Downsizing before a move can be equally liberating and overwhelming. But for seniors who have amassed many possessions over the years, it can be an especially tough task.
In 2010, members of the National Association of Senior Move Managers reported that 98 percent of their senior clients downsized before relocating. If you’re among the many seniors moving into smaller living spaces, begin the downsizing process about 90 days before moving, says Greg Gunderson, owner and president of Gentle Transitions, a senior relocation services company located in Manhattan Beach, Calif.
“The most time-consuming part is the decision-making process,” Gunderson says. But even after deciding what stays and what goes, Gunderson says one question remains: “What’s the best way to get rid of the items I don’t want?”
Whether you’re looking to donate your book collection or sell your grand piano, here are four ways to give your possessions a new home.
Hold an estate sale
Consider partnering with an estate sales group that can facilitate the auction or sale of your belongings at the site of your home.
“These groups have a good sense of how to price your items and can help with organizing the sale,” Gunderson says.
You may even ask the group to conduct the sale on your behalf once you’ve moved to a new residence, as it may be difficult to carry out daily activities and hold a sale while you still live in the home. To find a qualified estate sales group, Gunderson suggests consulting local real estate agents for recommendations of reputable estate sale groups in your area.
Cost: The estate sales group typically receives a percentage of the sales from the estate sale. According to Gunderson, the estate sales group usually gets 35 to 40 percent of the sales, while the homeowner gets 60 to 65 percent of the sales.
Contact an auction house
If you have high-end valuables such as antique furniture, artwork or collectibles, consider letting an auction house take over the sale of those items.
“An auction house will come and pick up items from the home and take them to sell at an off-site location,” he says. Items typically sell within 60 days, according to Gunderson.
Cost: The auction house receives a percentage of the sales from the auction. Generally, the homeowner gets anywhere from 50 to 80 percent of the sales, while the auction house gets 20 to 50 percent of the sales.
Donate to a charity
Thinking about passing your possessions to those in need? Call the charity of your choice (for example Salvation Army, Goodwill) in advance to give them a list of the items you’d like to donate.
“Sometimes a charity is unwilling to take something because they simply can’t sell it,” Gunderson says.
If you need the charity to come to your home to pick up the items, be sure to call at least a week in advance to make arrangements. Gunderson says some charities do not run pick-up routes in particular areas or are tied up with other donations, so it’s important to call ahead.
Cost: No cost if you’re dropping off items; call the charity to see if there are any fees for pick-ups at your home.
Hire a paper-shredding service
Downsizing seniors often find that in addition to possessions, they’ve likely accumulated several years’ worth of financial documents, bank statements and other private paperwork. Since these records can contain confidential information, Gunderson says it’s important to practice caution when removing them from your home.
“Home shredding machines aren’t fit for destroying boxes and boxes of paper records,” Gunderson says. “A professional service can make things easier and help ensure that paperwork is discarded properly—some will even come to your home and shred paperwork onsite.”
Cost: Shredding services can charge anywhere from $15 to $25 per week for pickup or $35 to $45 for a one-time shred. For a cheaper option, check your local newspaper for free community shredding events at local banks or municipal offices.
Parting with possessions you’ve owned for years doesn’t have to be emotionally and physically taxing. With a little help, you can easily dispense of things you no longer need and enjoy a fresh start in your new home.