Downsizing In Place, Part 1: The Benefits

Written by Martha on June 21st, 2010

After the children leave home, the house that once was bursting with bodies and activity is suddenly over-large, like a shirt on a successful dieter. Nature abhors a vacuum. Likewise the tendency is to fill up the nooks and crannies. This is especially true of empty nesters. The emptiness is less glaring that way.

A professional gathers the tools of his/her trade – professional books and clothing, awards and accolades – only to find at retirement that these are remnants of a past life. These objects represent an enormous amount of effort and perseverance. How to hold onto the memories of achievement  without keeping things that will never be used again is a dilemma.

For many of us as we change roles, while moving to a smaller home is possible, the prospect is not appealing. Statistics show that  the desire to move from the family home diminishes inversely with age.

A U.S. Census geographic mobility survey indicates that 11% of Americans between the ages of 25-64 moved during the year March 2007 to March 2008.  During that same period, the number of people over 65 years of age who changed residences was drastically less at 3%.

“The American Association of Retired Persons [AARP] found in a survey of peopled aged 45 and older that 82 percent want to stay in their existing homes for as long as possible rather than move to a smaller home or retirement community,” stated CNN in May 2000.

The combined result of “rich” Americans with disposable income and their staying in one home for decades is a house that does need to go on a diet! Downsizing in place is the answer. Clearing out the collected “stuff” from 15-40 years of living in one place takes determination and lots of hard decisions, but is worth it! These are just a few of the benefits:

  1. Ease of movement – The floor and the stairs are not great storage areas.  When these are cleared, the chances of tripping are greatly reduced.
  2. Air quality – When your surfaces are covered with things, it becomes difficult to clean the dust that accumulates everywhere. Living in air conditioned spaces does not solve this problem. Common sources of dust pollutants include human skin, animal dander, sand, insect waste, flour (in the kitchen), and good, old-fashioned dirt. Clearing away the clutter and cleaning all surfaces greatly reduces air pollutants.
  3. Access to stored items – The less “stuff” there is to store, the easier to contain like items in a specific place. In crowded conditions, even if you know where something might be, it can be difficult to get to. Moving 6-10 boxes to get to the one you need becomes a major deterrent.
  4. Thoughtful distribution of valuables – Why not give family treasures to the person who will cherish them NOW while you have that choice? This is a win-win situation. You experience the joy of giving and seeing the appreciation of the receiver. The receiver gains a valuable piece of family history and feels honored in the process.
  5. Peace of mind – a cluttered environment is like a having constant roar in the background. Your eye has no place to land that does not scream, “Do this!”,  “Take care of that!” You will be surprised at the calming effect an ordered environment has.

There are seasons in life that require accumulating specific information, furniture, and tools. When one season ends and another begins, it is difficult to let go of the remnants that hold so many memories – both good and bad! Two opposite forces are usually the catalysts for lasting change: the pain of staying where you are becomes too great OR you become convinced that the benefits of moving forward will outweight the hassle of making the change. I hope you will make the wisest choice for you where you are right now.

Look for Downsizing in Place, Part 2: Where to Start

Related posts:

1 Comments so far ↓

  1. Lauren says:

    Excellent post! As a professional organizer I know the power of giving gifts while down-sizing. Sharing precious items (that you no longer have space or a use for) with those whom are special to you, can be liberating and fun.

Leave a Comment