Moving, downsizing and simplifying in retirement

Are you contemplating downsizing for retirement? A recent presentation in Victoria, B.C. on downsizing filled a room and then overflowed into the hall. Over three times the expected number of people came. It was entirely women. Some were there to learn how to deal with their parent’s home after a move into a care facility or after the death of their spouse. Some were there to prepare for their own move to a renovated cottage, to another part of the country, or just to a smaller home. A few were in the throes of a separation or divorce and were dividing assets and their books, art, and music collections. The questions were pointed and prolific.

What do we do with all the stuff?

How do we know what to toss and what to sell? Where can we sell it? How do we decide who gets what items from the family valuables without stepping into an emotional minefield or ending up with hard feelings or disputes? Are there mediators or books or consultants to help with this process? What is grandma’ssilver tea service worth? How can we place value on these items and others? Where can we donate our excess stuff? Can we get a tax receipt?


Lots of Boomers are dealing with downsizing at their own homes or their parents’ homes. Some want to reduce expenses, move closer to their children, enjoy a change of climate, simplify their lifestyles, generate some retirement income from the sale of their principal residence, move to a smaller and easier to manage property, etc. Often a change in family circumstances puts them in the position of having to clean out a home. It could be their own home or another family member’s place.

Hiring help

A recent visit to the CARP (Canadian Association of Retired Persons) expo and show featured a number of businesses providing downsizing and decluttering assistance. In my local area, I have seen four companies spring up to meet the needs for this kind of service. One has the catchy name of Moving Mom, and another simply, Dumpsters. These companies help to do everything including:

  • assessing the value of the contents,
  • choosing and send some things to an auction or consignment store,
  • organizing and running a garage sale,
  • donating to the local women’s shelter or Salvation Army,
  • getting and filling a dumpster.
  • helping to sort, pack, label, and facilitate the move of goods and even the people to the next home.

Many levels of service are available from appraisals to dump runs. You may want to check the reputation of the service carefully before hiring them.

Personal styles

Some people go with the blitz approach and work fast to get the job done. Others look at each photograph, each chair and table, and every hat and coat. They then decide the best home or destination for each piece so that nothing is overlooked. Some rent storage units and sort from there if the home is sold. Each family has a different style of dealing with their own or their family member’s possessions.

“We are never doing this to our kids,” is a line I hear regularly. If that is indeed the case, then start soon, be thorough and thoughtful, and ask for help if it is all too overwhelming. As George Carlin pointed out, “We all need to deal with our stuff.” The good news is that many I have interviewed have said how unburdened they felt when all the sorting and tossing was done.


  1. Keith McDonald

    forward planning …actual event still a year or two away

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