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Downsizing - An Emotional Journey

Updated: Aug 8, 2023

Thinking of moving or downsizing? You are not alone!

Forty-two percent of Baby Boomers (born between 1944-1964) will move or downsize in the coming year, according to a recent TD Ameritrade study.

Moving to a smaller home and decluttering a lifetime of belongings is an emotional and overwhelming journey. One of the hardest questions is whether to move at all. However, once the decision has been made to downsize, the emotional decision-making process begins.

Over the years, I've seen many homeowners go through life's transitions and witnessed the emotions this process evokes. Let's look at a few tips on dealing with these tough decisions.

Ask: What should I take? What should I do with the rest?

In order to move to a much smaller home, many people will let go of 30-70 percent of their belongings. This can be a monumental task! Look around your space - what could you let go of?

Certain belongings are easy to donate or discard, such as nicked-up decorations and furniture or old clothing. Personal items holding sentimental value, however, are more difficult to part with. Some things bring back fond memories of family, past relationships, or childhood. Other memories may be painful when remembering family members or friends that have passed on.

As you evaluate each item, ask yourself, "Why am I having such a hard time letting go?"

Are you:

  • Afraid of giving up objects that belonged to loved ones who are no longer with you?

  • Feeling guilty about donating gifts that were given by friends or family?

  • Worried that you may need certain items in the future, especially clothing?

  • Feeling as if you are giving up on a dream when letting go of unfinished projects, exercise equipment, etc.?

1. Keepsakes Saying goodbye to grandma's fur coat or china doesn't mean you are throwing away her memory. Not every item represents the person who owned it. Saving a few special items is more than enough to keep the memory alive. Take pictures and create a file or digital album, then pass it on.

2. Gifts It's okay to let go of gifts given to you. If you don't love it or have use for it, there is no reason to keep the gift. Give it to someone who would love it. Just imagine what your home would look like if you kept every trinket given to you.

3. Clothing We often hold on to clothing even when we no longer wear them. Some clothes may represent a former time in our lives, such as a career, a different climate or even a different dress size. Keep only what you love and what represents your current lifestyle!

4. Hobbies People start different hobbies or pastimes over the years. Some stick, some don't. Don't let an unfinished project or unused item create negative feelings. Remember, you are moving on to a new chapter in your life, ready to experience new and exciting things. No reason to let these items hold you back. Just let them go.

If everything is special, then nothing is special.

Keep the best and let go of the rest.

Rather than asking what to let go of, ask yourself, "What should I take with me?"

  • What items would enrich your life?

  • What is most precious to you?

  • Do you love it enough to allot valuable storage space?

Downsizing is never easy, but once you have pared down, you'll experience the freedom of letting stuff go. You're now ready to begin the next chapter of your life, liberated from the responsibilities of maintaining a larger home. Plus, you can rest assured knowing that you've lightened the burden for yourself and your loved ones in the future.

Ready to make the move? Don't jump in without thoroughly researching and planning your transition. Here are two additional articles written on downsizing. The Spruce and Best Life. Need accountability or hands-on assistance with any of your organizing projects? Call or email, I’m here to help, whether in person or virtually. Call 585-201-6009 or write to


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