Downsizing Your House for Retirement

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The Places You’ll Go When You Finally Let Go

Several years ago, I had a client who decided that it was time to retire and downsize. It was a huge decision and once made, the house was put on the market and sold very quickly. She hadn’t anticipated the flood of emotions. She was very connected to her home; she had changed and personalized every corner of her home and she had raised her family there. Even though her neighborhood had already transitioned to newer, younger families, she still had very deep connections to the community and knew she probably would not be able to afford staying in her town, even in a smaller home, upon retirement. The reality of what she had set into motion, and the ensuing emotions of anxiety and depression, blindsided her and she quickly began second-guessing her decision. Our work together was to help her stay clear, motivated and dedicated to achieving her retirement goals while helping her grieve and let go of her home. She made the transition and she is flourishing in her new adventures.

My Own Downsizing Experience

I find myself thinking about her often as I now prepare to sell my home and downsize myself. Often as a coach and psychotherapist, I find it inspiring and humbling to be a part of my clients’ processes and marvel that they actually handle some circumstances way better than I – they are my greatest teachers! Selling one’s home is not for the faint of heart; it’s a daunting physical and emotional challenge, laden with difficult decisions, annoying personalities, stress, expense, and drama. Going through this process at this time in my life has heightened my sensitivity and empathy for just how significant it can be to let go of your home.

I’ve moved before, several times actually, but this move feels significantly different. From a young married couple moving out of their first apartment to being pregnant and buying our first home to then buying the larger, family home in the great family-friendly town with children in tow – each move felt limitless and dedicated to building and growth. Now, our children are grown and the family-friendly town is filling with new, young couples who are taking their turn growing their families. And, my beautiful home that has my signature in every room, with its enormous backyard and custom kitchen, is filled with “stuff” that no longer supports our vision of what we value moving forward. The Poet Mary Oliver wrote in her beautiful poem “Wild Geese”: “the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting…over and over announcing your place in the family of things.” Our “place” is to move on….

When we bought this home, we valued stability, a great school system, the home base for extended family and holidays, but time has passed and needs change and we have created a new values list. What we value most now is freedom, the ability to travel, ease in our days and deciding how best to use our time and money wisely. While my backyard and kitchen still take my breath away and I adore waking to the sound of dozens of birds first thing in the morning, I have way too many pots and cookbooks and the backyard is impossible to keep up with. With some chagrin I realize that there are birds everywhere and Pinterest has every recipe imaginable so I don’t have to do without. I just need my life to be more efficient and precise.

I won’t lie; in the past few weeks I’ve cried a few buckets. At the same time, I work diligently on keeping my focus on where I’m going and what I NEED to bring with me. I consistently remind myself of what I’m excited about in the future….as Dr Seus said “oh the places you’ll go…..” I’ve created a vision board to keep the vision and intention concrete and my motivation high. I know there are land mines along the way… I’m attached to my stuff and I’m going to have ridiculous moments of not being able to let go of something in the attic that I haven’t seen in 20 years. I’m trying to be gentle with myself and allow for the interplay between my heart and head. And, if all else fails self-compassion comes in the vision of a storage unit that will give me the time and space to ease into our new, downsized reality.

My expertise is helping people transition through all the changes that life offers.  As a Retirement Coach, my job is to help you successfully create a fulfilling, exciting new chapter.  No matter where in the world you are or how busy your life is, the phone, Skype, FaceTime, and the internet make our meetings easy to manage – or we can meet in person in the NYC / NJ area.  Let’s talk about how we can work together!