Downsizing becomes a necessity for many older adults. Once children move out and the need for extra space decreases, transitioning to smaller homes or retirement living communities is often a logical next step. However, less space means less stuff, and many older adults struggle to get rid of their possessions.
If this sounds familiar, the first thing you need to know is this: It’s a completely normal reaction. While there are many reasons downsizing is difficult, here are a few of the main reasons people have a hard time letting items go.
Why It’s Tough:
- Emotional Attachment: Your emotions are tied to different items that served their purpose in building your life and, even now that you no longer put those items to use, they still carry a lot of emotional weight.
- Fear of Regret: Even if you haven’t used something in years, you’ve held onto it on the off chance you’ll need it again someday. Sure, you don’t even remember the last time you played tennis, but you don’t want to get rid of your old racket just in case you ever decide to take it back up again.
- Uncertainty of Value: You may have some items you’ve held onto for years just in case they grow in value. Now that you’ve reached a point in your life when they may be valuable, it can be complicated to figure out that value and to ensure your information comes from a trustworthy source.
- Loss of Identity: As you’ve acquired your belongings through different phases of your life, they’ve melded together to define the person you are today. Getting rid of your belongings can often feel like disregarding your past and your identity.
What To Do About it:
Even though letting go of your items isn’t easy, it does often become necessary. To help ease you through the transition, here are three options that might feel more comfortable than the usual “donate” or “throw it away” recommendations.
- Pass it On: You might be surprised to learn how much emotional value your belongings carry to your family members. Give them the opportunity to assume ownership. Since they might be uncomfortable with taking your belongings, try to reassure them that you want your things to go to a good home where they will be appreciated.
- Make a Scrapbook: Even though you might not be able to bring the physical items with you to your new space, that doesn’t mean you can’t find some way to remember them. Take photographs of important clothing items, children’s artwork, or memorable furniture pieces, and save the pictures as keepsakes while finding alternate homes for your items.
- Sell it: While money certainly can’t replace memories, making a little extra cash off of your no-longer-used belongings can certainly ease the separation anxiety. Consider hiring an appraiser or estate manager to determine the quality of your more valuable items and ensure you get what you deserve.
Our last bit of advice is this: Don’t be afraid to keep something. If the idea of parting with something of extreme emotional significance is just too difficult to bear, then find a way to keep it. Whether it ends up coming with you, stays with a family member for safekeeping, or gets tucked away in a storage unit, there’s no need to cause yourself unnecessary anguish.
Do you struggle to part with your belongings? Our downsizing guide may help. Click here to view.