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Advice & More May 2016

Ask Miss Nora

Right Time to Downsize

Obviously, your children fear that you might be depressed and waiting for your own death, taken advantage of, or regret your decision to reduce your lifestyle once it’s all done and dusted.

Dear Miss Nora: I’m having trouble convincing my children that I’m not going crazy or losing the will to live all because I’m getting rid of anything superfluous and considerably downsizing my home. I’ve thought this through and considered every item in my home as to its need or purpose.

I lost my husband last year after a lengthy illness and I now feel ready to economize in order to live a much more modest lifestyle. I asked each of my three children to come collect anything they wanted and to fight it out amongst themselves as to who gets what. None of what I have is particularly valuable and my children took sentimental heirlooms with them when they set up their own homes. What I would be discarding is the accumulation of many years of junk collecting, books and well-worn furniture.  

I also asked that they no longer buy me gifts and each holiday or occasion to either donate the money to a good cause or to spend it on coming to see me and maybe taking me out to lunch once in a while. You’d have thought I announced that I was shaving my head and joining a cult, such was their panic! They refused to hear common sense and insisted that I seek help for depression and not make any hasty decisions until I had been seen by my doctor!

How can I get my adult children to realize that I am far from depressed and that I’m just trying to get everything organized, ready to enjoy whatever time I have left without the burden of the stuff I don’t use or the things I no longer want? — Done in Denver


Dear Done: Good for you! I applaud your foresight and level-headedness. It’s a daunting task to make all the necessary decisions at any time, let alone while you’re dealing with a crisis or illness. So it’s commendable that you are managing this ahead of time. Trust me, your children will eventually appreciate the gift you’ve given them when it comes time to handling your estate in your absence.

My siblings and I were forced to dispose of our mother’s entire household without the slightest idea of what she wanted when she passed away suddenly. Had she been as sensible as you, it would have been so much easier to know what she had, where she wanted it to go and what to do with the proceeds from the sale of her home. As it was, we were left to blunder along blindly until we had removed everything and divided monies as fairly as we could. I can’t help but to think of how much easier your children will have it than we did because of your organization.

However, before you do anything else, I strongly advise that you look up a locally reputable company that specializes in senior downsizing. These businesses have all the administrative skills and systems in place to make the transition as easy and as safe as possible for you and they are a blessing when it comes to the finer legal points, red tape and just helping to keep you protected against ne'er-do-wells.   

Now, saying all that, I can also understand that your emancipation might be alarming to your offspring since they just recently lost their father. Obviously, your children fear that you might be depressed and waiting for your own death, taken advantage of, or regret your decision to reduce your lifestyle once it’s all done and dusted.

Perhaps write them each a short letter explaining that you are of sound mind and body, that you are old enough to make these decisions and that you’re looking forward to benefiting from such farsightedness. Give them all a firm deadline as to when they should claim their items of interest, offer the contact information of the company you’ve chosen to assist with your downsizing and remind them that you aren’t preparing to die, that you are preparing to live.

I wish you a long, clutter and carefree life. What’s more, I’m going to follow your example by making a start on my own decluttering. After taking careful stock of our home and all our belongings, I’ve decided to get rid of Walt’s stuff first!


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