Oh no!  What do I do with all this stuff…
That’s the often overlooked Dilemma of Downsizing?
From the Kevin Mihm team…

And so… the time has finally come.  Children are on their own.  Of course we know they never really are.  The grandchildren are growing.  You hesitate for a long paralyzing moment before relaxing that index finger allowing it to fall gently but purposefully on the delete key.  The corporate email account is gone.  What now?

You walk out of your oak paneled office, into the grand foyer and past the spiral staircase.  You hesitate just for a moment in the formal living room you stare at the ornate log burning fireplace.  You sit, head tilted back, hands lock behind your head.  A smile calmly spreads across your face and the warmest of memories stroll through your mind.  Gazing 18 feet above your head you spy “the ceiling fan.”  It took two years of searching before the wife was satisfied that very style would fit the genre of her most elegant space.  You laugh inside.  Memories… we made them, now if we could only hold on to them?  Then it hits you.  Oh no!  What do I do with all this “stuff?”

This scene is more often repeated in Allegheny County than most other areas of the country.
  Our aging population is the second oldest in the country.  What area is older?  Well, it could be where you’re moving next.  Relocation at this milestone in life is quite different from any other.  Our goals suddenly change and with a simple glance around, your home can transform into more of a problem than a space where memories are made.

Where did all this “stuff” come from?  What do you do?  One thing is certain.  There will be many decisions to make.  Those decisions are both emotional and financial.  In the mean time your home is screaming at you “What are you going to do with all this stuff!”

Your possessions now fill a 6,000 sq ft home.  They’ll never fit a 2,500 sq ft condo.  How do you price and value memories built into the old homestead?  You spent the past 40 years accumulating this “stuff” they say memories are made of.

This is a very important milestone in your life takes time and planning.  It’s not a singular decision.  It’s a series of seemingly minor decisions having great emotional and financial impact on your life.  While we can’t tell you what to do, we can say you will have stressful decisions to make.  We’d like to share a few thoughts on the process that might help.

Make lists and separate possessions on those lists into categories.  Furnishings and accessories on the keep list must fit the estimated size of future space and the climate of possible relocation.  Three sets of log burning fireplace tools have no place in Miami.  A set of eight home theater seats? easy answer.   You get the picture.  The same goes for furnishings in five bedrooms.  Speaking of pictures… what’s gong to happen with your artwork?  Will it scale to the new space?  Will it fit the décor?  How valuable is it?

It’s time for a family meeting and keep those lists going.  “Family first” they say.  Let each of the children know it’s their decision.  They must to take what they want, the rest is going.  Now this is important… Give them a time line and stick to it.

Consider real memories… Now imagine your house is burning down.  What do you grab?  Oh look! you have time to run back in and grab something else (we don’t actually recommend this if your house is burning).  Take turns with your spouse and keep lists.  The first items will be the most important.  Here’s a hint if you can’t carry it, it’s probably not that important.  Now we didn’t say not valuable, just not important.

What do you do with what’s left?  Your memories are safe.  You know what will fit in the new space.  Your children have at least been given the chance to claim what they should have years ago. 

Start working from those lists.  Here is where you put your business cap on…

  • Consider a fair value for the listed items.
  • Determine what new buyers might really be interested in.  Most likely they will be moving up, not downsizing.  That wood working shop and dining set for 12 might be on that list.  These are great items for sales negotiation.  Let your agent know.
  • What would the fair value be if donated to charity?  The last year of working might be one where charitable donations are worth the most.  The value of art donations might surprise you.
  • What will it cost to move or store all this “stuff?”
  • Sports equipment left by the kids will be great for those local teams or a struggling school.

We are sure once you start this process you will do fine.  Get started well ahead of time.  Keeping lists and making calculations will pay off.  Thoughtful early planning and consideration of your spouse, family and charity will relieve a lot of stress.   It will mark the start of a new adventure in life free of all this “stuff” but with real memories preserved for future generations.   

 Think, plan, save, give your stuff away with love, and most importantly be happy…

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