One way or another, you’re going to have to do it. At least once. But probably more. If you’re an empty nester, you know what I’m talking about: Downsizing. Bob and I haven’t done it yet, but we know it’s coming. When our last child went off to college, we promised her that we wouldn’t move until she was out of school. We wanted her to feel like she had a warm, familiar refuge to come home to on weekends, over breaks, and in the summer. She’s a junior now, and we know this whole downsizing thing is imminent. I’ll be honest — it feels pretty intimidating. If you’ve been hanging around here for awhile now, you know I’m big on reaching out for help when you feel like you don’t have the skills, emotional fortitude, or mindset to handle a situation yourself. Whether you’re struggling through the empty nest transition, trying to get fit and healthy, or working on becoming a better parent to your adult kids, I’m all about tapping into experts and utilizing resources that can help you wade through a challenging, complicated situation. Today, I’m thrilled to introduce you to my friend, Anita Sisler. Anita is an empty nester, a certified professional organizer, and the owner of The Declutterbug. She’s helped many empty nesters downsize and declutter, and she kindly agreed to let me interview her on this important topic.
(Suzy) What does downsizing look like for most empty nesters?
(Anita) Most of the empty nesters I work with are actually downsizing within their own homes with the goal of preparing for their later decades. They want to have less stuff to maintain and less for their kids to deal with after they’re gone.
What are the most challenging aspects of the downsizing/decluttering process?
Just beginning is usually the most challenging thing, because of the sentimental memories attached to items. Often, empty nesters decide to move, and when it’s time to declutter, they realize that their home is full of memories — both good and bad — of raising a family. It can be an emotional process.
What suggestions do you have for dealing with especially sentimental items?
1. Investigate ways to save memories with technology. (For example, Forever.com digital photo storage.)
2. If your children live nearby or they’re home for a holiday, use the time to ask them what they would like to have.
3. Make a “keepsake box” for each of your children, filled with a few items you cherish the most.
4. Recruit a family member or friend so that you won’t linger too long over any one item.
What are some tips for empty nesters who are decluttering in preparation for downsizing to a smaller home?
1. Ask for help.
2. Make a plan and a schedule (with flexibility) so that you don’t get overwhelmed.
3. Keep only the items that you deem useful, that you love, and that make you smile. (The less you have, the less you have to pack!)
4. Use this time to secure your memories. (There are professional organizers who specialize in this.)
5. Make sure you’re clear on the layout and room dimensions of your new home in order to make better decisions about what to bring with you.
6. If you’re unsure about whether a piece of furniture you love will fit or look right in your new space, bring it along. If it doesn’t work, you can always sell, donate, or give it away.
7. Know that your mindset is critical. Take time to reflect, nourish your body and soul, and get proper rest during the entire process.
8. When it’s time to leave the home, take some time to say “goodbye” — either privately, with your spouse, or with other family members. Go from room to room, envision a memory, say thank you, and say goodbye.
How can a professional organizer be helpful to empty nesters who are downsizing?
1. An organizer can help you cope with the overwhelming feeling that tends to happen before starting.
2. An organizer can help you make a plan, figure out where to begin and keep you on track throughout the process.
3. An organizer will keep you feeling motivated and energized as you work through the process.
4. If you’re moving, the organizing team can do your packing, box labeling, etc. This can be really helpful.
Thank you so much, Anita, for sharing such practical information with us today! How can people get in touch with you if they want to know more?
It’s my pleasure! People who want to talk further can go to my website or contact me at 469-298-9077. I’m based just north of Dallas, but I do phone and Skype consultations with clients throughout the country. Also, if people just need help at the beginning of the process, I offer Jumpstart Plans. Those consist of an initial consultation with a walkthrough of the rooms they need help with, and then a specific plan to help them get started. Finally, I’ve got lots of great organization ideas on my Pinterest page, so people can follow me there.
I hope Anita’s insight was helpful to you! Have you downsized yet? What are your best tips for those of us who haven’t? Please hit me up in the comments below, and share your experience!