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SENIORS WEEK: Downsizing doesn’t have to be daunting

Advice from an expert for seniors
One way to make downsizing manageable is by starting early to figure out what to keep, what to give away, and what to throw out. A closet can be a good place to start. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)

Seniors planning to move into a smaller home should begin reducing their possessions early, start small, and get someone to provide an objective eye, says Langley’s Keith Macdonald.

Macdonald is a realtor who specializes in senior clients, most of whom are planning to downsize. He also gives workshops for seniors on downsizing.

“I deal mostly with seniors because I am one of them,” the 75-year-old Brookswood resident remarked.

It can be a struggle to decide what to keep and what to eliminate, Macdonald has found.

His first experience with downsizing was helping his parents move, about 10 years ago.

Macdonald, who took up a career in real estate after retiring from his job at the Vancouver airport authority, remembers his mother was disappointed to give up her well-made solid maple furniture.

It is not unusual to find there is no place for some treasured possessions, he has discovered.

“You and your husband saved to buy all this stuff, and nobody wants it.”

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Tea sets, carefully collected over many years, are another possession people often find hard to give up, Macdonald observed.

“Everything that you own has a story,” he told the Langley Advance Times.

“When you think of getting rid of something, you think you’re getting rid of the memory. It’s more psychological than anything else.”

Often, downsizing is forced on the surviving spouse when their partner passes, leaving them to wonder “how am I going to do this all by myself?” Macdonald commented.

Langley realtor Keith Macdonald conducts downsizing workshops for seniors. (file)
Langley realtor Keith Macdonald conducts downsizing workshops for seniors. (file)

His advice is to get some help.

Macdonald often works with businesses that help seniors to cull possessions, and if a professional organizer isn’t to their taste, there is always family.

“If you’ve got kids handy, get them in,” he suggested.

“You need somebody to say ‘mom, when did you wear that last?’”

Macdonald recommended a three-box approach to help sort possessions, one “keep it” box, one “give it away,” and one “throw it away.”

Whatever approach, don’t try to avoid a reckoning by getting a storage locker, he warned.

“Eight years later, you’ve forgotten what you have there, and you’ve spent $100 a month.”

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Macdonald knows that getting rid of possessions that are still useful can be very hard for thrifty-minded people of his generation.

“I’m afraid if I’m going to throw something away, it’s going to be something I need later.”

Start early and start small, he advises.

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“Pick an easy room.”

He suggests culling the closet.

“Go home, take everything in the closet and turn the hangars around.”

Every time clothing gets worn, replace it with the hangar turned back.

“At the end of six months or a year, everything that isn’t turned around, donate.”

“You’re not unique,” Macdonald assured seniors struggling with downsizing.

“If you walk into my home, you’re going to see the same stuff.”

He confessed that he has been hanging on to old textbooks that he thinks he might, one day, re-read, but hasn’t got around to it yet.

“My wife says, when are you going to take your own advice?” he laughed..


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Dan Ferguson

About the Author: Dan Ferguson

Best recognized for my resemblance to St. Nick, I’m the guy you’ll often see out at community events and happenings around town.
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