By Joanne M. Anderson
There comes a time in many a life when a homeowner finds he or she simply has too much house ~ too big, too expensive, too much maintenance, too burdensome to clean and care for, too time-consuming. The first word that comes to mind is “downsize,” which can be a smooth transition, though not without some misgivings and emotional moments.
Reasons abound to downsize, and many people, seniors among them, have found it very freeing to live in less space, do less maintenance, spend less house money and live more efficiently. Once a spouse passes away, a big house can even seem bigger. “At some point, you’re going to have to move,” states Irene Jacobs, 81, from her beautiful, 4,600-square-foot, 5-bedroom mountain home outside Blacksburg. Downsizing has been on her mind a few years, and she actively set to work on it one year ago, beginning with her late husband Ira’s files, books, clothing and workshop. “Sorting through his stuff has definitely been the hardest part of downsizing,” she reveals. Over the past year, Mrs. Jacobs has hired a couple students to help with sorting and delivering stuff to thrift stores and recycling centers.
Frances Baker spent a majority of her life in her home in Radford, but as she approached her 90s, she knew she wanted to downsize. “It was very important to her and our family that she downsize to an apartment [rather than one room],” explains her daughter, Lucy Williams. “We looked for several years, but it wasn’t until The Crossings opened in Blacksburg in April this year that we felt we found the right place. She moved into a first floor apartment and was able to take her bedroom set, living room furniture and other personal items that really make her apartment feel like home. Like many people, she has become less mobile with age, and that can be isolating. She really enjoys living at The Crossings and the sense of community it provides.”
With an abundance of townhomes, apartments, condos, small houses and assisted living facilities in the New River Valley, it’s not hard to find a place that suits your style and budget. Bungalows and ranch homes are best for lower maintenance and one floor living. Townhouses and condos have the advantage of sharing walls, exterior maintenance costs and common spaces with monthly fees that cover parking lots, trash pickup, roofing and landscaping.
As with any project, it takes planning to pull off a successful downsize, and one can begin before finding the new, improved, smaller housing model.
• Thin out clothes, shoes, linens, excess furnishings.
• Envision smaller rooms similar to what you have now. The new living room, for example, might be the size of your guest bedroom.
• List items that you think you cannot live without. Check off how many times you use each one over a month or two months. Re-think that list.
• Pass along things you’ll never need again like ladders, lawn mower, weed eater.
• List things for sale on Craigslist, place things in a consignment store or donate.
• One room at a time, take out everything, putting back only what you use regularly or seasonally.
• Measure furniture you intend to move and figure room space and square footage.
• Use this as a great opportunity to bless others with things they have admired, family heirlooms and more, because you will have less storage space. And, after all, what’s the point in storing something when someone else can love using it?
• Look at closet and storage systems which maximize space utility.
• For furniture, consider Murphy beds, ottomans with storage, wall tables and ironing boards and double duty chairs, desks and end tables.
Mrs. Jacobs has cleared out two truckloads of accumulation and continues downsizing room by room. She is not buying anything new and is deciding what to take [though she has not yet decided where in the NRV she is going]. Definitely not the formal dining room set. But maybe one of those old pairs of her late husband’s boots still in the garage. Not the 40-cup coffeemaker. Maybe just one of the computers. Lucy Williams, her brother and their families have only begun the process of sorting through the items remaining in her mother’s home.
All along the way, remember the definition of “stuff” ~ something that has weight and takes up space.