The most impactful suggestion I offer to those considering downsizing and moving is: give yourself time.
A lot of people cringe when they think about the downsizing process. It's daunting. The thought of letting go of half our belongings makes people want to run and hide. Ignoring the impending transition seems easier than taking action.
However, over the years, I have come to believe that when we allow plenty of time for the process, it is possible for it to be smooth and rewarding. I've seen it done well, and I've also seen it not done well.
First, let’s explore what makes downsizing not go well. When the transition is rushed because of a health crisis, or the house suddenly feels too empty when the kids are gone, or you find the (smaller) house of your dreams, decision making is haphazard and stressful. If we don’t take time to acknowledge our feelings about our belongings, and reflect on what is important to us moving forward, it leads to sadness and regret about letting go.
The biggest factor in having a meaningful and rewarding downsizing process is to give yourself plenty of time to do what needs to be done.
I teach my clients to approach downsizing and moving as two separate processes.
Ideally people give themselves one to two years to downsize. This allows time to thoughtfully decide what you’d like to keep and what you’d like to get rid of, and it gives you plenty of months to pass along your belongings in a satisfying way, so when the time comes to move, you feel happy with what you have chosen to bring with you.
Then, when it’s time to get ready to move, you know exactly what you want to bring with you. You can shift focus to packing your items, moving your belongings, and settling into your new home.
Of course sometimes life circumstances require us to downsize and move at the same time, and while that is definitely more challenging, it can still be done well with thoughtfulness and support.
So, if moving is on your horizon in one to three years, the best thing you can do is start downsizing now; don't put it off! Get into a rhythm of acknowledging, honoring, and letting things go, so when it comes time to move, you have just what you need for the next phase of your life.
This post is the first in a series of eight articles on downsizing. The series covers my seven step downsizing process:
1. Give yourself time
2. Acknowledge that it is hard
3. See the opportunity
4. Reframe waste
5. Honor sentimental items
6. Care for yourself
7. Create a game plan