A couple in their late 60s, a teacher married to a hospital CEO, are eager to free themselves of upkeep on their huge colonial house. They’d like to sell and downsize to a small villa in an over-55 community with resortlike features.
But the couple’s moving plans are at a standstill due to the need to sort through a vast array of possessions that can’t go with them to the new place, says Stacy Berman, their listing agent.
“All through their 40-year marriage they’ve been buying beautiful antiques. ... All (the) pieces are an impediment to their move,” Berman says.
Despite the antiques, she says the couple feel a sense of urgency about selling this year, while available homes are still in severely short supply and prices continue to rise.
Theresa Pritchett, a former CPA who founded Soft Landings, a firm that assists seniors with move management, says there are countless older homeowners now attempting to expedite their housing transitions.
“Since last year we’ve been crazy busy,” says Pritchett, who employs 12 assistants who help seniors tackle all the work related to downsizing, including decluttering, donating and packing.
For longtime owners in their elder years, there’s always a feeling of loss associated with letting go of prized possessions accumulated over decades. But such sad feelings are lessened for those who find their new place before the old one goes on the market.
“It’s always important to look forward as well as back,” says Pritchett, who’s been in the move management field since 2013.
Here are a few other pointers for downsizing seniors:
-- Consider hiring professional organizers to assist.
Many older people facing a major decluttering project turn to family members for assistance. But hiring professional organizers or move managers can help ease the transition and therefore hasten a move.
“We’re more objective and less judgmental than are relatives,” Pritchett says.
Those seeking to identify move managers skilled at assisting seniors can find local resources through the website of the National Association of Specialty & Senior Move Managers: nasmm.org.
-- Try to allocate ample time to the project.
If the home you’re selling has bursting closets and disorder throughout, there’s no way a couple or single person can deal properly with the problem without giving it several weeks or even months, says Vicki Norris, a professional organizer who lectures nationally on the topic. She offers pointers on her website: restoringorder.com.
Norris says one solution is to add extra hands to the task and conduct an all-out blitz. Many organizing firms can mobilize a team on short notice. You can find one in your area through the National Association of Productivity & Organizing Professionals (napo.net).
Alternatively, if cost is an issue, you may be able to recruit a team of friends to help. Whether you hire organizers or seek out volunteers, Norris says you should bring in no more than four to five people and designate a leader.
Those who are unable to recruit a team are advised to divide the purging project into small tasks that can be done whenever segments of time become available.
“One good idea is to break down the work into bite-sized pieces. Just do one room at a time,” says Steve Klemroth, the co-owner of Managed Moves LLC, founded in 2008.
-- Incorporate music into your work.
No matter your musical preference, the use of music during an organizational project can help enliven your spirit and increase the intensity of your work. Compare this with the impact music has during, say, an aerobic cycling class.
“Anything that gets rhythm going adds momentum,” says Stephanie Calahan, a longtime life coach.
Though popular music is most often played in a fitness center or gym, classical music may be the most appropriate for decluttering, she says. For her, Mozart is a favorite.
Calahan takes special note of a series of books and audio collections by musicologist Don Campbell, known as “The Mozart Effect.” He seeks to classify the composer’s work in terms of what it awakens in listeners (mozarteffect.com).
Calahan especially recommends Campbell’s CD compilation Volume 4, “Focus & Clarity.” These Mozart works are especially good for those struggling with organizational tasks, she says.
-- Turn to charities to help speed removal.
After each decluttering session, Norris encourages sellers to box up their discards and cart them off to a charity of their choice. Or, at least, you should ensure that your giveaways are in your car when next you have time to make a run to a Goodwill or Salvation Army site.
“To overcome inertia, make sure that your donated items are removed from the house as promptly as possible. Otherwise, you may start second-guessing yourself about what to keep and what to let go,” Norris says.
(To contact Ellen James Martin, email her at email@example.com.)