Moving On: Drama-Free Downsizing For Empty-Nesters

Empty-nesters often sell their family-size house when it echoes with silence instead of the happy, noisy sound of kids growing up. For some, downsizing is a smart financial move on the way to retirement. These big changes can bring up a lot of memories and emotions. Keep empty-nest syndrome from bogging down your move into smaller, cozier quarters by adopting a gentle, take-charge strategy.

Become the Organizer-In-Chief

You've had years of experience as the juggler-in-chief. Keeping a family healthy, tidy, fed and chauffeured to all those school events and extracurricular activities gave you might organizing skills. This talent will continue to be a valuable asset as you take on the role of chief organizer for a new life transition.

  • Set up your own little executive office at the kitchen table or at a now-unused desk in the kids bedroom as the central hub for managing the change.
  • Use a 3-ring binder and tickler files -- or go completely electronic with spreadsheets and note-keeping programs. At minimum you'll need:
    • A calendar for scheduling. Include every date-sensitive action ranging from reserving the moving van to canceling the trash service.
    • An inventory of all your belongings with columns to check off whether you are going to move, sell or give away each item.
    • Documents related to your home sale and to your new home purchase, rental agreement or lease.
    • All the data about your new home, from room measurements to floor coverings. Use these details for happy inspiration if the going gets tough.

Garage Sales and Awesome Alternatives

Downsizing means more than decluttering. You'll have some tough decisions to make about which furniture, household goods and personal items must go in order to start afresh in your new home. Be strong. Be bold. And be prepared to use multiple methods to remove everything that doesn't have a designated place in your new location.

Yard and Garage Sales – ideal for small furniture, kitchen goods, accessories and tools. Have friends help with the sale in case you get sentimental over some of the sales, and earmark your earnings for a special purchase for your new house.

Managed Sales Event – contracting with an estate sale and moving company can be a less emotional way to let things go. The sales organizer will charge a flat fee, a percentage of the sales, or a combination of both. The trade-off is that you can go have a nice day off while they do all the work.

Donations – Charitable organizations welcome donations of household items that they can put to good use in housing for the needy or sell in their thrift stores. Many will even send a truck and personnel for removal.

Handling Heirlooms and Family Favorites

Schedule a time for each child to come home and select a few favorite items that they want to keep for themselves. If that's not feasible, smaller items can be sent to them via a shipping and packing service.

Carefully pack the heirlooms and family keepsakes that will make your new place feel like home right away. Mark the boxes with "fragile" labels so that the movers will handle them with care.

Getting It All On the Road

Keeping your cool can be difficult on moving day, but you may be pleasantly surprised how quickly and smoothly it goes when you've scaled down your belongings.

  • Double check that the moving van driver has all your pertinent information, including the delivery address and your contact number in case any questions arise.
  • Do a final walk around when the truck is all loaded to ensure that nothing is accidentally left behind. Snap a few photos of the empty rooms. They'll bring back fond memories when you peek at them in later years.

Although one chapter of life is closing, taking full charge of the downsizing and moving process will help you keep an upbeat focus on new beginnings.