Becketwood Cooperative
An Active, Independent 55+ Community of Owners in Minneapolis

Up with downsizing!

Up with downsizing!

by Linda Back McKay, Becketwood Member

We treasure the people on our Waiting List and look forward to their joining our vibrant community. And, we want to encourage our future neighbors to make the move sooner rather than later. Maybe this will be of help.

I’ll never forget the advice I received when my husband and I visited Becketwood during an open house. A man with kind eyes and a ready smile leaned over to me and said, “Don’t wait until you’re too old to enjoy it.” That comment got us thinking and that thinking resulted in our moving to Becketwood while we were in our 60s.

We are both very happy we made the move when we did. Oh, we’d been talking about it for years. About how a four bedroom, two bathroom house with a yard and garden was more than what we needed. About how the responsibilities of a house prevented us from traveling and doing other fun things.

But the house was full of accumulations from thirty years and three kids. The idea of sorting, deciding, selling, donating and tossing was daunting, to say the least.

My dear husband has many attributes. That said, he was a bit unsure about making the move and “getting rid of his stuff.” I have to admit to some of those kinds of feelings as well. We both knew we needed and wanted to do it, so we formulated a plan that I will share here.

Top Ten Ways To Make Downsizing Doable

  1. Give yourself a flexible timeline. Make it reasonable and stick to it.
  2. Take one to two hours a day to work on one room at a time. We started by arranging to have the basement floor and walls painted. That meant we had to get everything out of there! From the basement we worked up, one floor at a time, one room at a time.
  3. Remain focused. Think of this as a great opportunity to identify your favorite things. Sort through your possessions and put them in the following categories:

-         What to donate.

-         What to sell at a garage/estate sale or consignment.

-         What to give away to family and friends (I contacted the children and said, “Last chance for your college textbooks and Barbie dolls!)

-         What to toss (this was a fairly small pile for us.)

-         What gets to go along to the new home.

  1. Don’t look back. After you’ve accumulated those garage sale and donation piles, don’t even look at those things again. That decision has already been made and those things don’t exist for you now.
  2. Kitchen – Think. Are you really going to use all those mixing bowls and baking gear? How about that Tupperware? Are you going to be cooking for an army in your new home? Remember, Becketwood has a delicious restaurant and you might just want to hang up the pots and pans for some of your meals. One set of dishes and one set of flatware will suffice. Maybe this is the time to splurge on something new. If you decide to buy new dishes or cookware, do it right before the move – maybe even have it delivered to your new address. Then you’ll only have to unpack it once.
  3. Bathroom – Think. How many towels do you really need? This is the perfect time to take the matching ones and donate the rest.
  4. Bedroom – Will your furniture fit? Is this the time to replace it? Again, if you’re replacing something, try to arrange for delivery when you move in.
  5. Living room/dining room – What pieces are truly comfortable? What pieces will still be comfortable as you age? What is important to you? What have you merely become used to having around?
  6. Pictures/photographs – This may seem like a small thing but it’s not. People agonize over photos. Here is a good rule of thumb. If you have time, sort everything into piles of events (Jimmy’s birthday, Christmas 2011, etc.) Then take a small selection (one, three or five at most) of the best photos to keep and throw the rest away. Or give them to the kids. Or, if you don’t have time to do that, put them all in a box and promise yourself you’ll deal with them after you get moved in. (Oh, that reminds me...)
  7. Clothes and stuff – If you haven’t worn it in a year, you don’t need it. This includes jackets, shoes, ties, purses, jewelry and more. Be ruthless. Go through your books, vases, office equipment and supplies, pieces of art, wall hangings and everything else, with a focus on what will fit in the new, smaller space and what items are really important to you. (I cheated on this one and packed one box with a few favorite outfits that I haven’t worn but still like. They are still in the box, unpacked, so what does that tell you?)

When we started the process, I said to my dear husband, “You can keep anything you want.” For some reason, that was freeing for both of us. After the first couple of sorting sessions, we would say to each other, “Do you want this?” After a little thought, the answer was often “no.” It started to get easier and easier to say no to keeping items.

The other comment we made many times during the process was, “Aren’t you glad we’re not doing this five years from now?”

Yes, lightening our load did set us free. We were able to do it ourselves, which meant we were in control. Being in control of the decisions about our possessions was very important to us.

Within two years we eliminated two-thirds of our “stuff.” And guess what? We don’t miss a thing!


Leave a Reply

  • Julie Nordstrom July 19, 2012, 8:02 pm

    This is all excellent advice, Linda! I would add only this: It is important not to bring more furniture than will fit easily into an apartment. Not even a piece that’s much-treasured will look good in an over-crowded room. Well ahead of moving, one should measure every item and then, to make sure each one will fit in, arrange representative pieces of paper (1/4″ = 1′) on a to-scale floor-plan. Moving day is much easier when it’s known where everything goes…and can stay.

    • Linda Back McKay July 30, 2012, 5:49 pm

      Good point, Julie. We did that, too. And it did help!

  • Sonja Walker August 9, 2012, 2:34 am

    Thanks Linda,
    Yes I do know that there was one time that I thought “Oh, I wish I hadn’t dumped that item.” Today, I can not remember what it was! Could not have been too important.

  • Susan March 19, 2016, 5:02 pm

    Even though it’s 4 yrs after moving here I’ll comment. Getting rid of almost everything in my Fl. condo due to a broken air conditioner followed by a raging mildew problem requiring complete remediation made it easier to “downsize”. Having already been sad about my mildew furnishings it was less difficult to toss than if everything had been fine. Many pieces required no decision “unredeemable”. Most would not fit into my small unit anyway. The task was almost taken care of for me.

  • David Liddle March 26, 2016, 6:43 pm

    Loved this piece, Linda, and it sure was easier doing it with someone you love! It was really liberating to not have to move every last thing!! Interesting, all our children said ‘no’ to most items except Grandma’s china which still sits packed in our daughter’s basement. Maybe it was to spare me of the pain of letting it totally go. However, haven’t missed it!! Lorene


About the author Poet, writer and teaching artist. Author of several poetry collections and nonfiction books. Member of Becketwood Cooperative and active in its marketing efforts.