real estate
Downsizing: Do it while you can
August 22, 2012


Moving from one home to another can be stressful, but for senior citizens who are downsizing from their longtime home to something smaller, it can be overwhelming.

"Nobody wants to ever talk about moving," said Matt Spiller of Westerville. "Many of you may be saying, 'I'm never going to move,' and that's OK. We just want to give you some tips of how to start dealing with everything you've collected over the years"

Spiller and his wife, Karen, operate Smooth Transitions of Central Ohio, a full-service senior move management organization. He presented "Keep It Moving: How, Why and When to Start Thinking About Downsizing" during a Lunch and Leave event at the Findlay Senior Center Thursday.

Spiller said his grandmother was 91 when she died in Florida.

"The last several years it was difficult for her to manage," he said. "I asked her, 'Grandma, do you think maybe it's time for you to move?' She said, 'I'm going to move, feet first in a pine box. That's when I'm going to move. I'm not moving. I'm not going anywhere.'"

Many people have the same mind set, he said.

"You may be thinking the same thing, 'I'm not going.' Or you may be thinking, 'I'd like to move, but what do I do with all my stuff?'" he said.

Spiller offered several pieces of advice when people start to think about reducing the things they have. First, do it while you're in charge, he said.

"You've got family. You've got friends. You've got ideas about what you want. Whether you're moving or not, if you have specific plans for certain things, you've got to start thinking about that and doing it now while you are in charge, before something happens," he said.

Document those wishes, said Spiller.

"Start writing it down. Use a computer, make a list. Whatever you have to do, write it down so you have some idea of what you want. It's easy to forget if you have a lot of stuff in your home," he said.

One simple technique is to use colored sticky notes; a different color for each family member or friend.

"Walk around your home thinking about what you want to keep and what you want people to have," he said.

Then place a note on the item, making sure to use the correct color for the right person. Later you can make a list by referring to the sticky notes, he said.

Seniors should also remember that their children may not want all of their items.

"They've got lives of their own," Spiller said. "They've got their own stuff."

His own mother collects frog figurines.

"Her home is full of all kinds of different frogs," he said. "That's neat, but God forbid she goes tomorrow. I don't want those frogs. Nobody is going to make me take them."

"Some of it your children or family are going to want because it's sentimental and it's valuable ... it's worth having. But some of it, they just don't want," he said.

For example, do you really need a cupboard of plastic butter dishes, he asked.

"Two or three will do you. Fifty is too many," he said.

Spiller's parents bought a house from a woman who had lived in it for 40 years.

"It was not an easy decision to make the move. It was emotional," he said.

"We ended up helping her move her stuff out before we could move our stuff in. My mom and I went downstairs. She had hundreds of plastic containers, and she was wrapping each one individually in paper. I thought, Oh man, we're going to be here for a year," he said.

Spiller's second point was to keep things moving; the flow of items should be outward, not inward.

"You can use some of those empty baby food jars for keeping nuts and bolts. But if you find you have piles, it's time to recycle," he said.

Plastic containers can also be given to elementary schools and art classes for projects, he said.

"I like recycling though because it will become something else," Spiller said.

Other items he suggested recycling were eight-track and cassette tapes, books and magazines.

"Glossy magazines can be expensive," he said. "You hate to just throw them away."

Pass them along to neighbors or friends, he said. If there are a couple of recipes or articles that you want, cut them out and keep them in a folder, then recycle the rest of the magazine. Spiller also takes recent magazines to his doctor's office for the waiting room.

"National Geographic (magazines) are great to keep and they have some historical value. Most people keep them because they think they're valuable. They're not valuable," he said. "There's too many of them out there. So if you have one from your birth year or one from when man landed on the moon, keep a couple. But holding onto them because you think they'll have value, no."

When it comes to clothing, people should remember the one-year rule.

"If you haven't worn it in one year, donate it," Spiller said.

If you have clothing or shoes that have been sitting in a closet because they need mended or repaired, "get it out and keep it moving," he said.

Spiller's third piece of advice was to help others by donating.

"If the Volunteers of America, the Kidney Foundation, anybody calls you and asks if you have anything you can donate, tell them 'Yes, yes, yes,'" he said.

Tax deductions are available by donating to charity, he noted.

"You've loved your things. Give them to someone who will love them as well," said Spiller. "Your family can't take everything. They have their own things."

The same goes for extra towels and sheets that are bulky and take up lots of space.

Spiller noted that old bills and bank statements should be kept for one year, then shredded and recycled. Tax papers should be kept seven years.

"We're giving you permission to get rid of it. Give yourself permission," he said. "Donate it, sell it, throw it away."


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