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Downsizing

Many new retirees decide to move to a smaller residence.  If like us, you have lived in a house for 40 or more years, there is a lot of “stuff” to go through.  It is a daunting prospect to think of all the necessary logistics to downsize your belongings, sell your home and make a permanent move to a retirement community.

We had a four bedroom house, sunroom, family room, laundry room, 2 attics, a huge basement and an oversized two car garage(with 3 cars in it).  The basement was my husbands domain and I was really scared to go down there…only he could downsize that area.

We signed a contract to move to a new retirement community in August and were moving the following May. So I foolishly thought that we had plenty of time to get ready.  The first thing we did was go on vacation for two weeks and then it was September already.

I forgot to mention that I am married to Mr Fix-it-Yourself 1965 Man of the Year. It was very rare to have any home repairs or improvements done by anyone other than my husband.  Fortunately, he convinced me over the years, that he really does do a better job than “those so-called professionals”.  As the years went by we created a long list of repairs and improvements that were going to be done as soon as he got time!

Now we were moving to a retirement community! And the list must be accomplished!!

In the meantime, we were notified that we needed to connect to the public water and sewer lines.  Oh boy, fun for us!  In addition to the extra expense, we had to contract a plumber to rip up our yard and run the line from the road into our house. And then to top it off, Lance said that we must repair the roof before we can sell the house.

While I tackled the attics and had a successful first yard sale,  Lance started to remodel the sunroom and paint the garage. Check!  The roof repair was contracted to the 1965 Fix-it Man of the year once again. Little did I know what would be involved.  Turns out that in a few days there was a gaping hole in our roof and there was Lance with his hammer and saw re-constructing away.  What I did not comprehend was that after the repair he intended to put new shingles on the entire roof.  And that there were 2 layers of old shingles to be removed. Help!!!

Soon after that, there were 3600 lbs of shingles and a very large dumpster in our driveway.  While Lance put on the new shingles, my job was to circumnavigate the house with a big container and pick up all the discarded shingles and material and haul it to the dumpster.  Not what I had in my original plan!  The good news was that the dumpster came in handy as I was downsizing or as I liked to call it “aggressively discarding.”

It was a happy day for us on November 5th when the dumpster departed filled to the brim.  At this point we had at least created some empty space to acknowledge downsizing progress.  We had sold, stored, returned, shredded or given away many items.  But just look at the mess in the yard from the sewer line connection.  So off we went to Lowe’s and rented a Roto-Tiller, lime, fertilizer, seed and biodegradable  matting. We recreated what we hoped would be a good looking front yard when our house went up for sale in the spring.  Check!

We hurried to do any remaining outdoor updates and were fortunate that is was a warm Autumn.  By December, Lance had completed the laundry room remodel and I had cleaned and resealed the grout on all of the ceramic floors.  Next was the dreaded cleaning of the basement.  I have to say that Lance did an outstanding job of aggressively discarding!  I was so proud!  He even painted the entire basement and made an area for me to have tables to store any items for our spring yard sale.

In the meantime, we were meeting with people at the retirement community to select appliances, flooring, window treatments, etc.  And of course, I was creating another list of all the processes involved in moving…changing addresses, banks, doctors, internet providers, and researching moving companies.

January was painting month.  We painted the living room, dining room, upstairs and downstairs hallways and the interior closets.  A lot of miscellaneous chores occurred as January morphed into February.  Lance removed the front door and planed, stained and varnished it so it wouldn’t squeak and stick so much. You gotta make a good first impression when you’re trying to sell your house. (more on this later)

While Lance did some repairs in the master bath, I enjoyed doing some room staging in preparation for listing our house for sale.  It was now mid-February and we planned on listing our house at the beginning of March.  Silly me, I thought all the major home repairs were completed.  My husband, being ultra conservative had removed the heating registers in the two bedrooms that we did not use.  Now he had to lug them down from the attic, reconnect them, do a little maintenance, and be sure that they worked.  In the meantime, I was washing curtains, windows, screens, doors, porches and anything else that I came across.

At last, we were ready.  I will never forget the day that the realtor first came to our house. With all of our hard work, I thought we were ready!  There I go, thinking again.  She was expected at 2PM.  At noon, I went out the front door to get the mail and when I returned the front door knob came off in my hand!  What would we do without Lowe’s?  And there we were at 1:30PM with sheets covering the sofas and sawdust all over as Mr. Handyman made the necessary repairs.  By 2PM I had just vacuumed the floors and readjusted the furniture.  I was so thankful that when our realtor opened the door the knob remained intact!  But we could barely refrain from smirking while she exclaimed over our immaculate home!

We were very fortunate to list our home during the time of a sellers market.  We chose an aggressive realtor who turned out to be a blessing for us.  I did not realize that as soon as you sign the listing agreement and the For Sale sign goes up, your home is not really your own anymore.  A home showing could (and did) occur at any time. It has to be in “show” condition at all times.  We had a very early low offer, but turned it down.  However, in just three weeks and 15 showings, we had a sales agreement!!  We were so happy and so relieved.

I was in full speed ahead mode now!  I contracted a moving company, took care of a few requirements from the home inspection and had a hugely successful spring yard sale. The bank appraisers came on a day when our home (and reconstructed yard) looked terrific and did their thing for the buyer.

Now I turned to packing, notifying utility companies, and getting new checks ordered.

Settlement day should be called Unsettlement day.  Because that’s how I felt.  I was sure that one last thing would cause a problem and then what would we do? But I was wrong!  It went very smoothly and we turned over the keys to the new owner.

And finally, moving day arrived.  It was quite a feeling to watch as the movers picked up our belongings and carried them to the truck.  We had a caravan going up the highway and upon arrival at our new home, we just needed to direct the movers and unpack boxes and we were in!!!

Much to my delight, we had over-downsized, so we got to go shopping for some new furniture.  But overall, we had done an excellent job of downsizing and we had no issues with items not fitting into our room schemes.

For those of you who are considering downsizing, remember that our process was a little unusual.  There is downsizing and then there is STRAYER downsizing!
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