Rightsizing Later in Life
- By firstname.lastname@example.org
- 16 May, 2016
Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of working with the aging population who is either downsizing to smaller homes, moving in with a family member or to a senior community, or making their current home safer to live in. Assisting with the decision making for what to retain from a lifetime of possessions has revealed learnings about how to evaluate and […]
Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of working with the aging population who is either downsizing to smaller homes, moving in with a family member or to a senior community, or making their current home safer to live in. Assisting with the decision making for what to retain from a lifetime of possessions has revealed learnings about how to evaluate and edit our things later in life.
Whether downsizing by sheer square footage or to a single room, assessing what is needed, what others will like to have, and which items bring the most joy and contentment requires evaluation and planning. And regardless of what we want or need, being realistic about our physical ability to participate with and care for our kept things is an invaluable measure of what should stay with us.
So what does rightsizing look like after a lifetime of acquiring and keeping? Afterall, we can’t take it with us, as they say! And certainly our family members or smaller living space aren’t equipped for it all.
First, identify the important things: what do you cherish and what do others cherish? Most of us have a short list in mind of things we value most. Generally, things that family members most desire fall into a relatively small category of items: photos, jewelry, recipes, furniture, items once enjoyed, etc. Regarding photos, make sure that you have personally curated the piles of photos that are important. Remove photos that carry little meaning and include names and years on the back of the ones that do. You might even make a different keepsake stash for each family member. Include family in this activity! Photos are meant to be shared and enjoyed together.
It is necessary to recognize that saving things to pass on to others doesn’t hold the same value it once did. Access to goods and creature comforts and our consumption habits have made obsolete the desire for this heirloom ritual. Interest in traditional and formal goods like china and silver and crystal is at an all time low. We’ve modernized–and become more disposable. So, durable goods like appliances and electronics are not desirable beyond a few years. Therefore, it is best to plan and to ask family members what, if anything, they might want or enjoy.
Secondly, it is important to get your paperwork in order not just for yourself but for those who will help manage your estate later in life. I recommend making copies of this paperwork for them as well as your legal representative. And keep a copy in a safe deposit box. Shred and dispose of all other paperwork.
Thirdly, it is important to minimize stored things that might possibly be used “one day” such as supplies for hobbies or projects that have not yet been started or completed. This is true at ANY age. But later in life, our ability and desire to participate is an even more important criteria in deciding what to keep. For example, one of my favorite clients was a crafter who enjoyed needlepoint, quilting, knitting, decoupage, polymer clay arts, and painting. She had 2 extra bedrooms dedicated to her supplies. But her heart condition would allow for only an hour or so a day of her favorite activity. So we decided that knitting and painting were going to be best enjoyed during her retirement.
This is the most difficult exercise for those who feel they are coming to terms with end-of-life issues rather than releasing things no longer needed. I try to focus on the more positive aspects of rightsizing. Small living helps bring focus, clarity, and easy access to the things that are truly important to us and our loved ones. It also relieves our care burden and ensures that our things are dealt with on our terms.