The art of downsizing

Downsizing diva urges everyone to start early

Cathy Haynes knows how hard it is to separate from lifelong possessions and

Cathy Haynes knows how hard it is to separate from lifelong possessions and

Downsizing diva urges everyone to start early

Downsizing is tricky at the best of times, as Cathy Haynes knows. It takes care, compassion and sometimes comedy. But whether helping parents or grandparents move, Haynes says the trick is to start small, and start today.

“Even one drawer sorted is a reason to celebrate,” says Haynes, who runs Downsizing Diva, a professional senior move management franchise in Greater Victoria. “It takes years to accumulate our stuff and, when you begin to downsize early, you remain in control. Don’t wait for a health or financial crisis or a sudden vacancy in a retirement residence. Start sooner and have your life be less about stuff and clutter and more about the things that really make you feel good.”

Haynes, who is a Certified Professional Consultant on Aging, says that working with family members can be challenging due to baggage or conflicting ideas, and cautions that strong opinions must be tempered with gentle patience.

“Even a simple thing like giving away an outfit that is seldom worn can be an issue – every outfit or gadget we have bought originally held some kind of promise for us,” she says. “To let it go is also to let go of that promise in a way.”

Downsizing is often associated with a loss – either of health, a partner, finances or the ability to balance a larger home. One word Haynes’ hears a lot is “overwhelmed.” But there is hope: it may be that the house is manageable after all when it is de-cluttered, she says.

“Family members can help sort and shed some of the clutter to create a home that is safer and easier to manage,” Haynes says. “Adult children and grandchildren should be encouraged to remove any of their stuff that has been stored in their parents’ or grandparents’ garages or attics. It’s tough enough to downsize your own stuff without worrying about what to do with someone else’s stuff.”

While Haynes doesn’t force people to get rid of things, she guides them with her simple mantra: Do you use it? Do you need it? Do you love it?

“This makes room for the sentimental ‘we just love it!’, but deals with the ‘maybe it will be handy one day’ or ‘I looked great in that outfit in 1993’ type of stuff which we all tend to accumulate but have to say goodbye to,” she says.

For those downsizing into a smaller home, Haynes suggests the addition of “will it fit?” She also suggests PITCH (toss out obvious stuff), PATCH (get honest about whether you will ever sew that hem), PASS ALONG (to family, friends or sell) and PACK.

“Recently in Calgary, a lot of people had just a few hours to get their most important treasures out of the way of flood waters,” Haynes says. “Sometimes, if we imagine what we would save if we had only a few hours – and a man with a truck! – and think about the things that are replaceable it makes it clearer.”

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