6 minute read

Tips to help when downsizing

By Linda Thorsen Bond for Aging at Altitude

It is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than to fit a lifetime of possessions into a much smaller space. What can you do when your closets are full, the storage area jam-packed, the garage is piled to the top and a voice bellows, “You must downsize. NOW!”

Fear not, there is help available. Aging at Altitude explored downsizing with two experts, Beth Blacker of It’s Just Stuff and Clarissa Edelen, owner of Fabulous Finds.

Blacker offers six tips for people who are surveying the detritus of a life well lived and feeling despair.

Give Yourself Time

The founder of It’s Just Stuff said, “For a lot of people downsizing or going to assisted living is so emotionally difficult. It’s not because they want to keep everything, but they are looking back on more years than they have ahead which then makes them very nostalgic and, therefore, often just sad. I try to impress on seniors or their family members to give themselves time to reflect, to go through, to wrap their heads around the things they have collected all their lives and realize they can only fit so much in a small living space. It can paralyze them and then they emotionally shut down. It’s not something anybody should ever disparage or criticize. Allow a proper amount of time to work on it. I tell people it’s important to work as far in advance as possible.

Work In Chunks Of Time

Downsizing takes a lot of energy. Nothing is harder than trying to do it all in one day. I recommend people sort in small chunks of time. Maybe break the work into 15- or 20-minute chunks; even set an alarm and when it goes off, stop. Then if you feel good after 5 minutes, work another chunk of time and take another break. Keep doing this for as long as you can on a given day and you will be less likely to get overwhelmed. Remember, there’s physical effort involved, and even the mental work feels physical. Allow proper chunks of time, so that you don’t get frustrated and not want to do it.

Downsize Before Downsizing

We all think we have plenty of time. Every move I’ve made I’ve gotten rid of that much more stuff Don’t wait until it’s time to downsize before you start organizing things. Time is important and everything can be worked on gradually.

Give Things To Friends

My mother had quite a few designer purses. When she died, I had her friends come over and I let them each pick

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Dealing With Photos

It’s especially hard to sort photos. The memories will be there, and the photos have stories to tell. If the photos are of anybody who is long gone and you don’t know who’s in the picture, throw it out. You can have photos you know and care about scanned and send them digitized to anyone you think would want them.

No Judgments

I come in to help people because I bring a fresh set of eyes, ears (listening is so important in this process) and hands. Downsizing requires patience, compassion, empathy and vision. I help people start with the low-hanging fruit and see what they don’t need. I suggest they set themselves up for success by finding things that are easy to do at first and, therefore, they can trick their brain into accomplishing something in the first hour. When people lose momentum and motivation, and clients say, “I don’t know where to start,” I just say, “I do.” This is my superpower, but it doesn’t mean it is yours and that is okay so let go of any guilt you may be feeling and just remember it took you more than a day to collect all of your stuff so it will take more than a day to edit it all.

Clarissa Edelen, owner of the two 5,000-squarefoot Fabulous Finds shops in Longmont, provides a new life for valuable women’s fashion and home furnishings.

Edelen said, “I love what we do. It’s a win-win business. People have to get rid of good quality fashion or home furnishings and they don’t want to donate them to a thrift store. They want to know that things they love and treasure get into the hands of people who like what they had. When people don’t want to part with things but need to, when they have to downsize for moving, for example, into independent living, that’s where we come in. We can come in and take a hard objective look at what they have.

We do mobile consignments and can go through the whole house and select what we can sell. We are curating what comes into our stores. After 12 years I can see the trends in fashion and home design and know what we’re looking for. For example, we only take clothing that’s within the last two to three years. In the home furnishing store, we take all quality genres in design, from shabby chic to glamour and brands like Restoration Hardware and Crate and Barrel. We don’t take appliances except maybe a new little countertop appliance in a box like a Cuisinart. We take fine crystal, fine sterling décor items, original artwork, and everything from rugs to chandeliers. We help people who are downsizing, someone going into assisted living and sometimes people who are moving. When a house sells, sometimes the whole kit and caboodle needs to be dealt with. We can reboot and try to accommodate that. Some of our customers are property stagers, real estate agents, interior designers, and other people with a design group who are looking to design homes that are going on the market. Edelen has a list of guidelines for working with Fabulous Finds for consignment. Go to fabfindsconsign.com/ consignment.

Senior homeowners might qualify for up to $1000 through a new Senior Housing Income Tax Credit available for the 2022 tax year. The Colorado Legislature recently passed HB22-1205 to provide some relief during this time of high inflation for seniors living in apartments or lowincome housing, which is a large portion of the senior population. To qualify for the Colorado Senior Property Tax Exemption, you must be over 65 and have lived in your home for 10 years or more. The new credit is intended for the many seniors who don’t qualify for the exemption.

Residents that were 65 or older as of January 2022; have an adjusted gross income of less than $75,000; and haven’t claimed a homestead property tax exemption for the 2022 property tax year will qualify for this credit. Seniors with a federal adjusted gross income (AGI) that is $25,000 or less will receive $1000 of the credit. For every $500 of AGI above $25,000, the amount of the credit is reduced by $10. “There are additional rules whether you file individually or jointly so ask your accountant for more details,” says Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES) Dale Pearson. “This tax credit is small but can help during these inflationary times.”

The easiest way to get the credit is to file a Colorado state tax return. Even if you have no tax liability, you may be eligible for the credit. Luckily, while many credits can no longer be claimed after April 15, the Senior Housing Income Tax Credit will be available until at least October 15. Even if you’re a senior that doesn’t qualify for this credit, you can still benefit from years of appreciation if you’ve been in your home for some time. That equity can assist you if a move is in your plans. “It’s important to have a plan, whether you’re buying or selling a home in this market,” says Pearson.

“A Realtor with SRES Designation can answer your questions and assist in the process so that you can have success in achieving your specific goals. Some Realtors with the SRES Designation are also seniors themselves and have actual first-hand experience with downsizing and seniorspecific relocation needs.”

> Visit Vejrostek Tax & Financial at the upcoming Aging at Altitude Expo on April 22 (see page 42) for more information about the New Senior Housing tax credit.