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October 20, 2020

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Is downsizing right for you?

Active aging with Mennonite Home Communities of Ohio

Downsizing is a hot topic among older adults. In a recent conversation via the Empower'd Aging Group on Facebook, I queried the 'ASK ME ANYTHING' expert, Thomesa Lydon, founder of Lydon Senior Pathways, questions about relocation and downsizing. 

Question: "Thomesa, what's the first piece of advice you give someone when they hope to downsize?"

Answer - "First create a plan that includes how you see yourself living in the next 10, 20 or even 30 years. Know your financial picture which will clearly illustrate your options -- what you can afford." 

"Consult professionals such as your wealth/financial manager to know your financial picture and your real estate agent to know the value of your home. A realtor can assist in housing options that align with your vision and financial structure."

"Knowledge in these two areas first and foremost can help you strategically plan for the downsizing process."

"The process in itself has its own strategic agenda but this gives you a better look at 'when', 'where' and 'how' it may look going forward. I hope this helps."

Question: "How soon should one begin the downsize process of letting things go?"

Answer - "Letting go is a very difficult task for everyone...even men, not just for women who are emotionally and sentimentally attached to almost everything. Purging things along the way is best but if are like most people and tend to gather and clutter albeit, sometimes it can be "tasteful clutter" but nonetheless it fills every closet and nook and cranny.

"But if you're paying for storage for items you can't fit in your home it is time to evaluate the needs and the wants and here's where to begin. Ask yourself these 3 questions about every item:"

• Does it have PURPOSE?
• Does it bring me JOY?
• Does it have VALUE.
"​If you cannot answer YES to at least one of those questions then LET IT GO! You will be amazed at what you can trim easily by trying this for starters TODAY!"

Thank you, Thomesa, it seems for me, by following the three steps will certainly make it a lot easier to think through, "Should I keep or let go?" I've downsized several times and now when I buy something it really must fit your 3 criteria. Especially when considering buying new furniture – which I do rarely.

Don't throw away valuables 
When given a gift that you don't particularly favor, don't give it away or donate it to the Salvation Army. Here's what happened to one person who did:

"Years ago, an older client insisted I take a piece of artwork as a thank you gift. I reluctantly accepted. It was an awful, depressing framed drawing. But after lugging it around through several states, I threw it in the dumpster while decluttering before another move. I recently found out that the artist is somewhat famous and that the drawing was worth money."

"I keep my lists on the phone, always with me, always adding things as I think of them. I have lists for Home depot, Goodwill, Walmart.. things like white shirt, fine grater, under bed storage box... I’m not allowed to get things for myself that are not on the list, no matter how good of a deal they are. Except for food, yarn and books."

So, before giving something away, here's what to do do first:
Check, or do a Google search on an item you're not familiar with. Don't make the mistake this person did, "If I had not Googled an ugly ceramic piece -- I would have lost $7 grand."

If the task is too daunting to do it alone, hire a skilled professional to guide you through the process. Pick out good ones and listen to their advice. Most of the time, they are worth their weight in gold.

You can enlist the help of a personal property appraiser to determine the worth of your personal property, and a trustworthy estate sale professional to sell the items for you.

This column is provided by Mennonite Home Communities of Ohio. The writer  is Carol Marak, Solo Aging Advocate and Advisor, founder, the Elder Orphan Facebook Group, CarolMarak.com and the Solo and Smart YouTube channel.