“Bigger is better” may be the motto of many house hunters, but a sizable number of people want to downsize with their next home purchase.
With a smaller house comes less space, and culling all the “stuff” is a big challenge. This is often particularly true for empty nesters and seniors, who have a lifetime of possessions from themselves and even kids. Who wants to throw out precious memories?
But getting rid of a lot of the stuff is the reality for downsizing, and there’s professional help available to categorize, sort, and help people deal with emotional ties to possessions.
Brooke Evans is just that person, working with seniors moving into assisted living, as well as people of all ages looking to live in a smaller footprint. She is the managing director of Senior Focused Relocations, a Dallas-based company that has done around 2,500 moves since it opened in 2005.
“We help seniors with the downsizing and organization process, thinking through going from their house they’ve often been in for 30 or 40 years, to something smaller,” Evans said. “We call is ‘right-sizing,’ which means adjusting to the space requirements they’ll have, what fits the frame of life they’re actually in. Most people aren’t using the majority of their house.”
While her expertise is with seniors, the advice and understanding she offers works for anyone looking to downsize and plan out the new space. Evans talks about not being owned by one’s possessions, figuring out priorities, and embracing living in a smaller home with fewer possessions. She calls it liberating.
“There is a movement toward more of a minimalist approach and a lot of people are embracing the idea of moving [into smaller homes],” she said. “We are interested in figuring out what to cull, what items brings joy—there’s no one-size-fits-all for getting rid of your items. It’s a process.”
When people downsize, Evans said, it’s the memories attached to objects that matter. So instead of keeping a full dining room set, she encourages them to keep two chairs, for example. Or from a china set for 12, keep two place settings and sell the rest. Sets can be broken up with a few pieces retained so the happy memories are preserved.
Evans works frequently with people moving into the Edgemere retirement community in East Dallas. She comes into their current home, measures everything, and helps them figure out what will fit and what won’t in their new, smaller home. Depending on what services a homeowner chooses from Evans, they might need a basic consultation, or they might want the full-service measure-cull-pack-move-unpack-arrange package.
Evans also helps clients figure out what to do with the things they aren’t taking to their smaller home: estate sale? Consignment shop? Give to children? Or charity?
“I am walking them through the process, organizing their selections, and our approach doesn’t take them down too many rabbit holes—we ask them to do homework so we’re not there 40 hours going through objects,” she said.
The key to a happy move into a smaller space is to focus on the positive changes, says John Falldine, managing director of Edgemere.
“The way to help people to adjust to the space is not to have them adjust to the apartment — our job is really to distract them from the change by making all the positive aspects of the community more important,” Falldine said. “We want them to focus on all the things that are available to them in the community that they didn’t have in their home. They are upsizing in terms of options and quality of life.”
The same could be said for any person downsizing, not just seniors moving to a retirement community—fewer possessions and less square footage means more freedom, less cleaning and maintenance, and more time to pursue new options.
“Many are excited about downsizing – they’re not living in their whole house and it’s nice not having to do their yard or worry about maintenance or worry about if something were to happen to them and they were alone,” Evans said. “I typically see they love having the updated décor, flooring, and walls, and [the new, smaller space] brings new life to the furniture and decorative items. They have selected the things that really matter to them so they’re surrounded by just what’s really important.”
The cost of a downsizing expert ranges hugely, depending on services provided. Senior Focused Relocations can cost $800, and it can cost $8,000 for a full-service downsizing, including measurements and space-planning, packing, professional moving, unpacking, and organizing belongings in the new home.