Where the heart is: the emotional side of downsizing

Where the heart is: the emotional side of downsizing

Every house move is part head and part heart, and the decision to downsize is no different. We all have an emotional connection to the place we live; celebrations, children, grandchildren, and memories that make a house a home.

Yet, as we get older, moving somewhere more manageable and affordable – and releasing equity in the process – can be an overwhelmingly practical decision. But the importance of loving your new property isn’t diminished by practicalities.

For some, it means staying closer to friends and family. The sense of unity offered by tight-knit communities can add significant value. And it’s not just a love of the new home itself that’s important. Being within walking distance of shops, GPs and parks are important priorities for some. As everyone knows, the three most important things are location, location and location.

Emotional Stress

Managing the emotional stress when downsizing a home can be a very difficult time in your life. The reasons for moving are many, including financial, health issues, empty nest syndrome, or moving to be nearer family members. The experience of downsizing a family home can be completely overwhelming.

Tackling the process of organising personal possessions can be a source of emotional trauma. The best suggestion for managing this stress is recognising what is causing your anxiety and developing an action plan for handling the process with minimal strain.

Causes of the Emotional Stress:

  • Memories – breaking the strong attachments to your possessions. This is a big hurdle and causes a lot of stress thinking about getting rid of the belongings that represent your achievements and past experiences.
  • Difficulty leaving the family home – is it the beginning of the end? Ending this phase of your life may make you feel less vibrant, rather than considering that with less baggage, you have a chance for greater flexibility with fewer financial and home maintenance responsibilities.
  • People are often afraid of the unknown. Clear planning, as best you can, to be able to see what the future will look like helps diminish concerns.
  • Your children don’t want your stuff (although you still have plenty of theirs). You may have thought that the family members would gladly take those heirlooms, but you will soon find that sadly no one wants them as they don’t share the attachment. The key is to give yourself plenty of time for the process of sorting through your possessions.

Create an Action Plan

Identify exactly why you are downsizing, and keep this in mind as you go through the process. View this as a positive time, as you are creating a new chapter in your life and it is a time to re-invent your lifestyle and your surroundings.

  1. Get sorting. Keeping unused possessions may keep you connected to your past, but they also prevent you from making healthy changes and moving into a new phase of your life. Sort items into three categories, sell, donate, retain. If no family member wants an item that you are not retaining for yourself, consider selling it or donating it. You may find someone else who could really benefit from this item.
  2. Why do I want this? Often items retain their significance because someone special gave them to you or they remind you of a special event in your life. Consider giving these items to others who would appreciate them because of this past significance.
  3. Can I make money from this? If you have items that you would like to sell, get them valued and decide if you want to have them sold, rather than donated. Items are only worth what someone else is willing to pay you for them, and the people who get rich from Internet auction sites are few and far between.
  4. What is the worst that will happen if I get rid of this? Are you putting off the decision to downsize because you may need these items some day? Or your children may need them? If you have memorabilia from their lives, set a firm deadline by which it must be picked up. If it isn’t, bin it! If it’s not worth space in their homes, it’s not worth space in yours.

The goal of downsizing is to keep possessions that reflect who you are now, not who you were then. In downsizing, you minimise your emotional stress by having fewer responsibilities, a smaller workload, an increased cash flow, and greater flexibility with less to overwhelm you.