Seniors, Do Your Kids a Favor

You know the collection of bobble-heads you bought on a trip to Coney Island? How about that darling doll with only one arm you loved as a child? Tupperware containers with missing lids? All those thread-bare dish towels? Your mother’s cookbooks? Coffee makers, your collection of Johnny Mathis records?

Do your kids –and yourself -a favor. Clean out your attic, your cupboards, and your closets. Don’t leave that burden to your kids.

As we age, our homes become too big, too much work, and often unsafe. At some point we will have to move, sometimes willingly, sometimes not. More and more seniors are being proactive, choosing to downsize to an active adult community while they can still enjoy the new lifestyle. A new lifestyle without shoveling snow, cleaning gutters, climbing ladders, or even climbing stairs.Maybe even a lifestyle with dining and housekeeping.

It could be a wonderful opportunity. But getting there from here can be a daunting task. And even more daunting would be an emergency that precipitated a quick move.

When downsizing, it seems we have three choices: fight it until it’s absolutely necessary and become overwhelmed with the prospect; do nothing and saddle our children with hard decisions and the burden; or the wisest, start early and plan for an exciting new lifestyle.

But this requires discipline. You have to start today, not“when you have time” or “someday.” You can start small. If you buy a new toaster, dump the old one. Break the handle off a cup? Throw it out; don’t save it hoping to get around to gluing it. Then tackle that collection of telephone books; old, dried paint cans; broken furniture you had hoped to refinish.

In the meantime,

First, call your kids. Do they have any interest in your grandmother’s crystal? Or your collection of bobble-heads? Give them an opportunity to label items for future reference (or to take now). You might be surprised at what is important to them –and what is not. Even your most sentimental child may not want anything to do with your wedding silver if it has to be polished.

Clean out drawers, file cabinets. Throw away anything that you don’t absolutely need: a property appraisal when you bought your house 20 years ago; tax returns of 1950. Do you really need that yellowed letterhead from the previous address? How many outdated dresses are in your closet “just in case” an occasion arises?

Talk to an estate-sale expert. What do you do with your furniture and collectibles? These people can be a great help and comfort in your decision making, especially with china, silver, and crystal. They can arrange off-and on-site estate sales and offer you professional, objective advice.

Plan a yard sale or call your friends to thin out your furniture. Your furniture will sell for pennies on the dollar if you have to give it to a consignment shop. So, try to sell it first. Look around your home. If you could move only a few pieces, which would they be? Chances are, even in a luxury senior community, your home will not be as large as the one in which you raised your family. You don’t have to sell everything now and live at your kitchen table; just be prepared.

One day, most of us will have to make a decision about where we will spend the rest of our lives. Chances are it will not be in the big family homestead. So be proactive. Be prepared. Do yourself –and your kids -a favor so when the opportunity/necessity arises, your move can be (relatively) stress-free.

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