Rightsizing Later in Life

  • By birdie@getorganizedcolumbus.com
  • 16 May, 2016
Boxed jars
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.

Get Organized Columbus

By Tera Harmon 16 Jan, 2018
Ever have that feeling after your home has been cleaned that things still don't seem put away and tidy? Or maybe you get that nagging sense when you walk into a room that things still need a "once over." Even in frequently-cleaned homes, we can feel like there is more to do when our clutter is the first thing that catches our eye in each room. Well the clutter itself may not be the only culprit. Our house habits can help highlight the things we use in a way that is not flattering.  Can you recognize any of these hotspots in your home?
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Photo Credit: Jay Wennington
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Photo Credit: Kari Shea
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I always look forward to this cooler time of year to review coats and to decide where best to donate them. So many times when we hear about making a donation, we feel pressure to give financially. But giving something once owned and loved can be a fulfilling part of holiday tradition. I especially love involving kids so they can learn the idea of thinking of others at this time of year. Showing our kids how to prepare an item for donation teaches them how to care for others, but it also shows them to consider how their belongings can be useful beyond their own toy box. The act of cleaning up a gently used truck or putting new batteries into a remote control car to donate demonstrates to kids that our items are valuable to others--and that condition matters. This donation ritual is also an important purge ritual before the influx of contents that are about to enter our homes. 
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For even the most novice cooks, between now and the end of the year, many kitchens are about to get a workout. We may be hosting parties, holiday meals, trying a new recipe or two, participating in pot lucks, or baking with friends and family. Would't it be great if everything we need is at our fingertips--clean and functional for when we need it?


So often the tools and items we rely on at this time of year are somewhere in the back of cupboards, sideboards, or stored on basement shelving. I recommend gathering, cleaning, and staging the items you know will be needed in the coming weeks. In last week's post ( https://www.getorganizedcolumbus.com/the-ready-made-pantry ) we talked about a well-stocked pantry for the holiday season; for now, let's focus on the items we will likely need in the kitchen and dining areas.
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Get Organized Columbus

By Tera Harmon 16 Jan, 2018
Ever have that feeling after your home has been cleaned that things still don't seem put away and tidy? Or maybe you get that nagging sense when you walk into a room that things still need a "once over." Even in frequently-cleaned homes, we can feel like there is more to do when our clutter is the first thing that catches our eye in each room. Well the clutter itself may not be the only culprit. Our house habits can help highlight the things we use in a way that is not flattering.  Can you recognize any of these hotspots in your home?
By Tera Harmon 08 Jan, 2018
Photo Credit: Jay Wennington
By Birdie Brennan 04 Dec, 2017
Photo Credit: Kari Shea
By Tera Harmon 27 Nov, 2017
I always look forward to this cooler time of year to review coats and to decide where best to donate them. So many times when we hear about making a donation, we feel pressure to give financially. But giving something once owned and loved can be a fulfilling part of holiday tradition. I especially love involving kids so they can learn the idea of thinking of others at this time of year. Showing our kids how to prepare an item for donation teaches them how to care for others, but it also shows them to consider how their belongings can be useful beyond their own toy box. The act of cleaning up a gently used truck or putting new batteries into a remote control car to donate demonstrates to kids that our items are valuable to others--and that condition matters. This donation ritual is also an important purge ritual before the influx of contents that are about to enter our homes. 
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