Downsizing And Transitioning Into A New Chapter…. Where Do We Start?
You are getting close to being 70 and you no longer love what you do as much. The house that you worked so hard to renovate and make it your sanctuary ain’t cutting it anymore, although the kitchen is still your favorite spot. Family and friends are moving on to new careers, ventures and places while you are thinking about what’s next for you. You long for change that is both purposeful and fun. …….. How does one begin?
I never gave much thought about retiring before 70, although early on I worked with a financial planner with the goal of working less. I often wondered what would I do with so much free time. Over time, it’s fair to say that my interest in travel, art, photography were becoming a larger part of my world, which led me to create a blog as a first step to exploring a new chapter in my life…traveling freely without a permanent place called home.
However, procrastination has a way of slowing down one’s dreams or desires, if you let it. Nothing like a pandemic to make you realize how fragile life is and how time is not on your side — much like a good kick in the butt to get you started.
The Dreaded D Word …. DOWNSIZING
Next step was to write out a plan to downsize my consulting practice towards closure, prepare my house for sale and get rid of 50% of my stuff. I had less than three years to get this done if I was going to meet my 70th birthday benchmark …. I was determined.
You may ask why 70 and not sooner? Several reasons — -waiting out the pandemic, maxing out my social security benefits and meeting client obligations. Letting go of clients had to be done strategically. After all, I had bills to pay. Each of those years, I dropped the number of clients while reducing my expenses and paying off debt. By 2023, I managed only two clients ending those contracts in July, the same time I sold the house.
The more arduous task was downsizing and letting go of the house. At some point, you had to stop having gatherings and start getting rid of things. There was not a room, closet, or drawer that was not full of stuff. I am not one to live in clutter, but as a baby boomer, I have serious hoarding tendencies. Baby boomers are hoarders of a different species, not anywhere near what this affliction can be, but hoarders, nonetheless. This is actually my second story on the topic of downsizing. (Click here for Downsizing In Your 70s Without Becoming A Minimalist).
What I learned from this experience was a couple of things …first you need to let go of stuff, which you think you need, but you don’t. We get emotionally tied to stuff and letting go becomes overwhelming. My sister pushed me hard on this, at times making fun of how ridiculous it is to hold on to things. Second, you need to get rid of things early on to avoid having to pay to dispose of it. You start with selling as much as you can and scheduling ongoing charity pickups. Yes, if you can, do the dreaded garage sale. It does help to get rid of a lot of items and you do meet some nice people. Beware, it’s a lot of work and people want stuff super cheap. Remember, let them pay you for getting rid of it at whatever cost, otherwise it winds up back in the house.
Every time I opened a closet or a drawer, there was more stuff to get rid of. In total, I donated over 50 boxes of items for six charity pickups. I also had friends and family pickup stuff. One of my nonprofit clients rescued all the office furniture, which was substantial and in great shape. By the end of June, I posted locally free furniture that I could not sell or donate to charity since many no longer pickup large bulky items. I was able to get rid of two big sofa pieces and a file cabinet. What was left was old stressed dressers, night tables, a bunch of file cabinets, and a lot of construction leftovers from renovations done on the house. The worst was the 30+ cans of old paint. Clearing out the garage and the basement costed me $625 with 6 days left to close the house. A word of advice whether you are staying or leaving, get rid of stuff early, make the time now to eliminate items, especially paint, which is getting harder to dispose of or recycle.
Downsizing is the first step to moving on with your life, but certainly not the only thing. Next month’s newsletter I will dig in a bit more on what else was on the work plan towards becoming a nomad in my 70s.
For now, I am enjoying my 6 weeks hiatus in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood planning my first year on the road.
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AUGUST 2, 2023