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The Art of Letting Go: Navigating Complicated Emotions While Downsizing

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When you’re in the thick of parenthood with little ones running around, you might sometimes dream of a day when you can have a small house in the country just to enjoy some peace and quiet. But, when that day finally comes, it can be incredibly emotional. 

Downsizing isn’t always easy. It’s often the smart, practical thing to do, whether you’re moving to a smaller house, apartment, or even an assisted living community. But, it also often requires you to let go of memories and emotions that are attached to your home and possessions.

If you’re a retiree getting ready to downsize, it’s important to understand the potential emotional challenges you might face. It’s just as important to prepare yourself and develop strategies for coping with those challenges, so you can focus on the benefits of simplifying your life.

Why Is Downsizing Difficult?

When you decide to downsize, you’ll have to get rid of some things. That’s an important word to keep in mind – things. At the end of the day, we all understand that things are just that, but when something holds sentimental value, it can be difficult to part with. Maybe you have a bunch of old toys in a closet that were your kids’ things when they were younger. They might be out on their own now and the toys haven’t seen daylight in years. That doesn’t make them easier to get rid of.

Even leaving a home where you raised your family can stir up difficult emotions. These things and places hold emotions. Maybe you can still see your old dog curled up by the fireplace even though they passed years ago. Maybe you remember your youngest child running through the front door after scoring their first homerun. 

So, while the things themselves aren’t tugging at your heart, the memories they provide can make it difficult to say goodbye. 

Don’t be afraid to thank your home before you leave it. That might seem silly, at first. But, it can provide you with a sense of closure, and allow you to leave with gratitude in your heart, rather than feeling empty or sad about leaving memories behind.

How to Downsize With Less Stress

In addition to feeling strong emotions while downsizing, it can sometimes be stressful, especially when you’ve accumulated a lot of stuff over the years. But, there are some steps you can take to make the journey easier on yourself.

One of the best ways to get started is to organize the things you have. Decide what you’re going to keep, what should be thrown away, and what you want to donate or sell. Creating sections or piles can make it easier to get rid of the things you don’t want quickly. Then you can do another sweep with the things you decided to keep to prioritize what you want to bring with you and what you might want to put in storage. 

For example, you’re probably going to want to hang onto important family heirlooms, whether they’re worth a lot financially or they just hold sentimental value. But, if you’re not going to have room for larger heirlooms in your new space, consider passing them on to a family member you trust, and someone who will cherish it as much as you. Common heirlooms that are great for passing on to future generations include:

  •      Clocks and watches
  •      Books
  •      Instruments
  •      Furniture
  •      Jewelry
  •      Coins

Another way to work through the process is to take pictures of your current home and your decor. If you love the style and look of your home, you can recreate it as much as possible in your new location. Having those photos will keep the memory of your home alive and will make it easy to design your new living space exactly how you want it. 

If you’re still struggling to downsize without too much stress, set SMART goals for yourself that are:

  •      Specific
  •      Measurable
  •      Achievable
  •      Relevant
  •      Time-bound

When your organization, decluttering, packing, and moving goals focus on these five elements, you’re less likely to be stressed and more likely to enjoy the benefits of downsizing, like less clutter to worry about and fewer things to take care of. 

Finding Ways to Unwind

Even if the downsizing process is easy for you, you’re going to feel a rollercoaster of emotions – some positive, some negative. One of the best things you can do throughout the process is to prioritize self-care.

Your physical and mental well-being are of the utmost importance, and finding ways to de-stress and unwind as you close out a chapter of your life and begin a new one can make a big difference in your well-being. 

You could take a vacation to get some perspective and distance yourself from the things you’re letting go. Some great vacations for retirees include road-tripping in an RV, visiting our national parks, touring the Caribbean, or finally seeing the sites in Europe. A vacation is an awesome way to leave stress behind and prioritize self-care.

But self-care doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time or effort. Things like maintaining a healthy diet, exercising, and prioritizing sleep can all make a positive impact as well. 

Specific de-stressing techniques like mindfulness or meditation can also help to keep you grounded and focused on the present.

Finally, embrace new changes and new people in your life. If you’re heading to a senior community, you’re going to enjoy being able to make new friends and surround yourself with support. Loneliness and isolation can be big problems for retirees, so take comfort in knowing you’ll have a built-in community to surround you as you start a new journey.

Written By

Sam Bowman

Sam Bowman writes about people, aging, wellness, and how they merge. He enjoys getting to utilize the internet for community without actually having to leave his house. In his spare time he likes running, reading, and combining the two in a run to his local bookstore.

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