. The same also goes for important memorabilia, like scrapbooks and letters. “My best tip is not to spend a lot of time dealing with memorabilia,” Kay says. “Just bring it with you and deal with it later.” And as Diane puts it, “Bring what you love and let go of the rest.”

Want to hear more from real residents who have succeeded at downsizing?

Fill out the form below to view the 30 minute video recording of the forum.