By John E. Baer, SRES, SRS
Two months ago my wife and I sold our 4000 ft.² six bedroom colonial home, having lived there for 46 years, and moved to a 1265 ft.² two bedroom apartment. As a real estate agent who regularly works with seniors, many of whom have made similar moves, I pride myself in giving helpful advice to clients, especially senior clients, planning to downsize, particularly when moving from a large home to a modest size home. I discuss with them the importance of assessing their actual needs.
Deciding what you actually need requires a good long look at how you live your life daily and prioritizing the activities and items that are already a part of your actual lifestyle - not those activities or items that you want to be part of your lifestyle, but haven’t gotten around to yet. I tell clients to take a walk through their home and evaluate everything they come across (furniture, books, food, etc.). I tell them to ask themselves if you’ve used it in the past year and, if so, how often? I tell them to be honest with themselves. If they think they could live well without it, out the door it should go.
I tell them to go through every cabinet, shelf and closet. Clear everything out. Only put back the items they can’t live well without. I tell them next to measure their furniture in order for them to know what pieces of furniture will fit into their new space, particularly large items such as sofas and beds.
I also tell them to assess their new storage areas. I emphasize that assessing exactly how much of the new space is dedicated to storage will give them an idea of the volume of items they need to dispose of before moving.
I tell my clients to ransack their attics, basements, and closets. Typically most of us put things in boxes that haven’t seen the light of day for years. Now is the time before you move to get rid of these items.
I share with my clients options available to them when getting rid of “stuff”. I give them the name of three or four charities that will pick up donated items. I provide them with names of tag sale and estate sale professionals who will organize and run a sale of items they may want to sell. I suggest to them they may want to rent a dumpster to discard items they simply wish to throw away. I remind and urge my clients to shred papers and documents they may no longer need that contain account numbers or other personal information that should not be seen by others.
I stress the importance of packing belongings well in advance of the move they may wish to keep, but do not use regularly or plan to use, in boxes and label those boxes so that when unpacking it will be easier to identify where in their new home these items belong.
Well, my wife and I did follow most of the advice I give to my clients. However, we weren’t as judicious as we should have been about bringing to our new two-bedroom apartment only items we could easily store. We over packed pantry canned goods, pots, pans and baking utensils, too many cleaning items, personal photographs, not to mention more clothing than we will ever need.
So, what did we do for the first several weeks once we moved? Well, it was off to the Container Store, Bed Bath and Beyond, and online to Amazon.com to purchase storage containers to put into the closets !
Having now experienced the above, I will now more strongly emphasize to future clients the importance of only taking kitchen, bathroom and other household items, other than clothing, that they anticipate using in the first six months after the move. Dispose of everything else.
If you are downsizing, and you absolutely need to buy an item you did not bring, purchase it. It will be one of the best financial decisions you will make. It’s definitely cheaper than buying hundreds of dollars of storage containers at the Container Store, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Amazon.com.
John E. Baer, SRES, SRS is a NYS licensed real estate salesperson associated with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Westchester Properties of Scarsdale and Larchmont. He can be reached for questions at 914/600-6086 or at 914/844-2059. His website is www.WestchesterHomes.info.