empty nest

Before I settled in Utah, moving challenged me. I loved the adventure of living in different parts of the world, but I struggled to decide what to keep and what to leave behind. As an empty nester, you understand my dilemma. In many cases, downsizing is personally fulfilling and part of your retirement strategy. Dealing with clutter, deciding how many household furnishings you need and parting with heirlooms can feel physically and emotionally overwhelming, however. Eight tips assist you in transitioning successfully to a smaller home.

1. Address Emotions

Sentimental pieces are the most difficult to give up. You can make these decisions easier when you decide whether your mom’s sewing machine, your dad’s hunting jacket or grandpa’s antique car are things you really want and use or if they’re special because they remind you of important people and occasions.

Remember, you can always take pictures of the items that hold sentimental value. Then, assemble a photo album or beautiful scrapbook filled with reminders of your treasured mementos and memories, and ease the distress of parting with your beloved possessions. Likewise, ask for assistance from a trained psychologist who can walk you through your emotions and help you part with sentimental pieces.

2. Schedule Declutter Time Into Each Day

After confronting any emotions about parting with your stuff, prioritize decluttering. Add it to your daily schedule, set the timer for 10-30 minutes and get to work sorting papers, photos, collectibles, clothing, your kids’ mementos and tools. Over time, the amount of stuff in your home diminishes, and you’re left with fewer items to move to your new real estate.

3. Ask a Friend to Help

Despite your best efforts, you may have limited time as a socially active empty nester to sort your art, book or tool collection. Ask a trusted friend to help you. You’ll work faster and willingly part with more items when your trusted friend stands beside you and encourages you.

4. Hire a Professional

Sometimes, a friend isn’t enough. You need help from a professional organizer. Consider hiring someone’s who’s affiliated with the National Association of Professional Organizers. He or she objectively looks through your things and directs you in making tough decisions that benefit you in the end.

5. Measure the Real Estate

After you’ve successfully reduced the inventory in your home, measure the rooms in your new house. Use those measurements to decide if all the furniture and belongings you want to keep will fit. I once had a bed I absolutely adored. I estimated that it would fit in my new space but it didn’t. I felt devastated. Invest in a few hours to measure your new space so that you don’t waste time and energy moving items you don’t have room to keep.

6. Gift Special Pieces

Does your granddaughter adore your woodworking tools? Does your friend rave about your jewelry collection? Maximize the downsizing process when you gift special pieces to loved ones. Whether you gift special items as holiday or birthday presents or just because, you’ll feel good knowing your possessions are in the hands of loved ones who really want them.

7. Sell What You Can

Many of the items you can’t take with you, particularly furniture and collectibles, may be worth something. Consider holding an estate sale. You can also sell things at a local consignment store or online as you earn money for decluttering.

8. Donate as Much as Possible

A variety of organizations accept gently used items, and you receive a tax-deduction. Contact the Salvation Army, Goodwill Industries or another charity to schedule a pick-up or fill your trunk with boxes and drop them off at the charity’s collection center. Donating items is better for the environment than trashing perfectly good stuff, and you know you’re doing your part to help others.

Downsizing can be challenging, especially for an empty nester that has accumulated a lifetime of things into one house. Taking the time to reduce your home’s inventory, however, is one of the best investments you can make for your future. Be courageous as you begin the process, and know that you’ll enjoy your smaller space more when you have less stuff. Which tip will you implement today?