Five Tips for Minimizing Stress and Maximizing Joy

Here are some of the lessons we learned, both through our own experience, and by talking with the people who interviewed for our book, Moving On.

1. Remember who’s in charge. Whenever possible, the people who are making the move should be the ones also making the decisions if that is their desire. Helpers, whether they are professionals or family members, should always keep in mind that there can be a fine line between offering help that is truly helpful, and simply being a nuisance.

2. Take your time. This is the one piece of advice we heard over and over again, from professionals as well as those who had been through the experience of downsizing a family home. Starting early means you’ll have plenty of time to talk things over as a family (for those who want to); plan ahead; and have some fun along the way. It also gives you the advantage of being able to back away from difficult decisions and approach them again later, which can be very helpful in defusing situations in which family harmony threatens to fall apart.

3. Communicate. Consider scheduling a family meeting—or at least a conference call or video chat—before you start actually getting rid of things. Be sure to discuss not only who will get what but who will do what. How can family members and others be helpful in this process? Who will do what, and when will they do it? Try to remember that this process is difficult for many people, and that no two people feel exactly the same way about it. Have respect for your individual differences, and sympathy for the feelings of others.

4. Get help. Downsizing a home can be daunting physically as well as emotionally. No one can do it alone, and no one should try. Enlist the help of family, friends, and professionals to help you with the biggest parts of the job. But don’t be afraid to let people know if you’re not yet ready for help, or if there are certain tasks you’d rather do by yourself, and privately.

5. Have fun! This can be a great time for capturing family stories, celebrating with friends and family one last time in a home you’ve loved, and sharing memories. Leave room in the schedule to have some fun along the way, so that when you close the door for the last time, you’ll carry some recent happy memories along with you to your new home.

Linda Hetzer is an editor and author of books on home designcrafts, and food. Janet Hulstrand is a writer/editor,  writing coach  and travel blogger. They are the coauthors of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home.

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