Cary Farrell

Downsizing your home: Why you should enlist help

by Cary Farrell
July 22, 2019

It’s wedding week at the Farrell house again.  Our middle daughter is marrying her high school sweetheart that we already consider a son.   Bridal showers and wedding gifts are helping them acquire all the little things that help to make a home function smoothly.  They are so excited to receive those items and to place them in their first apartment together.

My encouragement to all newlyweds is to gather items slowly, making sure they truly need the items they desire and to keep up with the continual purge as they grow together. The acquiring is so much more fun than the getting rid of when it is time to downsize.  How we go from nothing to more than we know what to do with is a sneaky process in life.  

I have the opportunity to assist many clients in the process of moving and/or downsizing. It is an overwhelming task to look at all that a family or individual has acquired in their lifetime and to know where to begin in the process of preparing them to downsize or move.  

I recently sat down with my client, Linda, who graciously allowed me to interview her regarding her experience with me as her professional organizer in her moving and downsizing process. Her goal through this interview is to encourage others who might be looking for this kind of help or who need encouragement to make the call for help.  
Interview with my client, Linda, about Downsizing:

Cary:  Linda, what prompted you to contact me?

Linda:  I was in a two story home by myself after my son moved out.  I knew that the home was too much for me and that I needed to do a big de-clutter to prepare for the move.  I didn’t want my move to include a massive hauling of all the old stuff I didn’t need.

Cary:  How did you know about my services?

Linda:  I did a web search for “de-clutter” and was surprised to find that there were professionals that I could hire to come in and help me! Your picture on your web site drew me to you.  There was something in your face that looked open and friendly and I said, “I think I can work with her.”

Cary:  Were you nervous about reaching out for help?

Linda:  Immediately after we started emailing each other, I felt good about reaching out.  I felt that you were going to know what I needed and that I would be able to communicate with you. I didn’t have any hesitation at all.

Cary:  Were you nervous or anxious about having me come into your home?

Linda:  I was excited to have someone coming in to help me because I felt overwhelmed.

Cary:  What were some of your first impressions of me when I came for the consultation?

Linda: The first impression I had was that you were non-judgmental. When you are inviting someone into your cluttered, slightly dirty, home, you are afraid and embarrassed. You never made me feel that way. You were non-judgmental in everything, beginning to end. You looked around and immediately grasped what I needed to do and I never felt that you were judging me and/or the way my house looked.

Cary: Do you remember some of the emotions you felt at that first consultation as we came across some of your deceased parent’s and adult son’s possessions?

Linda:  There were certain things that brought up emotions.  My mind said, “Linda, you can’t take all of these items with you to a home half this size.” But my heart said, “these meant so much to my mother or my father.” You helped me walk through that process. Did they mean something to me or were my emotions coming because they meant something to my mother? That question helped me make those decisions.

Cary: Because you knew you wanted to downsize after you retired, you gave yourself time to downsize.  Then you took a break for your son’s wedding before you went new home hunting.  You also had the luxury of moving into your new place before you prepared your old home to sell, which was nice as well.

Linda: Yes, decluttering is hard and it gave me time to process.  When we were done decluttering all my belongings, it helped me to see what I had kept which helped me know what size home I wanted to look for next.  That was better than searching for a new home and figuring out what was going to fit.

Cary: You chose your treasures and then found a home that would hold your treasures.

Linda: Exactly!

Cary:  Tell us about the process of de-cluttering your home and what it was like for you.

Linda: It was tiresome! Not physically, because you did all of the work.  But as you pointed out to me when I would have my weepy moments, I was also working hard as I processed through my emotions.  There were certain things you said that really helped me.  I was exhausted when you left after each 4 hour session as if I had done the physical work.  

Cary: The decision making is what can be the most exhausting.  I was pushing you to make decisions that would have taken you much longer on your own.

Linda: Oh I would just have put it off saying I don’t feel like it today. But having you there pushed me to get it done and I didn’t regret the process nor did I look back wishing I had not started this process.  You made the process doable.

Cary: Did you feel over-pushed at times?

Linda: No, because I felt that we were on a mission.  There were times that it was hard for me to move at the pace we set, but I knew it had to be done and I didn’t want to drag it out any longer than necessary. You also broke down the process into small pieces.  We had a plan and I knew what room we were going to work on each time you came which helped me to prepare mentally and emotionally for what we were going to work on.

Cary: I think a good example is a physical therapist who pushes you beyond what you think you can do at times but has your best interest in mind to help you have a speedy recovery.

Linda: You gave me the gentle nudges I needed to get the project done.  You would remind me of my goals when I got tired or weepy to encourage me that this project had to get done and that we would accomplish it together.

Cary: Step 1 was to Declutter.  Step 2 was to get you moved into your new home. Why did you call me for step 2?

Linda: We had worked so well together in the decluttering that I knew I wanted to work with you as I faced this daunting task of moving as a single woman.  I wanted someone who was going to take charge and handle all the movers, schedules, and details that I didn’t want to deal with.  You work hard, you never stop and I knew you would get the job done.

Cary: Were you anxious or nervous about moving into a new place?

Linda: Every time I had moved in the past, I was overwhelmed and down because I had to adjust to the change. I was prepared to feel that this time, but I was amazed at how I felt after this move. Instead of spending days walking around boxes unable to perform basic functions and being depressed with the daunting task of unpacking and settling in, you immediately unpacked my kitchen, bathroom and bedroom that first day.  I felt at home that first night. My bed was made, my bathroom was set up, my kitchen was set up. I could make coffee! Hey, I can survive! I sat in my living room and looked around saying to myself “I am happy.”  This is what I wanted. I was anxious before the move, knowing my past history, but this move was smooth and I didn’t have any anxiety after the move.  

Cary: Did you feel that I was able to provide you with other service providers that helped to make this move smooth?

Linda: Yes!  The movers were great and they worked well with you. The interior designer helped me quickly turn my house into a home using what I already had and adding a few pieces to pull it all together.

Cary: What words of wisdom would you offer to a friend who is getting ready to move?

Linda: NEVER move without downsizing first. Get rid of the old stuff before you pack it up and move it to the new house thinking that you will go through it later, because you won’t!  

Cary: When we unpacked you in your new house, every item we pulled out of the boxes made you smile and had a place to live. And you weren’t left with unopened boxes to shove in the attic for your son to have to deal with one day.

Linda: Yes, my son watched me struggle going through my mother’s entire home when she passed. No one should have to grieve the loss of a loved one while getting rid of all their possessions.  It was so hard! I was solely responsible for getting rid of everything in her home that she had been in for 50 years and never decluttered.  I told myself that I would never do that to my child.  It was a nightmare to grieve my loss and to go into that house day after day, month after month, and sort through her possessions.   I have told my son that this is my gift to him.  I had him walk with me through the house and take whatever he wanted so he had a say in what I got rid of. I am so thankful that I am not leaving my son with a big house and an attic full of my life’s collections to sort through.

Cary:  Decluttering and taking care of your own possessions is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your children.  

Linda: I think other people would benefit from your services as they process through the emotional aspects of downsizing. Cary, one of the most important things to me was that you never made the decisions for me.  You walked me through the tough ones and guided my thinking, but you let me make the decision. When I came to an item that I was struggling with, I would stop and ask you to walk me through it and that was the biggest thing you could have given me. You had a great intuition with me. You have a good way with people.

Cary: Linda, thank you for your time today and I hope others will be encouraged by your testimony to pick up the phone to get help from a professional organizer who can make the moving and downsizing process so much easier.  I love your new home and it makes me smile to see you so happy here amongst your treasures.