For many families, downsizing comes at a time when an older relative is no longer safe living at home. For our family, that time arrived during the summer of 2020. My 86 year old Mom had become unsteady on her feet, and she had started to experience falls. Those falls had happened when Dad - who is 89 - wasn’t home to help, and after a talk with the whole family, they decided to move to a nearby assisted living facility.
But the thought of clearing out the large, 4 bedroom Cape Neddick Maine home they had lived in for over 25 years was both emotionally and physically daunting for them. No worries, said their adult children; just pack what you want to take with you and we’ll take care of moving everything else.
So that left us - the 3 adult kids - with a large, 4 bedroom home to completely empty out before putting it on the market! We were pretty daunted, too.
We had already accomplished Step 1 - Choose what you want to take with you when you move. It turns out that there are only a few of our possessions that, as organizational guru Marie Kondo says, truly spark joy. The rest is just stuff.
Step 2 - Repeat Step 1 with the extended family. Make sure that adult children, their spouses, and the grandchildren all have a chance to choose things from the house that they love, too. One of the most touching things I witnessed was when one of my daughters lifted her grandmother’s painting apron (mom was a passionate oil painter) down off its hook and took it home with her. My other daughter wanted the Christmas village scene that she set up every December with her grandmother. You never know what has the most meaning to someone.
Now that Mom and Dad and the rest of the family has what they want from the house, on to downsizing Step 3 - the rest of all that stuff! My sister did some looking around, and found a man who would stage the entire house and conduct a 2-day indoor estate sale right after the move. We were, thankfully, not involved at all. His cut was 35% of the proceeds.The same person found homes at charitable organizations for the things that remained after the sale, and the rest was dumpster-bound. We didn’t have to lift a finger!
Step 4 is Assess the House. We called Troy Williams and Heidi Hayes of Williams Realty Partners to give us their professional assessment of what was worth doing to the house before the sale, and what wasn’t. We didn’t want to spend money that we didn’t have to spend, and we didn’t want to just guess on our own what needed doing, either. It turned out that painting the peeling front door was a must, for instance, and it’s something that we never saw until it was pointed out, simply because we were too used to seeing that door. We had gone blind as to the shape it was in. Another suggestion that we never would have thought of was for their photographer to take the outdoor pictures while the leaves were still on the trees, since the pictures would show better that way.
Thankfully, Troy and Heidi were able to simply get in touch with their resources and get the work done: their painter, their handyman, and finally, their housecleaner for the finishing touches.
Times of transition are emotionally difficult enough. In the end, it was an easier-than-anticipated process to clean out 25 years of accumulated “stuff” and get a large house ready to sell because we called in experienced people to help us. Any money that we had to spend, such as for a dumpster, we knew would be recouped quickly when the house sold. And our time was spent helping our parents settle into their new home, rather than exhausting ourselves over their old home.