We’ve spent quite a bit of time, these last few blogs, talking about what it’s like to enter into a home sharing arrangement. We’ve talked about the monetary advantages, the benefits of home-sharing as it helps to combat loneliness and social isolation and how it can even have an impact on reducing the potential for elder abuse and/or seniors falling victim to fraud or theft.

Today, we’re shifting our focus slightly to discuss the topic of how you actually start to live a “downsized” life, whether you are a homeowner making space for new housemates or you are moving into someone else’s home. What does that mean? We at Golden Girls Canada and Golden Homesharing Connections certainly aren’t advocating you give away all your earthly possessions! Rather, we’re talking about the benefits of living large, with less.

For many seniors, one of the hardest parts about moving into a different housing arrangement – whether that means home-sharing, a seniors’ apartment rental or retirement home – is the downsizing! That’s often the most stressful. Sometimes, though, in order to live a “larger” life, a life that contains more time for friends, recreational activities, volunteering and other pleasant pastimes, it means letting go of a lot of the stuff that is actually holding you back, weighing you down.  Many people find that once they have shed a houseful of material possessions they actually feel lighter and move more freely!

If you are a homeowner the action of making space to welcome a new person into your home can be a very uplifting experience!  Focus on how you would like the person to feel when they walk into the space prepared for them.  If you have children, think back to what it felt like to prepare a room to receive a new baby.  This is not so different — you are starting a new chapter in your life!

As someone preparing to move into a new living situation, you’ll want to have a conversation with your host about what you’d like to bring with you into the home and what they can accommodate.  This will actually be a factor in your decision as to whether a home is the right fit for you.  Some of your furnishings may be a welcome addition!  But the more you are willing to let go of, the more easily you can fit into a blended lifestyle with your new home-mate.

Like many mature adults, you’ve perhaps spent a lifetime accumulating treasured items and difficult choices need to be made about what to keep and what should be donated, sold, or discarded.

Here are some general tips on how to start the downsizing process in your life:

  • If you are moving into a new living situation, consider the amount of space you’re relocating to. What is the square footage and what rooms do you need to furnish?
  • Entering a shared-living arrangement may mean that the kitchen is a shared space and you don’t need two kitchen tables, each with six chairs, or two full sets of cooking supplies!
  • Chances are your host already has a dining set. Unless your own is especially beautiful you may need to send it off to a new home.
  • If you are the home-owner, what can do double duty to help make space for your new housemate? A beautiful antique sideboard could become a great storage unit for small and infrequently used kitchen appliances and at the same time, serve as a sofa table with a lamp or lamps on it for good room lighting and table top display space for one carefully chosen and treasured keepsake.
  • Do you have three TV’s from bedrooms, to family rooms to basement rec rooms? How many can you watch at one time? Choose the newest and best and donate or sell the rest.
  • Enough photographs to fill a museum? Consider investing in the type of long, narrow storage containers that slide under a bed and in some plastic sleeves from a discount store. Slip the most treasured photos into sleeves but without bulky or mismatched albums and then slide them (and the storage container) under your bed. Pictures are safe, no extra storage room required.
  • Do you have a lifetime’s worth of garden furniture, implements and lawn décor? If you’re entering into a home sharing arrangement compare notes with each other. Choose the newest and best or the size and shape that most suits where you’re moving. Perhaps a grandchild just got married and can use what you don’t need? Most communities have metal recyclers that will come right to your door to take away any items you no longer want and they do it for free. (By the way, the same typically goes for community-based organizations like Habitat for Humanity or The Salvation Army!)

Whether you are entering into a home-sharing arrangement or moving to a condo or retirement home, living a downsized life doesn’t have to mean doing without – it just means being a bit more selective and conscientious about what you choose to live with. You will have to ask yourself some serious questions about certain items like:

  • Is it useful/what purpose does it serve?
  • Does it have sentimental value?
  • Can I take a picture of it to hold the memory instead of storing the item?
  • Why am I holding onto it? Do I like it or is it just because Great Grandma gave it to me?

Don’t be too hard on yourself and take the process slowly. Four piles that represent “Keep,” “Sell,” and “Donate” and “Discard” will help you keep everything straight until it’s time to move. In the end, you’ll find you are left with only those items you truly treasure and you will have left behind what often amounts to a whole lot of clutter!

Without that clutter clouding your judgment or blocking your way as you move around your new space, downsizing is actually providing you with the opportunity to live a much “larger” life!

Golden Girls Canada is owned and operated by Golden HomeSharing Connections

Home-mate matching services for seniors by accredited

seniors real estate specialist (SRES) Dorothy Mazeau!