When is it Time to Downsize?

 If I give away some of my stuff, am I giving away a part of me?  Does it make “me” less? 

That was the question posed by Dr. Cathy Lysack, PhD, an occupational therapist and the Deputy Director of the Institute of Gerontology at Wayne State. She asked the audience at The Center’s recent educational workshop about downsizing and mobility for thoughts about giving away “stuff”.  This topic can be troublesome, not only for seniors, but their adult children as well.  What’s unique about late life downsizing versus any other move?  According to Dr. Lysack, it’s when downsizing occurs in a compressed time period and is often initiated by health issues.

So when is the right time to move?

The answer to that is not the same for everyone but there are important clues.  The most common is that your body says it’s time.  It becomes obvious when your current living situation, environment, or health simply become too much to handle. Depending on your stage in life, you may also desire to be closer to family or to live in a more fulfilling community.

When the final decision to downsize has been made, there are many emotional decisions that remain.   What should you keep? What must go?   Dr. Lysack said, “We tend to keep things that give us pleasure, have monetary value, or are things we have attached a special memory to.”  Throughout the process we wonder if, by giving these items away, we are going to be giving away a part of ourselves.

Here are three key questions to consider when faced with these tough choices:

  • Does it fit in the space I am moving to?
  • Does it mean something to me?
  • Do I really need it?

Dr. Lysack concluded the presentation with the following thoughts, “There are many different ways to downsize and that the process is more than packing boxes and moving.  Older adults dislike change (like the rest of us), but they are experienced with life, resilient and adaptable. Many show considerable creativity in making decisions about what to keep, sell, donate or gift.

The Center for Financial Planning recognizes first-hand the challenges many aging clients and their families experience moving into later stages in life.   We remain committed to providing well-informed and compassionate advice to those faced with these very emotional decisions.   Please do not hesitate to contact our office if you would like additional information.