Weatherford Democrat

April 21, 2013

EXTENSION NEWS: Tips on downsizing when moving from the family home

Weatherford Democrat


Moving and relocating  to a smaller home later in life can have challenges. Instead of buying something larger to accommodate a growing family, older adults are more interested in having less space with fewer home maintenance responsibilities.

For some, selling the family home can result from the death of a loved one, a disability or an illness. Others may be moving to be near family or experience a new retirement lifestyle. Regardless of the reason for moving, downsizing from a family home can be a physically and mentally exhausting experience.

For many, possessions have accumulated over the years and not everything can be moved. What results is the need to eliminate personal items through donations or selling.

Here are some suggestions on how to get started and what to do:

• Start with rooms that you use the least. Begin the sorting process in these rooms and avoid cluttering the areas you use regularly.

• Start with large items. Identify what you will do with the furniture before you start on the knickknacks. You will feel more progress.

• Have a sorting system. Use stickers, make piles or make lists of what will be kept, given away or a list of what is undecided.

• Write down family history. Write down special memories or any family history associated with special items. This will be helpful for future generations and will contribute to the value of the family keepsakes.

• Work in scheduled blocks of times. Plan to sort items for periods of not more than two hours at a time. The process of going through items is difficult and draining. You will feel less overwhelmed and make better decisions.

• Start early and don’t rush yourself. Plan plenty of time to sift through things. Take time to look at old pictures, read letters and grieve losses. If you can’t decide what to do with an item, set aside and return to it later.

• Keep items you treasure the most you may need to narrow your list, but you will find that everything is not of equal value.

• Identify items you want certain family members to have and consider what you are willing to give now. You may get more pleasure out of seeing your granddaughter enjoying your dining room set now, that after you are gone.

• Get rid of things you know longer need. Be realistic about what you use regularly and what you don’t.

• Consider having a garage sale or auction. Having enough items that are likely to earn a profit may be worth your time.

• Donate to charity. For those items you cannot give away or sell, make a tax-deductible donation to a charity. Often some places will pick these items up. Consider specific items for specific things such as musical instruments to a school program, bedroom furniture to a shelter, books to the library.

• Have the adult kids remove their stuff. Give a deadline that works with your schedule and warn them that any leftovers get donated.

• Agree on a system of dividing among children and other family members. Create a clear system of who gets what.

• Be sure everyone gets something special. Disagreements may occur; agreeable solutions may be achieved if everyone feels they received something meaningful to them.

• Encourage negotiation. If disagreements do happen, encourage family members to negotiate amongst themselves. Someone may be willing to train an item with financial worth for something more sentimental.

Leaving a home can be difficult. It is important to remember, however that it is the relationships in our lives that give us the most pleasure. A life filled with possessions is no comparison to life filled with family, friends and meaningful connections.

Kathy Smith is a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agent for Parker County. Contact her at (817) 598-6168 or