Boomer downsizing a big step into a smaller place

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As I age with my boomer friends, I hear more talk about downsizing. I see it on social networks, hear it in conversations and see guides posted on the Internet.

Moving from a large house to a smaller house or apartment stems both from the economy and from lifestyle choices. Some of what I see and hear includes discussions on one’s personal health, parents’ health, saving money, and ease of maintenance. As a recently downsized boomer, I can attest to the fact that these are all valid reasons.

My own move was the result of personal health. I could no longer climb the many stairs to my second floor, three-bedroom apartment. Two of the rooms were no longer occupied by family and roommates who had moved out. While my pending knee surgery was the catalyst, it was something I had been thinking about. Now pressed with the need to do it now and do it quickly, I had no time for the usual recommended pre-sorting. The chance to decide what I must have, what I could replace, and what I could do without had passed. It’s a big help to have the time to do that kind of pre-sorting. It saves money on what you have to move, and gives you a good idea of what needs to go first when space is a premium.

As a result of my time crunch I found myself in a one bedroom apartment surrounded by years of collectible stuff, things I needed and things I didn’t. I had a large white cat once who insisted on squeezing himself into the smallest boxes he could find. The sides bulged and he filled every square inch. My apartment was my box and I was squished in. What do you do if you suddenly find yourself time crunched and unable to pre-plan such a move? Simple. I got professional help.

After some research I found a unique service provided by Melanie Aquillard. Her On the Geaux services include unpacking and organizing homes and storage areas. Talking to her and explaining my circumstances was a bit embarrassing for me because I am a natural organizer. I was having my furniture delivered and placed first. The volume of boxes was my nemesis. Ordinarily this would not be a problem for me, but now I needed help. I held my breath as I waiting for her decision to take me on as a client. Her immediate confidence and professional attitude helped me to make the decision to go for it.

In a few hours she had the apartment organized, items moved to storage, and I never listed a finger. Since her unpacking and re-organization in my new space there has been little I have had to change. She offered suggestions to make things easier, like keeping things visible so they will be used, and pointing out useable space available where I thought there was none. She was generous with other tips as well. I have a large dining table and chairs that fill the dining area. Working fulltime and not having the inclination to cook much, I may rethink that space. I usually eat on the run but I love tech toys. Maybe it could be an office.

I don’t have a large outdoor area but I like potted plants on my patio. She suggested I find a box to put my gardening tools in that is mobile and easily moved outside when I want it. For others with a lot of outside equipment she highly recommends the outdoor storage boxes for chair pads, barbeque tools, and pool toys.

Her tips for inside the apartment were to remember to store up and not out. Floor space is a premium so look for that unused space in the top of your closets for organizing boxes. I have one for my art supplies, one for writing, and one for crafts. Color coordinating boxes or labels help you to see at a glance where to find winter sweaters, supplies, or memory boxes. One caveat is to plan what will go in the boxes before making your box purchases. This helps avoid the tendency to put those unneeded items in a box just to keep them. Think again about what is necessary, what can be replaced, and items that can be sold or given away.

Downsizing can be stressing but there are benefits. Many people move to places that allow them to walk to work to save on gas or to eliminate a car. Others like me enjoy the ease of maintenance.

It’s also good to know that you don’t have to do it alone. There are professional organizers to help you if the going gets tough.

As I relax at home now, I realize I have freed myself from home maintenance like painting, repairs and lawn care.

I’m saving money on utilities and payments for living space. I may have to make accommodations when family comes to town but at least I can visit with them as a calmer and stress free person.

If you are thinking about downsizing, there are several articles on the Internet for planning your move. Remember also that there are services available for after the move to help organize and unpack your new home into a useable space quickly and efficiently.

Avoid the boxed-in-cat feeling and enjoy your move as a positive step with before- and after- move plans.

Human Condition is a column for Advocate readers about poignant or funny stories, approximately 600 words in length. Send submissions to: Human Condition, Features, The Advocate, 7290 Bluebonnet Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70810, or email submissions to jbergeron@theadvocate.com or fun@theadvocate.com. If you would like your submission to appear on our website, include a sentence stating that you would like your submission to appear online as well as in the print edition. Manuscripts will not be returned but are kept on file for one year to allow early submission of seasonal stories (Christmas, Halloween tales, etc.). There is no payment for Human Condition.